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Has anyone here made a bee skep??

Fowlerville, MI(Zone 5b)

Has anyone made a bee skep?
If so.....

1) How hard was it to make?
2) How long did it take you to make it?
3) How much straw/grass did you have to gather to make it?
4) Does it need to have a coat of oil or something else to help protect it from rain, dew, etc?
5) How long did it last outside?
6) Did yours have a bottom on it or was it just like a bell - with no bottom?

....I'm thinking about trying my hand at making one for my garden. :)

Williamsburg, MI(Zone 4b)

I made a couple of decorative ones when I worked at a flower shop. First I made a long rope out of straw and rafitia (i don't think I spelled that right). You grab a handfull of straw, get it all going the same direction and wrap it with the raftia (string would work) keep adding straw and wrapping. when I got several feet, I coiled it and kind of sewed it together with heavy twine, when I ran out of straw rope, I made more and added it to the coil. I used a waste paper basket to work it around while I did it. The support and shape really helped. When it was done I sprayed the heck out of it, inside and out with acrylic spray and added fake bees and flowers. The spray helps to stick everything together and would make it last longer outside. They were alter pieces for a fancy outdoor wedding.

That probably isn't the right way to do them, but to tell you the truth I'd never seen a real one in my life.

It really wasn't that hard, I put a round piece of light plywood on the bottom and glued it with lots of hot glue to help hold it's shape, but it was surprizingly sturdy. It took a toatal of a couple of hours to make them once I figured it out. I used less than a bale of hay, a couple big packs of raffia and twine. I have no idea how long it lasted, but traditionally they were built to last only one season.

Fowlerville, MI(Zone 5b)

Thanks for replying Jyl! I bought a funnel that had the diameter opening the size that I'd like my 'rope' to be, so that I could feed the straw/grass through it to maintain a uniformed size of rope. We'll see if it works.

I love the idea of using a waste paper basket for your form. That had to make it a little easier.....

Did you use dry straw that had been baled? If I use tall grasses from the field, do they need to be dried first or can I use them fresh and 'green'? Does it matter? Will green grass shrink as it dries?

Williamsburg, MI(Zone 4b)

Green will shrink and might mold, but you could just let it dry for a day in the sun before you "rope" it.

Fowlerville, MI(Zone 5b)

Perfect! I'll do that. :) Thanks jyl!!

Chillicothe, OH

Hey Glenda, were you planning on using the skep to really keep bees in or as decoration? The reason I ask is for someone who actually wants to collect honey, a skep isn't that great a choice. If you used it as decoration or as a bee-friendly residence you never bothered, that would be fine (just stay out of the bees' 'beeline' to the main opening. They can get a bit cranky if you keep walking around too close to their front door.)

Skeps came from medieval times when people routinely killed the bees to get the honey and comb out of the skep. There isn't really any easy way to do this.

Fowlerville, MI(Zone 5b)

I was wanting one for decoration in my rose garden. I'd like it to be a (real) bee skep, but would cover the hole with black or very dark brown felt on the inside, so that it looked like an open hole, but bees couldn't get inside.

Chillicothe, OH

I think someone mentioned above what I was going to suggest: find something that's the general shape of the skep you want to make, or cobble together a shape, (for instance, with some duct tape you could stick a big rubber bowl on top and upside down on a garbage can or similar cylindrical thing, then wrap really large-diameter rope around it. Then go back with thin twine that's a similar color to the rope, and 'sew' the loops together, every handwidth or so, sewing each loop to the one above until you get to the bottom. Haven't got any brilliant ideas for the bottom, but I'm sure you'll think of something if you try hard could probasbly get a few extra months or years out of it if you scotchguarded or laquered it or something....darn, now you've got me wanting one!

Lumberton, TX(Zone 8b)

I got the fever for a skep a few months ago. I found one website (if I can find it again I'll post it) that sells them for decorative purposes. I found out that in Texas, beekeeping is highly regulated and you could actually get in trouble if you put out something decorative and the bees took up residence! Of course, that assumes the Bee Police are actually working your area...

If you do make one, Glenda, please post work-in-progress pictures! I still want one, and may make it out of pine straw (since I live in the piney woods).

Rutledge, TN

I made one a few years ago using wild straws and grasses from our meadow. I wove it as described by jylgaskin and it took me about 1 day, but it really was a pain. When finished it looked great but it didn't last longer than 1 year in the garden. After that, I found some really great ones on the internet and just purchased them.

Fowlerville, MI(Zone 5b)

Yeah, maybe buying one is the way to go..... Easy, fast, and decorative. ;) Thanks everyone for your insight and help!! :)

Monticello, IA

I was looking at how to build your own beehive and found this insane picture. I like bee but
no amount of fortyfying would make me feel safe having them frame window of a house like this:

For a functioning "skep", could you build boxes so you keep the
ability to handle the frames easily and then wind rope/ straw coils separate
around the individual sections so when they are all together, they will nest
and and still maintaining the look of a skep on the outside? You might need
to pump in some insulation to round out the circle like the Lithuain

As long as I keep the holes clear, would anyone anticipate problems
perhaps with too much thermal heat and too little ventilation?

Found this neat site also with great pics:

Chillicothe, OH

I suppose... if you don't mind its the size of a(n American) refrigerator. If I understand what you're describing, no, I don't think you can keep the medieval gumdrop shaped skep and still have it functional. They used to kill the bees and hack the skep apart in order to get to the honey back then.--M

Lumberton, TX(Zone 8b)

Just a note -- they're illegal in Texas for health and safety reasons. I'd thought if I managed to make one and the bees voluntarily inhabited and the bee police weren't around it might be cool, but then again if it's going to start more bee disease I wouldn't be doing the world a favor. I still want one, but feel I should do something that will keep the bees out of it.

Chillicothe, OH

Even given Texas law, I think you'd be safe to put out the store bought ones, or home made ones, provided they had no 'door' to them, that is, provided they weren't hollow, and/or had no real opening or way for bees to get inside them.

For instance, if you had one that wasn't hollow, or with only a painted door on it, (say a little black square painted on the bottom) it could easily be demonstrated, even if some nosy neighbor had found the right agency to rat you out to, that it was only a sham skep and no bee could ever make real use of or be hurt by it.


Lumberton, TX(Zone 8b)

And I would suppose that if bees DID take up residence, first you'd claim no knowledge and then call a local beekeeper to come get them.

Williamsburg, MI(Zone 4b)

The chances of a wild honeybee moving into a skep are almost nil. What you might get is wasps or yellowjackets. A dish of vinigar placed inside the skep would prevent ANYTHING from moving in. The only thing that likes vinigar is fruit flies!

I'd build it and put it out and not worry. You won't be enableing any wayward honeybees or spreading desease to existing ones.

I really liked the log shaped hives, but why would anyone put an observation hive in they HOUSE!!! I love my bees, but only if they stay outside in their hive.

Milton Keynes, United Kingdom

I make skeps. If you want instructions go to
Skeps are legal here in England but out of date as practical beekeeping.

Lumberton, TX(Zone 8b)

Great site! You're on my favorites now. Thanks!

Akron, PA(Zone 6b)

That was a great site! I would love to make one, just for decorative purposes...

Alexandria, VA(Zone 7b)

Go to; they have beautiful dark brown 'twig' bee skeps for $30 plus $5 shipping. Could not believe how inexpensive they were (same price when I bought some 15 years ago)!

Julian, NC

Skeps are frowned on by the beekeeping community because it is important to monitor the hive for Varroa mites, a deadly danger to honeybees. This is not possible in a skep. Also, if you would like to harvest honey from a skep you must destroy it along with the bee colony. And, in order to be a suitable place for a functioning honeybee colony the skep would need to be fairly large, say 2' high or so.

Have you thought about a top bar, or garden, hive? Some are quite decorative. They are easy to manage, requiring no heavy lifting and are a much more natural place for the colony than the familiar square box hives. I have seen several for sale on the internet.

Belle Vernon, PA

Skeps are illegal in this country for beekeeping purposes. For decorative functions you would be fine.

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