Fox Trot Farm

Grass Fed Lamb, Fresh Eggs, Honey, Quilts, Soap, Tours, & Farm Fun!

decorative skeps
decorative skeps

Why we keep bees in boxes, and discovering an old skep

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***Our market will be closed on Sunday, September 3rd, for Labor Day.***

Ever wonder why we keep bees in wooden boxes? It’s because it’s easy to inspect and manipulate the bees using these hives with removable frames. In fact, in South Carolina, it’s the only “legal” way to keep bees because the state inspector must be able to do a thorough inspection in the event of suspected honey bee ailments. Here’s a picture of some of these modern Langstroth hives in our apiary here on Fox Trot Farm.

modern langstroth hives

Modern Langstroth Hives

Prior to Rev. Langstroth’s invention of his “modern” hive with removable frames, beekeepers commonly used “skeps.” That’s what you see in pictures and even embossed on our gorgeous one-pound “Muth” jars of honey we sell here at our farm market. Here’s a drawing of a skep…I’m sure you’ll recognize it now.

drawing of an old skep

Drawing of an old skep

I’ve learned from research that these skeps were made of anything from woven straw to twigs to woven reeds, much as baskets are made. The woven material was covered with a mixture of cow manure and sand, or mud and other things to create a concrete-like covering when dry. They were often kept in a covered area protected from the rain so their coating wouldn’t deteriorate. The skeps were small and so the bees would frequently swarm to new skeps, ensuring that the beekeeper would have lots of new colonies. Honey harvest was also small and tricky, too, since the beekeeper had to cut out the comb from a hive full of bees, or figure out how to get the bees to move out first to another skep. I have never seen one of these original skeps, probably due to their fragile nature. I’m sure they were discarded when beekeepers switched to the wooden Langstroth hives, which yielded much greater amounts of honey.

One of my most exciting finds in PA last week was at a GREAT antique store in New Oxford. After years of looking, I finally found an authentic old honey bee skep! Here it is…you can see the old mud-like covering over the woven reeds or vines. That honey dipper is the size of a baseball bat! It could only have been used to scoop honey out of a big barrel!

Old skep with large honey dipper

Old Skep with Large Honey Dipper

Here’s a great picture of the inside of the skep. You can see the bits of wax where the honey bees attached their comb to the interior. It still smelled of sweet honey! It was $125, and so I didn’t buy it, but now I’m wondering if I should have, just so our visitors could see it. Maybe it would have been a once-in-a-lifetime find for me. What do YOU think? Let me know…maybe Aunt Ina and her good friend Mary Ann go get it for me and hang onto it till I see her next.

Interior of old skep
Interior of old skep

We have two “decorative” skeps here on display at our farm market. Aunt Ina found the one on the left at an old red barn antique store in PA and gave it to me for my birthday. Farmer Bob found the one on the right at Indigo Pearl in Waxhaw and gave it to me for Mother’s Day.

decorative skeps
Decorative Skeps

You can see our skeps as well as our Langstroth hives full of bees here on Fox Trot Farm¬†at our market on Sundays from 1:00-5:00 and, while you’re here, take the guided tour at 2:00 and stock up on honey before you leave!

Fox Trot Farm Muth Honey Jar

Fox Trot Farm Muth Honey Jar

We also have our own pastured lamb, brown and blue eggs, baked goods, honey and beeswax soap, pottery, and lots of quilted and other crafty things. Visit with Pork Chop and our bunnies and goats and sheep and just have a relaxing time here on our beautiful farm.

We will be closed on Sunday, September 3rd, for Labor Day, but we’ll be open again on Sunday, September 10th.

Thelma says hey!

Maremma Guardian Dog Thelma

Thelma being silly

EIEIO!
Deb

3 Comments

  1. Is that what you want us to do ? We need to know the price, too….I can’t remember !!!

  2. GREAT POST!!

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