Make a Miniature Bee Skep for the Dolls House Garden - Web Exclusive Project
Honey collection is an ancient activity. Humans apparently began hunting for honey at least 8,000 years ago. Evidence has been found of a Mesolithic rock painting in Valencia, Spain showing two honey hunters collecting honeycomb and honey from a wild bees nest. In Tudor times most gardens and farms would have had a beehive or skep. The bees not only pollinate the fruits and flowers, but also provided the household with valuable honey and beeswax.
Honey was used for cooking and eating, as well as making mead, a sweet alcoholic drink much loved in Tudor times. The wax was used for the very best beeswax candles and for many other uses.
Make your own Bee Skep
The woven bee skep is basically an inverted basket shape often with a handle at the top, and a tiny hole for the bees to get in and out. These were placed in the cottage garden on little stone or wooden stands. In grand houses the bee skeps may have had their own little stone or wooden house with individual holes for each skep. There is evidence in the walls of some older houses (for example Fulham Palace in London) of the bee bole (or little bee house) being built into the brick wall of the house or building.
The skep I am reproducing here in miniature will stand on a small wooden stool in the garden, it is easy to make and I hope you will enjoy having a go.
You will need:
• Polystyrene egg shaped ball
• Small Hacksaw or cutting blade
• Sharp scissors
• Wooden or card circle
• PVA tacky glue
• Black or dark brown paint
• Garden twine/string
• Thin sewing thread/cotton
• A larger wooden circle
• Off cuts of wood for legs
• Wood stain
Carefully slice the bottom off the polystyrene egg with a small hacksaw or cutting blade, and trim neatly with sharp scissors.
Glue a card or thin wooden circle to the base for stability.
Paint the egg dark brown or black all over, so that the white of the polystyrene doesn’t show through on the finished skep.
Cut a length of garden twine long enough to cover the whole skep. In my case I needed just over 3 feet or 1 metre of twine.
Take thin cotton sewing thread in a contrasting colour to the twine, and wrap evenly around the twine. Use glue to secure at intervals as you wind. This part is optional, and a bit sticky and tricky, but looks good when the skep is complete as it represents the binding holding the skep together.
Starting at the bottom of the skep, wind and glue the thread covered twine around and around until you reach the top.
With the remainder of the twine at the top, create a tiny handle by gluing into a loop and snip off the excess. Take small sharp scissors and trim all over to remove any sticky-out bits from the twine. I have photographed this stage on top of a regular cotton reel to show the finished size.
Cut 4 little legs for the stand from scrap wood. They need to be about ½” long. If you cut them at a slight angle top and bottom, they will splay out slightly to create a sturdy stool.
Glue to the underside of the wooden circle and leave to dry. Sand or trim the legs as necessary to ensure the stool stands up solidly. Stain or paint the stool as required.
Tiny bees can be made by painting dressmaker pin heads dark brown and pushing them through the twine into the polystyrene base.
Polystyrene eggs and wooden circles - Hobbycraft
Glues – Deluxe Materials
Twine – Garden Centres
I hope you enjoy making some bee skeps for your garden.