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Top Bar/Skep Hives Made With Sunflower Stalks/Weeds, etc.

 
gardener
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This page describes some pretty neat low cost methods for making top bar hives. I really like the idea of the sunflower stalk one and the woven cane one...
 
pollinator
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Really enjoying this, thanks!
Not sure about the 'multiple entrances' thing though... Does anybody have experience with that?
 
master pollinator
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My ex-husband (who still keeps some bees) knew how to make the real old-fashioned bee-hives ('keeps') of straw and bramble fiber-cord. Sorry I don't have a photo.
 
Michael Newby
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From what I understand you can harvest honey from them just like a regular top bar hive. I haven't had the time to build my own hives and demand for nucs (starter colonies of bees) is so high that I've found out you pretty much have to get on a waiting list the summer/fall before you actually want the bees.
 
pollinator
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Inge
In English they are called skeps I hope to learn how to make them once I have grown the correct straw
 
pollinator
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Location: 48°N in Normandie, France. USDA 8-9 Koppen Cfb
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here's a link to plans and more info on top bar hives from Philip Chandler
webpage

We used to keep bees in wooden hives, but top bar hives seem less invasive to both bees and your wallet! If you're using plant stems for the top bar, be aware that size matters! if it's too narrow, or too wide, you can end up with the combs connected, which makes harvesting much more difficult. There is a specific 'bee space' that helps stop this happening, and varies with the size/type of bee you're keeping.

Re straw and bramble hives: I've had a go at making one and the hardest part is tracking down the long wheat stalks that were traditionally used. You basically stuff the straw through a cone whose mouth is the diameter you want for the rolls of straw, then sew each coil to the previous row. I'll look out some more pics, but this is an old Normandie 'ruche en paille' aka (UK) a 'skep' we happen to have hanging up in an outbuilding. We used ours for capturing swarms, and as far as I know you wouldn't generally use it for a colony as you can't easily harvest honey from them. I am almost certain that in times gone by they destroyed the bees in the taking of the honey from these hives.

You could make a cut down version of a top bar hive and attract a swarm f.o.c. April/May is the European season for swarms, and I still haven't got my hive made yet! Ah well, maybe next year?

image.jpeg
[Thumbnail for image.jpeg]
 
lesley verbrugge
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Hi David, Your posting beat me to it! Just had to nip outside to move the chicken pasture on, in mid posting!
One of our friends in the village (in his late eighties) just happened to have a grenier full of siegle straw which he gave me a small bale of. Twice the length of modern wheat, but I guess a skep could be made from shorter stuff, using the cone method?

We travel down to Indre two or three times a year, you are kind of en route, would love to call in if it's possible, I've been following your posts with interest. And if you are ever in Normandie...

Lesley
 
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Well this ended up being an expensive thread to read...
 
lesley verbrugge
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Jason Silberschneider wrote:Well this ended up being an expensive thread to read...



Ok, I'll ask. Whyso?
 
David Livingston
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Segie is actually Rye as in rye bread . That's what I am planning to grow this summer although I know folks who grow old types of wheat . Modern wheat is not strong enough to last very long in a skep plus once it has been harvested by a combine forget it . you need a sythe or sickle.
Near Laval I met a chap who makes skeps from grass he collects in a forest not sure which type though. He is 80 plus too
David
 
Jason Silberschneider
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$100 Australian for that excellent book that the author has written! I'm sure it'll be worth it, though.
 
Michael Newby
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As far as the top bar hive shown in the OP I'm pretty sure he's using milled wood for the actual top bars but that would be really cool to see one using sticks or weed stalks for the top bars too.

As far as skep hives go, this Modern Farmer article is a pretty good how-to on making a traditional skep hive.

From the article:


 
Michael Newby
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Speaking of skep-style hives, is anyone familiar with the Sun Hive type of skep?

These hives, designed by a German sculptor named Guenther Mancke, are works of art!







Here's a Permaculture Magazine article about them.

And tons of pictures from a workshop building a Sun Hive.

 
David Livingston
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More on Sun Hives here
https://permies.com/t/53945/bees/critters/Sun-hives-build-bees-humans

David
 
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