After a thrilling season of highs and lows, as i like to call them in the bee industry, I have FINALLY taken the skep off my hive to have a look.
After having lovingly crafted this skep. i hand cut the oats (using a sickle). I dried them at home in bundles (giving the dog heyfever, and rendering the back patio useless space). I wove them for hours in bundles to get the finest looking object i could. i let it dry even more so i cill and sewtogetehr any holes.
i cut a hole in an existing hive lid i had (langstroth design hive) spare, and waxed the grass skep to the lid (it used alot of wax to achieve a tight fit).
I then put the lid/skep assembly onto an existing hive (2 boxes, ready for another box. approx 50,000 bees)
SO 2 years later, this is the result. here goes:
The above image is the skep attached to a modern hive lid. There is a hole cut in the middle of the lid, and the plan is/was for the bees to have gone in and out of the skep through this point. The skep iteslf was a part of the hive. Bees usually follow a pattern of moving honey to the higest point of the hive, out of the way of brood combs (grubs, and new bees). when checking hives for honey, usually the top box(es) are all that is/are taken.
In placing the skep here, I hoped to achieve a few purposes. Firstly I thought that they (the bees) would mostly have honey stored up there. secondly i hoped that the queen qould choose not to go into it, thus another way to reduce broodcomb. lastly I had hoped this wouldn't affect the heat of the hive overly.
There are many examples of baskets simply being stacked in a like fashion, soi believed my theory to be sound
To get the skep, with minimal impact to the hive, the plan was to simply lift the lid off, replace it with another (thus putting the roof back on the bees house, and reducing their aggrovation). When i lift the lid, i discovered that between the top of the hive and the underside of the lid was very packed with honey comb. I have noticed this before, and it has often caused anguish to myself.
looking under the lid:
In the middle of the above foto, you can see the hole the bees have filled. this is looking into the skep. You can also see a clos up of the bees feeding on the exposed honey in the combs that have been torn when i lifted the lid (they attached the lid down, and it required some effort to lif it free as gently as possible)
The below image shows the skep carefully prised from the lid (the scrape marks in the wax ring on the lid). the bees have built comb up from the center of the hole, and attached it to the metal top - what should be the outer layer of the lid. The wax circle is the marks of remaining wax from the skep. the comb is built by the bees.
We also get our first look inside the skep itself. Above we can see the chaotic combs that heve begun to be built. I am upset with how little there is, and surprised to find it on the edges. Bees usually hang their combs and only attach it to the sides when they are forced to by space restrictions.
Looking exclusivley into the skep below, it was clear to myself that the bees do infact utilise this skep space.althought the comb looks empty and older (the browning on the edges) it is still 1/3rd full of bees. This teeming mass was tipped on the ground infront of the hive entrace for them to crawl back into.
Looking into the final image above, you can see how the comb has been attached and the bees begings to crawl out. In the lower left of the pic, are 2 bees clearly showing a sign i call "the queen is here" the body is long and straight, the wings extended and fluttering, but no flight. most of the bees were displayign this in this pic, but you can only clearly see those 2 doing it. During swarming this is the sign they signal alot. I have a number of framed fotos around the house of this behaviour as i think it looks cool. I got worried when i saw this display. I made sure to empty ALL the bees (even more carefully) out of the skep into the front of the hive. hopefully i don't lose a queen. This is a good hive.
I shoudl note i did all this without smoke. Having chosen a very still day, I attended the hive at around 2pm. most of the worker bees are out gathering in weather like this and reduces the anxiety to the hive. I had only face netting and t-shirt on. i got Zero stings. i am pretty happy with todays hunt all in all.