Hiving a Swarm - The Skepineke Method
Skepineke method

The way a swarm `flows' up the ramp into a hive is one of the minor miracles of beekeeping that many of us never tire of watching. In my apiary, though, it always went awry because, for reasons of space, my spare hives were at the back of the byre, sideways on to the light.

The effect of this was that the bees went up the ramp at a slant, aiming for the dark end of the hive entrance. There was so much congestion that many bees went over the edge, round the side or up the front of the hive. Hence, I had to spend too much time supervising and using the goose wing to persuade them to go in the right direction.

Being the sort of person who likes to be home in time to watch the 10 o'clock news, I decided that there must be a quicker, slicker way of doing the job, especially if it avoided all that shaking and thumping of the skep. What is wrong, I thought, with sitting the brood box above an upturned skep and letting the bees climb straight up on to the frames.

At first I was afraid that when I turned the skep over, the bees would immediately fly up in a cloud but in practice they merely sat quietly there while I made the arrangements. Of course, you can't just sit the brood box on the skep, you have to support it on a couple of ekes or a couple of empty supers which in turn, sit on a hive floor.

If a hive is kept prepared and ready, all you have to do is lift off the box, turn the skep over gently and lower it in to the eke(s), put the brood box back on, remove the entrance block and go home. There is no hurry to go back next morning because the bees can get out to go foraging though on one occasion I didn't go back for 5 days and found the bees had built comb down into the skep from the bottom bars. This had to be cut away before I could remove the skep and ekes and lower the brood box on to the floor.

The illustration shows the set-up with the skep in the ekes ready for the brood box to go on. (no bees in this photo, of course)

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