Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Skep and the Super

An old-time skep

          I mentioned that my dad has decided to keep bees, and that his beekeeping adventure necessitated our driving all the way to Denver to purchase gear. I can't complain about the trip too much, for at the beekeeping shop I saw something in real life that I have only ever seen before in illustrations. There it is above, an old-fashioned wicker and mud beehive, called a skep. Next to it is a smoker, to keep the bees calm when the beekeeper is working them.

          Although they still live in illustrations as the quintessential beehive, skeps are illegal in most states. There is no way to open a skep to examine the health of the hive, and honey-harvesting from a skep is so fiddly that often it's easier to kill the colony in order to harvest the honey. Neither of these practices are what you'd call good husbandry.

Modern beekeepers use stackable boxes with open tops and bottoms.

          So modern beekeepers use boxes like the ones shown above (painting pretty flowers on them is optional) that can be easily opened to add or remove frames of honeycomb, to check on hive health, and just generally potter away an afternoon among the bees without harming them.

         It was nice to see an a skep in the flesh, but I'm very glad beekeepers have developed better housing for their bees. 

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