hive stands and structures

A Montana bee house from a Dutch design

Earlier this year, on March 24, I posted a story about 74-year-old Dutch beekeeper Evert Jan van Tongeren. In that story, Evert Jan shared the history of the Lorsch Bee Blessing, invoked to make swarms return home. He also included some photos of his bee house and the ban mask that wards off evil spirits.

I hadn’t thought much about the post until last week when I received a surprising email from Montana beekeeper Michael Skeels. He wrote:

You know how beekeeping requires a lot of stuff. I had it scattered between two sheds, already full, and my deck. I was thinking about building something specifically for the bees. When I saw the picture of Evert Jan’s house I immediately started planning my own just like it. It took me a little over 6 months but it is finally ready. I will move my 3 hives onto the porch late December.

Old oak vs new pine

Unlike Evert Jan’s bee house, which is built from 200-year-old oak timbers salvaged from an old castle, Michael’s bee house is more modern in origin. “Mine was made with only 1 year old (or less) rough sawn pine from a local mill and lots of recycled products,” he says.

In an interesting twist, I learned that Michael was raised in the north end of Seattle, and he attended The Evergreen State College, near Olympia, for a couple years back when the school first opened. He still vacations here in western Washington, where he enjoys salmon fishing and whale watching. Small world.

The first photo below shows Evert Jan van Tongeren’s original bee house back in the Netherlands. The second photo shows Michael Skeels’ bee house in Montana, which is based on the first photo. Michael is pleased with the outcome and says, “It’s so nice to have everything organized.”

I’m impressed. Pretty good job, don’t you think? I’m ready to put in my order.

Honey Bee Suite


The bee house built by Evert Jan van Tongeren in the Netherlands. The blue ban mask is on the center post. © Evert Jan van Tongeren.


The Montana bee house built by Michael Skeels. Photo © Michael Skeels.


  • I keep bees in my barn loft in front of a big window, more open in the summer and less in the winter. I love that my equipment and supplies are all right there. I have a rubber tote on a pulley to bring stuff up and down. This is my first year, and this idea was recommended to me by some local experts. I was hesitant, but liked the protection from bears; we live on the edge of a very large state forest. I looked into buildings and bees before I readied my loft. It seems less unusual in some areas of Europe. It works out well in the summer. I hope it works for winter as well. Michael’s bee house looks wonderful.

    • Carol,

      Your system certainly sounds intriguing! What we need here is some photos and a short write up. I’d love to see the set up as well as the tote on a pulley. I, too, live adjacent to a very large state forest, and bears are always on my mind.

  • This is so inspiring… I want to make something like this when we are finally able to purchase some land in Hope – one day… fitting name for our desired locale, too 😉 Often, your posts are one of the brightest parts of my day – thank you!!

  • What a lovely idea! It does organize all the paraphernalia But it also provides a nice, snug and warm habitat for the bees throughout the winter.
    FYI – I didn’t notice that Evert has skeps! Beautiful concepts and both, beautifully rendered.

  • Rusty,

    The Evergreen State College was founded when a legislative bill was signed by Governor Dan Evans in 1967. Most of the land for the main campus was acquired in 1969, forty-three parcels acquired from mostly small landholders by threat of eminent domain. The college opened in 1971 in unincorporated Thurston County. It has an Olympia address, but remains outside the city to this day. The campus is just under 1000 acres, 75% of which is in second or third growth timber. The forest land fronts on Puget Sound, on a beach of coarse sand and fine gravel.

    My guess is that Michael did not attend in the mid-sixties!


    • Thanks, Rich. The mistake was all mine. When Michael said he went there when it first opened, I looked it up and read that it was founded in 1967. I assumed that it was founded after it was built instead of before, so dumb assumption. As an alum, I should know this stuff.

  • Rusty, I also noticed the date discrepancy since I did not graduate high school before 1971, but I thought, Oh Rusty must have researched the actual opening date and my 40 year old memories must be faulty. I figured probably only my 2 older sisters would catch it, which they didn’t. So I looked up the opening date also and discovered my faulty memory actually isn’t that bad as I attended somewhere around 1973-74. Fun for me story. Thanks again Rusty

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.