DIY Bee Skep from Upcycled Materials

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If you’ve been with me for long, you know my dad (and my mom) brings me quite the fun…umm…project pieces. I love it! When he showed me this picture of a couple of grass plant hangers he thought I’d actually plant in. I thought, “Sure, why not.” It couldn’t get past that they reminded me of something. Then later that day it hit me. They looked like antique bee skeps! {{aha moment}} Check out my three DIY bee skep tutorials, plus a bee hotel, using upcycled materials.

Grass Hanging Planters Before Upcycling by Larissa of Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

You may be like my dad, my bestie, my husband, and most who have no idea what a bee skep actually is. First, let me say that I was elated thinking I could incorporate these into my garden. I’ve always wanted to keep bees because they’re endangered and we need them to survive. However, since bee-keeping is a science and such a fragile art, I haven’t wanted to dive in just yet. I do, however, plant all sorts of things to encourage bee growth.

In ancient days, bee boxes (man-made bee hives) didn’t exist, but rather bee skeps did. Typically they are made of grass and caning intricately laced together to form a man-made domed hive for bee-keeping. Many gardeners would have them as commonplace to encourage pollination and even honey production. In most cases, the design meant that the hive would have to be eliminated to retrieve the honey, so that is why bee boxes were invented. {head smack – right?} You can read up on skeps HERE.

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Okay, so back to my DIY bee skep. As soon as the idea struck me I began to research and quickly found out it is illegal in most states to own one. Why? Because of the high risk of decimating another colony. Inspectors have to pay close attention to the colonies to make sure they are surviving, hence the control of the skeps.

For my purposes today, however, I’m creating these skeps as decorative art for either garden or home. They are a coveted piece of decor in designs that favor to tip a hat to antiques and eras that savor simpler times. It would be similar to having a bird cage, or any other antique tool on display to cherish the craft and add interest.

To recreate these grass hanging planters and turn them into a DIY bee skep, I dove into my stash of hardwood reclaimed pallets. We’re talking about pallets we have salvaged that are made of cherry, hard maple, and ash. SCORE! I have plans for most of this, but will get to that when our kitchen is done once and for all.

Stash of Reclaimed Hardwood Pallet Wood for DIY Bee Skep by Larissa of Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

*post contains affiliate links so you can find the products I love to use too. (see full disclosure)

JC was already working on cutting and building our range hood cover, so I asked him to rip these boards on our table saw to make them the same width. Aren’t they beautiful?

Stack of Prepped Hard Maple Pallet Wood for DIY Bee Skep by Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

My goal was to replicate the French bee skeps I have seen over the years. Instead of the dome shape, some of them have the pyramid shape like my hanging planter. To begin my DIY bee skep, I figured out the mortise and tenon joinery dimensions, and began with the mortises. Using my drill, I started a point in two corners so I could get my jigsaw blade in.

Drilling Hard Maple Pallet Wood for DIY Bee Skep by Larissa of Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

Then, using my jigsaw I cut out the mortise so it can accept the tenon. A tenon is where the board is narrowed down on the end to slide into the mortise. Let me tell ya that hard maple is HARD!!

Here is my work assembled with dowel pins to hold it in place.

Reclaimed Bee Skep Base from Pallet Wood with Mortise and Tenon Joinery by Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

To add the hanging basket top, I drilled evenly spaced holes around the top edge perimeter. Using twine and a yarn needle, I laced the basket to the base.

Lacing the Bee Skep to the Reclaimed Base by Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

Notice I also added a few more holes to one side so it would replicate where the bees would enter in the skep. Here sits my DIY bee skep in my garden among my pepper plants.

Garden Bee Skep for Decorative Garden Design Made Out of Upcycled Materials by Larissa of Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

Remember, this is for decoration only as it wouldn’t suit a hive. I love that it adds interest and height to my garden beds. Here it is tucked away in my zinnias too where bees can be found at any given moment. I like to think that they would approve of my design.

Flower Garden Bee Skep Made from Reclaimed Materials by Larissa of Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

Pollen-covered Bee on Zinnia | About God's business by Larissa of Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

Remember I had mentioned they look fantastic in the interior of your home too? Here it is on my antique cupboard looking like a true antique – don’t you think? Since the real deal skeps retails for about $500, I think I like to stick to my DIY one instead.

Farmhouse Bee Skep for Rustic Home Decor by Larissa of Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

Rustic Farmhouse Decor with Antiques by Larissa of Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

If you’d like to own one of these too, you can find it available in my shop (SOLD) along with many other handmade and vintage goodies too. Discount available on your first order or if you sign up for my newsletter (details below).

Shop Prodigal Pieces | shop.prodigalpieces.com

Since a bee skep is not for everyone, I do recommend creating a bee/bug hotel. What’s that you say? Check out this fantastic build by my bestie, Connie. She gifted me this on my birthday and I couldn’t be more ecstatic!

Reclaimed Wood Bee Hotel Using Barn Wood, Bamboo to Promote a Healthy Garden | Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

She and her family and undertaken the ginormous task of disassembling and removing a centuries old family barn on her father’s property. Her intent is to rebuild it one day into her home. Part of the fun of that is all the insanely cool wood she acquired. Out of some scrap wood and shingles from that barn, she created this gem for me. I LOVE IT!

Handmade Bee Hotel for Encouraging Garden Pollinators | Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

This is the next best thing to a skep, and will encourage our buzzy bee friends and insects to frequent and pollinate my garden. You can make one too! I hung mine near my grape arbor which is next to my raised bed garden. Our fruits are nearly ripened and ready to go.

Homegrown Grape Bunch in the Garden of Larissa of Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

Now, I mentioned giving you three tutorials. Since I knew many of you may not be able to get your hands on some cool old hanging planters, I also wanted to show you some fun and easy way to make your own DIY bee skep. Take a peek at my other fun creations below.

DIY Bee Skep for Indoor and Outdoor Decor by Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

Aren’t they cute? Both are made with rope/twine and glue – that’s it!

DIY Rope Bee Skep Tutorial by Larissa of Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

First, I’ll show you how to make the rope bee skep. The best part about this is you can make it as BIG as you like. You could make a collection of varied height ones to display outside or inside on a mantel, etc. There are various thicknesses of rope, but for my small version, I used ¼” manila rope. You will need something round the size of the base of the skep you’re after. For this size, an old coffee can did the trick.

Begin my tacking the end of the rope with glue to the first layer of rope with hot glue. Let me just say that I adore my battery operated glue gun and Gorilla glue sticks for jobs like this.

Creating the DIY Rope Bee Skep with a Coffee Can by Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

Once the base layer is established, just add a slight bead of glue to the rope as you attach it. I worked in about 3 inch increments, holding it for a second or two to let each section of glue cool and set a bit before moving on. Be sure to keep your fingers out of the way of that hot glue. I’m an old pro at it, but I still get caught every once in awhile. Ouch! There are finger tip protectors you can use too.

As soon as I got about four or five layers, I removed the coffee can so I could begin to taper my dome.

How to Make a Rope DIY Bee Skep with Tutorial by Larissa of Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

TIP: If you get a bit of extra glue peeking out, just let it cure. When you’re done, you can use a hair dryer to reheat the glue and remove any excess.

When you continue up your dome, just ever so slightly begin to make your rope circles smaller. Your height will depend on the size of diameter of base you choose. Once you get close to the top, it’s time to add the top hanger. Simply cut a short length of rope and glue it to the inside of the opening you still have left.

Adding Hanger to Rope Bee Skep | prodigalpieces.com

Now, continue to close of your dome, but work the rope to the inside of the hanger. When you get to the end, cut your rope leaving a bit of length. Tuck the end of the rope inside the top, and attach to the inside with a bit of glue to anchor.

Closing Bee Skep Top | prodigalpieces.com

Let the skep completely cool to let the glue set, then carefully using a sharp utility knife cut open a small opening two ropes high and about a ½” wide for the bee entry.

Patio Table Setting with DIY Bee Skeps by Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

Last, but not least is the teenie-tiny bee skep. Isn’t it adorable? I just had to create a mini version. I think it would be cute as favors or place setting markers or a kid craft to go with a lesson on pollination…just so many ideas!

DIY Miniature Bee Skep by Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

For this cutie, I used a plastic egg shell as my form. Use about a heaping tablespoon of school glue mixed with ¼” teaspoon of water. Cut a long length of twine and soak for a few seconds in the glue mixture.

Soaking Twine in Glue Mixture for DIY Miniature Bee Skep | prodigapieces.com

Begin the same as the rope bee skep, but just keep going all the way to the top.

Wrapping Twine to Make Miniature Bee Skep by Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

Also, same as the rope bee skep, cut a piece of twine to secure to the inside edge before you close it off. Once you add the handle, finish on the interior of the handle, cut and tuck in.

Miniature Bee Skep DIY for Party Favors and Kid Crafts by Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

If you mixed the glue right, it should be ready right away to remove from the egg shell. Place it in a sunny spot to let dry. This will take a few hours to a day depending on your climate. I found mine took a day to fully cure and then it has hard like an eggshell. After it cured, I took a permanent marker and colored the bee opening. Now your cutie is done! I had way too much fun with this, can you tell?

Miniature Bee Skep for Party Favors, Kids Crafts or Farmhouse Home Decor by Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

Outdoor Patio and Pergola with DIY Farmhouse Decor by Larissa of Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

I hope you’ve learned a few fun tricks to make decor of your own and will welcome your bee friends to your garden. They are in decline and anything we can do to welcome them is a bonus. Even letting the clover grow in your yard is a way to help. And don’t use insecticides ever…not good for anyone.

Do pin and share my DIY bee skep tutorials so others can have fun too!

Get your craft on with these fun and easy to create DIY bee skep tutorials. It's time to do some garden and home decor fun that the whole family can enjoy. Get the step-by-step details at Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com #prodigalpieces #diy #garden #handmade #homedecor #crafts #kids

Up next is Trash to Treasure Tuesday and these iron bits were headed to the trash. HEAD HERE to see what they become.

Plant Caddy Bases Before Makeover by Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com

To get these DIY tips & tricks in your inbox, be sure to sign up for my newsletter. PLUS, you will get your FREE Furniture Buying Checklist and special discount to my shop. Until next time!

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More projects like this DIY bee skep for your garden:

Get creative and build these salvaged junk birdhouses from what others deem trash. I call it #trashure. Full DIY details at Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com #prodigalpieces #handmade #diy #homedecorBuild this beautiful DIY Garden Arbor to add height and growing space to your garden. Full build plans with video at Prodigal Pieces | prodigalpieces.com


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13 Comments

  • Susie Mountjoy Tross

    Love the reinvention of the planter…..didn’t see that coming! I love bee skeps and have made several…..so now I’ll be on the lookout for those planters. Thanks for sharing.

    August 7, 2018 at 7:14 am Reply
    • Larissa

      They are so fun to have in and around a home. My pleasure to share.

      August 7, 2018 at 7:38 am Reply
  • Lori Sawyer

    Love them .my sister has bee hives and i love to see them in the garden but i watch from afar because im allergic😞

    August 7, 2018 at 7:50 am Reply
    • Larissa

      Oooh…I’m a bit envious of her, but not you. Scary!

      August 7, 2018 at 7:54 am Reply
  • Della Morse

    I was fascinated to see what you would come up with, in regards to those plant hangers. What a brilliant idea, a bee skep. You always keep me on my toes with your creative imagination. I am always excited to read your blogs.

    August 7, 2018 at 8:24 am Reply
    • Larissa

      I’m delighted to hear it, Della! Thank you. Fun to take these into a new purpose.

      August 7, 2018 at 1:30 pm Reply
  • Sigrid

    I would love a tour of your garden. It looks lovely.

    August 7, 2018 at 9:26 am Reply
    • Larissa

      Thank you, Sigrid. It’s all I’ve got and I love it.

      August 7, 2018 at 1:30 pm Reply
  • leisa

    Larissa, I love your rope bee skeps! I’ve always wanted one for garden art. I have a question; your skeps are open so do bees or wasps try to make a home in them? I am blessed to care for two hives of bees in my yard. They are fascinating creatures. Sometimes I have to tear myself away from watching them work and get busy with my work! If you are serious about wanting bees but don’t feel comfortable caring for a hive yourself you can call your ag. extension office and see if a bee keeper would like to use your land for a hive. They will set it all up and care for it and the best part is they will teach you how to care for a hive yourself. My cousin in Jackson, MI shares her land with a few hives this way.

    August 9, 2018 at 6:39 pm Reply
    • Larissa

      Thanks! I just use a piece of heavy black felt at the back of the opening on the rope skeps or a piece of scrap wood on the wooden ones to prevent them attempting to make a home. I will look into the program, but not sure how it would be as I live in the city. Thanks for the tip! 😀

      August 10, 2018 at 5:45 am Reply
    • d brossy

      thanks for the tip, leisa. we live in roscommon, michigan and do know of a farmer who has a beekeeper for that purpose. such a cool program from the county extension service to offer. wish our property was larger so we can do that though can make bug homes out of wood as another option.

      August 11, 2018 at 4:47 pm Reply
  • d brossy

    clever, clever – cool design of the skep box using pegs! nifty home decor. definitely farm-y! XD

    August 11, 2018 at 4:46 pm Reply
    • Larissa

      Thanks so much! 😀

      August 14, 2018 at 11:03 am Reply

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