This is the seventh part in a series of short articles on skeps in the Medieval through Renaissance periods.
|Catching a Swarm|
Skeps are managed by swarm beekeeping. Swarm beekeeping is the practice of making a hive just big enough for the bees to make a home. Swarming is when the queen and some of the worker bees leave the hive to find a new home. Swarms were encouraged by making the skep smaller than the needed space for a colony during peak honey flow. The recommended size ranged from nine to thirty-six liters and averaged about 20 liters (Butler, Ch. 5).
The colony will swarm when it becomes too big for the skep. The beekeeper then collects the swarm and installs it into a new hive. “The swarming months are two, Gemini and Cancer: one month before the longest day and another after.” (
type of beekeeping was done in north-west Europe, as far south as the Pyrenees
and Alps-Maritime of Butler,
where honey flows are in mid to late summer (Crane, p239).
Honey flows are the times of the year when nectar is plentiful. Bees produce and store a great deal of honey. Swarm beekeeping takes advantage of this with the creation of new hives in late spring and early summer. Honey is produced in these hives from the later blooming flowers.