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Skeps

 
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Barbara
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Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1582
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Sun Mar 06, 2016 10:07 pm    Post subject: Skeps Reply with quote

Just been to a rather too short (the time flew) but totally inspiring skep beekeeping talk and skep making workshop by Paul Fitzsimmons from Ludlow and I'm bursting with enthusiasm, so I thought this was the ideal place to share my excitement. Definitely going to add at least one of these to my apiary although it will take a few attempts before I manage to make something worthy of housing bees.
Paul was so witty and charismatic I can highly recommend going to see him if you gets the chance.

I managed to make tools out of an old biro pen and a plastic bottle neck as soon as I got home and although I bought a sheaf of straw and some split cane binding from Paul to practice whilst the technique is still fresh in my mind, I plan to either grow the special wheat straw from the grain ears on the sheaf or use tall wild grasses that grow in the garden and maybe experiment with reeds and broom and use bramble binding.

Anyway, that was the highlight of my weekend and just wanted to share and wondered who else out there is using or planning to use skeps for keeping bees in.

Paul uses and recommends a system put forward many years ago by A Pettigrew which involves supering and/or nadiring the skeps which are made with a central 4 inch hole to enable movement of bees between them when stacked and can be bunged when not required. Harvesting is done in a similar manner to that used by the Greek cork hive keepers in that the bees are driven from the upturned skep to be harvested into an empty one placed above it by drumming the sides of the skep.

I have a lot of research yet to do on the methods and timings etc but I also have a lot of skep making practice to do before I am in a position to house a swarm. Perhaps by swarming season I will have improved my basket making skills and knowledge sufficiently to make a start.

Keen to hear from anyone else who is doing this.

Regards

Barbara
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Tavascarow
Silver Bee


Joined: 24 Jun 2008
Posts: 962
Location: UK Cornwall Snozzle

PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 6:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Martin Newton's skep making site is the best resource for skep making I have found on the web. The youtube videos about skep beekeeping in lower Saxony
useful as well.
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Ollie
Foraging Bee


Joined: 27 Nov 2015
Posts: 136
Location: Ireland, west

PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 8:24 am    Post subject: skeps Reply with quote

Hi Barbara

Hope your well.

Fascinating subject, makes me want to build one now... lol

thanks for posting it and please let us know how you get on and some pictures too please

I have enough on my hands this year being my first year but will keep this on the 'to do 'list.

All the best

Ollie
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catchercradle
Golden Bee


Joined: 31 May 2010
Posts: 1495
Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 9:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have one I made with willow and then coated with clay that I intend to populate this year. An organic farming friend is growing an old local wheat variety that produces very long straw so I may well have a go with that. - good for collecting swarms especially if they all come at once and I need an extra container!
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Barbara
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Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1582
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 11:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for all the replies. I've seen some of that footage from lower Saxony but not sure I've watched the whole series yet. I'll check out the Martin Newton site too. Cheers.

The hardest part with the straw skep making seems to be starting off, so I'm going to be making quite a few large bowl sized practice baskets before I continue on to make a skep. I'm thinking of using my practice baskets to make Russian scions as they are nice and lightweight and would be easy to fix some old comb inside and hang from a pole end and obviously they'll provide a good surface for the bees to cluster from.

Dave I will be interested to hear how a colony in your willow one does. I know it's barely possible to compare two adjacent colonies in identical hives, as there are so many other variables but it would be good if we could populate in the same season and compare notes . I have a gut feeling that straw will have better insulation properties than willow but there may be other factors that play into it. Do you know roughly what volume you have?

Greame, I'm a bit of a technophobe when it comes to down loading photos and posting them but I will make a concerted effort. I don't think I would recommend skep beekeeping to beginners as I think it is important to learn how to handle and inspect your bees and gain the experience to spot a potential problem from the activity at the entrance etc and be confident and competent to deal with it. That's why I personally think that beginners should start with a horizontal top bar hive or even framed hives rather than a standard Warre (I know some people use frames or half frames in Warre's) as it affords the opportunity to inspect more easily and you get to build confidence and craftsmanship before dealing with potentially trickier hives.
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Tavascarow
Silver Bee


Joined: 24 Jun 2008
Posts: 962
Location: UK Cornwall Snozzle

PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 1:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've a series of photos of myself cleaving & preparing willow on my facebook page.
Preparing bramble is a lot easier as it's all pith in the centre.
I de-thorn with a ring spanner.
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Ollie
Foraging Bee


Joined: 27 Nov 2015
Posts: 136
Location: Ireland, west

PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 1:54 pm    Post subject: skeps... running before i can......... :-) Reply with quote

No Barbara I'm not doing the skeps... yet... in the future... I realise I have allot to learn yet and although Ive done allot of talking and reading and watching.... I need the hands on experience now so 'spring hurry up and get warm' .

Ive enough on my plate at the moment. the idea this year is to build up colonies and manage them, then I can go on to further things but all this intrigues me, most fascinating hobby, just wish I had taken it up 14 yrs ago when I first moved here.

Still I will continue to read and watch and look forward to seeing your pictures..... Very Happy Very Happy
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catchercradle
Golden Bee


Joined: 31 May 2010
Posts: 1495
Location: Cambridge, UK

PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 4:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Barbara, I am guessing about 30-35litres so a little smaller than ideal. I plan to put some insulation round it and once the bees are in there pretty much let them get on with it and not manage them in any way. Not that I really need another source of swarms with my approach of not stopping them on any of my other hives!

https://cambridgearomatherapy.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/img_0020.jpg

Before I coated the outside with clay.
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Ollie
Foraging Bee


Joined: 27 Nov 2015
Posts: 136
Location: Ireland, west

PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 7:36 pm    Post subject: skep Reply with quote

nice work catchercradle. done a bit of willow basket weaving myself in the past, quite therapeutic . should do the job nicely Id have thought.
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Barbara
Site Admin


Joined: 27 Jul 2011
Posts: 1582
Location: England/Co.Durham/Ebchester

PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2016 7:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh wow! That is a work of art with all the different colours! Really quite a shame to clune it.
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Ernie Farmboy
Foraging Bee


Joined: 02 Sep 2009
Posts: 141
Location: USA, Olympia, Washington

PostPosted: Fri Nov 11, 2016 5:55 pm    Post subject: Skep covering Reply with quote

I thought I would drop a line and share my skep building experiences. I found the recipe for an authentic ancient skep covering from the 1600's and it is awesome. It is called Cloam. It is 1 part fresh cow manure, 1 part clay, and 1/2 part wood ashes. The measurement is by volume, like a pail of cow manure, same size pail of clay, then same size pail half full of wood ashes. The cow manure must be as fresh as possible, not getting the dry crust on it yet. I found that one doesn't need to add water to mix it together. It is easiest to mix in a large shallow container like a wheel borrow. It sets up rock hard, it sounds like wood when you rap on the hive with your knuckles. I found the recipe in a great skep book I will post a review of the book in the book review forum.
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