Bees In Straw

In 2014, I fell in love with the idea of keeping bees in skeps, old-fashioned traditional  hives of woven straw or grass. Michael Thiele was hinting at hosting the first Sun Hive workshop (a type of skep) in the United States, and I knew–come hell or high water–I would be at that class. In the meantime, I read anything and everything I could find about the making of woven hives, and about how bees are kept in them.

We have little information in our country on these hives, but they are still used in backyard and commercial apiaries all over Europe. I collected all the articles in English I could find, and visited many skep websites.

Fast forward to 2016: Michael indeed offered the first Sun Hive class and I was there with 14 other bee lovers. I took my Sun Hive home, filled her with bees, and–with the simple instructions I had–kept on weaving with whatever grasses I could find.

The skeps I wove that year look a bit wonky and uneven, but I learned a great deal as I worked through the long winter hours to create three more skeps. This spring, 2017, I have four woven hives now filled with bees. This will be my “learning year” of actually keeping bees in these lovely hives. I invite you to journey along with me as I bring this old tradition to America.

2 thoughts on “Bees In Straw

  1. Hey hi I’m David.
    I’m very new to working with bees. I live totally rural in SE Arizona and found on warm winter days I’d have 20 to 50 honey bees hanging out with me in my 300c.f. home. I don’t wear sents or use sented products in my house. The bees sit on me lick my fingers, allow me to carry them to a door or window to let them out. I got them a Langston hive and have been feeding the empty hive in hopes that comes the swarm season they Will move in. I believe the woven hive would be much better insulated from our temperature extremes. For instance today is 1/12 temperature at 6:00 am 24°f by 2:00 pm 71°f I see the bees start to collect syrup at around 54°f. Anyhow I’ve been going on with my nubie wild bee keeping ideas when I was supposed to say hi and ask for some guidance.

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    • Hey David! It looks like the bees have “found” you, as they found me. Watch out. You’ll never get them out of your heart! Personally I am a total fan of woven hives. If you stay tuned, I’m actually in the process of creating a video on how to make them–start to finish. I’ll be posting information on this when I’ve got it ready to share, so keep in touch, okay? Meanwhile, until you weave a hive, I would recommend insulating your Langstroth, so that there is as little “outside” temperature influencing the “inside” hive temperature. Bees can cool their hives just fine if they can control the inside temps, which is simply not possible in our thin-walled wooden hives. Now, just be sure that whatever material you insulate with, it does not do any kind of offgassing. Bees are terribly sensitive to toxic materials.

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