How to Make a Bee Skep


I was in a local thrift store a few years ago when, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted an intriguing object. It was a bee skep. Trying to keep clutter in our house to a minimum I considered not buying it. But I just couldn’t pass this one up. In my mind it goes into my pantheon of epic thrift store finds along with Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space and a classified 16mm film rocket test film from the 1950s.

Should you not be so fortunate as to find a skep in your local thrift store, Modern Farmer Magazine has a post on how you can build your own. Looks like a fun project.

How skeps are used
The following series of videos show how skeps are used. Part 6 documents the steps leading up to the honey harvest. It’s a labor intensive process. To get at the honeycomb, skeps are “bounced” over an empty skep to remove the bees. These bees are then combined with weaker hives and overwintered.

It’s easy to see, from the hard work and level of skill required, why the modern and much easier to manipulate Langstroth style hive boxes replaced the skep. And skeps are technically illegal in the US as state bee inspectors require hives with moveable frames that can be easily inspected.

There are some, however, who believe that skeps more closely resemble what honeybees choose to live in when left to their own devices, such as the cavities in old trees. We may see the revival of the skep . . .

Leave a comment


  1. Thank you so, so much for this! I had wondered how hives were managed in skeps, but my inquiries at historic sites, including Old Sturbridge Village, were unsuccessful in uncovering anything useful. These videos are wonderful!

  2. Pingback: How to Make a Bee Skep – The Doctor News

  3. In Germany and Austria there is a relatively new movement of alternative bee keeping that mimics a fallen log. The horizontal design makes it easier to keep the bees with minimum interference and along natural principles. We are starting our first bee “box” (as the direct translation of Bienenkiste) and would be happy to relay the info for you and other interested persons. After a bit of research, I don’t think the concept has made much headway in the U.S. (we are in Vienna). The link below is in German but from looking at the pictures you can get the basic idea.

  4. Bee skeps are great as a decoration item…LOVE them. However, I am a beekeeper and please make no mistake, being able to inspect your hives is very important for the health and survival of your bees–it isn’t just another silly idea dreamed up by the gov’t. There are diseases and insects that can destroy your bees if left unchecked. The skep is quaint and charming but not a good way to raise bees. There are other ways of letting the bees do their natural thing and still be able to check on them.

    • I’m afraid I’m in the Michael Bush camp on this topic. Here’s what he says, “Propping up weak bees. Yes, those with the Scientific philosophy will find that statement offensive. But I know of no better way to say it. Creating a system of keeping bees that is held together by antibiotics and pesticides that perpetuate bees that cannot live without constant intervention, is, in my organic view of beekeeping, counterproductive. We just continue to breed bees who can’t live without us. Perhaps some people get some satisfaction of being needed by their bees. I don’t know. But I would prefer to have bees who can and do take care of themselves.”

      That being said, I don’t use skeps and have hives that can be inspected–I’m not looking for disease just trying to head off swarming.

  5. Skeps are not illegal in all states in the U.S. check with your local Dept. of Ag. for a real answer not just the myths constantly spouted on the internet.
    With proper hive care and management the skep is a fine abode for the bee.

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