Bees and the Tradition of Tree Hives.

September 15, 2021

Log bee hives

Welcome to our blog, dedicated to bees!


Olivia's day trip to see tree hives.

Olivia, our Business Manager, went to visit her family in France recently and this has reignited our interest in bees here at Corinne Lapierre. Olivia discovered something interesting on one of her day trips and we were excited to learn more so we had a lovely conversation about it.

La Madeleine tree log hives.

Hello Olivia,  where did you go on your day trip?

We were on holiday in the Dordogne, in South West France, and visited La Madeleine, a magnificent troglodytic village overlooking the Vézere river.  

Why did you decide to go there?

My mother has rather romanticised the idea of living in a snug little cave so, as a family, we've visited many over the years. 

What was interesting about the hives and this way of beekeeping?

I'm really interested in the origin of words so it was the etymology of the french word "ruche" that caught my attention. 

The guide said it came from the latin "rusca" meaning bark and showed us hives made of tree bark, which I had never seen before.

I loved how they were both perfect for the bees and also blended into their environment. 

What did you find out about this way of beekeeping? 

Bees are known to build hives in the hollows of dead trees and tree beekeeping, as it is known, is still in practice in many parts of the world. 

Over time, for the convenience of the beekeepers, swarms were migrated to log and bark hives. 

Has what you discovered there changed your view of bees/keeping?

I hadn't really ever thought about honey being the only source of sweetness at the time and how precious it was. 

Have you discovered more ways to support bees?

I now buy honey from local producers and have sewn wildflowers in the garden". 

Our conversation with Olivia has encouraged us to do a little research about the ancient art of natural beekeeping and the evolution of hives.

The history and development of types of hives.

The first beekeepers were foragers of wild honey. An early cave painting in Spain depicts honey being collected from a tree hive with a stick. Domesticated bee keeping was common practice throughout the Ancient world, starting as early as 2500 B.C.E. in Egypt and possibly even earlier in China.

Approximately 2,000 years ago, beekeepers began making 'Sceps', these looked like overturned pots and were made from clay or woven straw. Unfortunately the use of a scep, meant the destruction of the colony in order to harvest the honey and alternative designs were sought.

Image of a row of sceps.

Other hive designs were devised and developed over time, until Lorenzo Langstroth, an American beekeeper, revolutionized bee keeping in the 1850s. He built a wooden hive that enabled honey to be easily removed, without disturbing the entire colony. This type of hive is the one that we all recognise and is most widely used today.

Modern box hives.

A revival of Natural Bee-keeping.

Some bee keepers now look to more natural methods of bee keeping and honey production by imitating the preferences of bees to create hives high off the ground in living trees, in ways that don't harm the trees themselves. This leaves room for bees to live in their natural environment without their territory being encroached upon by other colonies and it avoids the spread of cross colony disease.

For information and images about natural beekeeping, man made hives in living trees and how to make a log hive for your garden or allotment, The Natural Beekeeping Trust is a lovely place to start.

Image of a natural bee-made tree hive.

Natural bee keeping in living trees doesn't involve using pesticides and this helps to keep bees healthy. Bees self manage mites, if left to do it without intervention.

What can we do to raise awareness about the plight of the bees and how can we support bees in trouble?

Here are some ideas that can help.

As Olivia has done, we can plant wild flowers in our gardens or on window sills if we don't have outdoor space. There may be opportunities to educate future generations through our own families or local schools. We could volunteer with charities that support bees and share links to information on social media.

We can also contribute in very small and manageable ways by rescuing exhausted bees that we see by placing them on flowers or leaving them some sugar water. Sugar water is not good for bees generally and should only be used in emergency measures, such as exhaustion as a quick pick me up to enable recovery.

The danger in feeding honey to exhausted bees is that honey can contain and preserve viruses, spores and bacteria, that could potentially destroy the whole hive. Supermarket honey, for example, should be avoided and sugar water used instead.

Friends of the Earth have lots of information on how we can help - they also have a wonderful Bee Saver Kit.

Can you think of any other ways to support bees?

How we have supported bees so far.

Here at Corinne Lapierre, we supported Friends of the Earth in 2015 by creating our Bee & Flower kit, launched on Create & Craft TV, where Corinne has been guest presenter since 2013.  We also donated 5 percent of the profit over an eighteen month period. It's small in the bigger scheme of things but we feel every little helps.

We love bees and have created more designs celebrating them. For more information, click on the links above each product photo to go to our website. 

Notebook Bees

The above kit is also available as a past subscription box here - this was our July 2020 box.

Free Project

Make a Beeswax Candle

We have a lovely, simple project for you to make that smells absolutely amazing.

You will need:

- 1 sheet of pure natural beeswax 10 x 20 cm

- 12 cm length of eco-wick

1- Place the wick on one side of the wax (the shorter length) with one end reaching the lower edge and the other one sticking out. This will be the end you burn

2- Roll the edge of the wax very tightly around the wick. It might feel like the wax is cracking a little, but don’t worry about it. The main thing is to keep the wick firmly held by the wax.

3 - Using the palm of your hands, keep rolling the candle, just like you would do with modelling clay. Keep the top and bottom aligned so that the candle has a flat base.

4 - Keep the action for a little while, even when the wax has been fully rolled up, this will keep everything together more securely. Trim off the end of the wick if it looks too long.

Place your candle in a candle holder or a dish to keep it safe. Never leave a burning candle unattended. Burn out of reach of children and pets. Always leave at least 10 cm between burning candles. Do not burn candles on or near anything that can catch fire.

We hope that you enjoy making this simple project.

Thank you for reading our blog and we hope that it has inspired you to find out more about these wonderful creatures that we are are intrinsically linked to and that are vital to the future of the planet. 

We have an interest in bees, are not experts and our aim is to find out more and continue to support them in small ways, where we can. 

Corinne and the team x

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