The Bee Friendly Skep Project

Where heritage craft meets modern art as a launchpad for new conversations around the importance of creating habitats for bees, pollinators and all wildlife.

Bee Friendly Skep Project Attingham Park Skep

What is a skep?

A skep is a basket. A bee skep is a basket for bees – so a traditional form of beehive. They are typically made from wicker or straw, woven and coiled tightly into a bell-shaped or flat-topped structure. Because of the nature of their fabric, they require a structure to protect them from the elements.

These structures are known as bee boles, bee alcoves, bee houses and bee shelters – such as the fine example, pictured below at the National Trust’s Attingham Park, Shropshire. Attingham’s Georgian Bee House is a rare survival and is Grade II Listed, probably built in the early 1800s.

Attingham Park National Trust bee shelter Bee Friendly Trust Skep Project

So why don’t we use skeps anymore?

After WWI, a government restocking scheme granted subsidies for bees in boxes, not skeps, so skeps were replaced with the more weather-proof wooden hives that are familiar today.

As a result, the craft of skep making has become an endangered heritage craft and the many bee boles, bee alcoves, bee houses and bee shelters around the country have become redundant, many falling into disrepair or even being destroyed. Those remaining sit empty, their role in history increasingly forgotten.

The Bee Friendly Skep Project aims to bring bee boles, bee alcoves, bee houses and bee shelters, once valued spaces, to life, using them as launchpads to start fresh conversations around the importance of bees and all pollinators, and the need to create spaces to protect and nurture them.

Taking the form of a travelling exhibition, painted skeps will celebrate pollinators and bee shelters, and draw attention to the endangered heritage craft of skep making, showcasing all as storytellers of the nation’s history.

Each skep will be handmade from terracotta so that they can be placed outside and used as bug hotels after the exhibition is over.

(Fabio, pictured above, of Puro Ceramics, is the creative talent behind the skeps of The Bee Friendly Skep Project exhibition).

In addition, a programme of in-person (at Attingham Park) and online (here, at beefriendlytrust.org) activities will demonstrate how everyone can get involved in transforming neglected spaces into flourishing and diverse wildlife habitats.

Bee Friendly Skep Project Attingham Park Bee Bunting

How can you get involved?

1. Create a “bee” for Attingham’s Bee Lawn

We’re asking everyone to create a “bee” that we can display at Attingham Park next May to coincide with the Bee Friendly Skep Project’s exhibition of painted skeps. These will be placed on the Bee Lawn in front of Attingham’s Georgian Bee House creating a unique, handmade colony of bees! Perhaps you might transform an old toilet roll cardboard tube into a bee with googly eyes and wings. Or you might paint a cardboard plate. You might even use wool to create a pom pom bee. Or you might draw a bee on a paper hexagon to join the Bee Friendly Trust’s Bee Bunting. For inspiration and projects step-by-steps, visit our Bee Friendly Resources section.

2. Paint a pebble “bee”

Think you know of a bee alcove or shelter near you? Why not paint a pebble with a bee picture or special message about the importance of bees and leave it in the shelter as a reminder of what these special spaces were originally made for.

3. Make your own “skep” bug hotel to welcome wildlife to your garden

Pollinators such as bees need our help to create safe places where they can rest after doing their vital pollination work. Bug hotels provide shelter from the elements and predators. In our Bee Friendly Resources section, you’ll find information about how you can make your garden more welcoming to wildlife, as well as how to transform a simple flower pot into your very own “skep” bee home.

4. Support our work creating habitats for bees and pollinators

We rely on public donation to continue the work we do creating spaces where wildlife can thrive. It might not seem like much, but any amount you can spare makes a real difference in support bee and pollinator populations around the country, which in turn, supports the human race! Find out more about how you can get involved in our work to save the bees.

5. Follow us on Instagram

We’ll be posting details about the Bee Friendly Skep Project and the exhibition and fun-filled bee events being hosted at Attingham Park on our Instagram page @beefriendlytrust so be sure to follow us to stay up-to-date. You can also share pictures of your wonderful “bees” in progress there, too!!