Why Skep?

“Unlike Aristotle’s patrons who would do anything to have a say in the sex determination of their offspring, queen bees mastered the art of sex selection millions of years ago.  The queen bee herself can make the royal decision of whether to lay an egg that will turn into a female worker bee or a male drone bee.

Here’s how it works: The queen lays an egg that has sixteen chromosomes , and if she does nothing more, it will develop into a male drone bee.  But if the queen wants to make a female worker bee, she adds a little dollop of sperm, which has been stored in her body, into the egg.  The sperm mixes with the egg and fertilizes it.  The sperm that fertilized the egg adds another sixteen chromosomes for a total of thirty-two.  That’s how many chromosomes to make a female worker honey bee.  While human females have an extra copy of the X chromosome, female honey bees have even more genetic choices at their disposal.  Every one of those sixteen extra chromosomes allow female honey bees to have more genetic choices than their male counterparts do.  

Imagine that for a moment.  Unlike human females who have only one extra X chromosome, compared with males, their honey bee compatriots have an entire extra set.  Given all the duties entrusted to a female worker bee, it’s no wonder she has so much extra genetic material.  For one, to ensure the hive stays as germ free as possible, female honey bees spend an enormous amount of time and energy maintaining it.  They also serve as guards, putting their lives at risk protecting the hive’s entrance if it’s threatened by predators.

Female honey bees are also entrusted to find all the nutritional sources the hive needs to survive.  Then there’s the astonishing conversion of nectar into honey, which requires days of intensive effort.  The first step to making honey is to add enzymes to digest the nectar.  To aid the process, the female worker bees’ wings must buzz at a rate of 11,400 times per minute.  Their distinctive buzz is required to help dehydrate the liquid nectar, eventually turning it nto honey.  With all our scientific advances to date, humans have not yet found a way to replicate this process.  

A female honey bee can eventually progress from cleaning duty to guard duty, to leaving the hive in search of pollen and nectar.  It takes about two million visits to flowers, requiring an overall flying distance of fifty-five thousand miles, to make a single pound of honey.  Not to mention that in the collection process, while they’re avoiding predators, female honey bees also manage to pollinate 80 percent of the fruits, vegetables and seed crops in the united States alone.  If that isn’t enough, they also communicate to their fellow flying female workers through an elaborate dance, which lets them know where to find a good food source.  Female honey bees have also been discovered to be the advanced mathematicians of the insect world.  Australian and French researchers taught female bees how to do arithmetic operations such as addition and subtraction.  This ability was thought to be out of reach for any insect, as it requires the capacity to perform complex cognitive processes.  But not for a female honey bee.

So what’s left for a male drone bee to do?  The answer is simple…nothing.

Drones  don’t maintain the hive, they can’t produce food for themselves, and they’re kept alive and clean by the female worker bees.  They can’t, even help defend the hive.  Instead of the stinger that a female has a phallic structure to use for the only thing they’re good for: sex.  

The sperm that makes females comes from a mix of male drone bees from another hive that have had sex, usually in mid flight with a queen bee.  A queen’s virginal midair sex flight happens only once in her life, during which she mates with as many as 50 males.  She stores the sperm in a specialized organ called a spermatheca.  Queen bees have been known to keep sperm alive inside them for a few years, using it only when they want to make females.

It’s no wonder that most of the male bees in a hive are kicked out just before winter.  The female workers don’t want to have to care for them over the harsh months.  Most of these males don’t last long outside the hive, eventually succumbing to starvation, exposure or predation.’ 

An excerpt from The Better Half: On the Genetic Superiority of Women by Sharon Moalem

Bees…aren’t they amazing creatures? After reading the passage above, I was motivated to include a nod to our sister bees while naming our newly-forming organization.  It was not a coincidence that both existed in my mind concurrently: I was on the threshold of launching an organization I’ve always dreamed of, been entrusted by city officials to take a chance in a city-owned property, and convinced that it should be female-run and operated.  When one studies bees, it doesn’t hurt to aspire to the work that females perform in the hive. We aspire to like-minded thinking and single focus  to simulate the same energy in our creative space. At the initial suggestion, Lisa feared a reference to bees or hive would naturally conjure an association with a queen bee figure.  It was important to avoid the connotation and establish all members of our community have equal footing and standing, existing without a great “Queen Bee” Ruler overseeing all.  I was confident that we could move beyond the suggestion and focus on female work ethic and productivity in the hive.  Famous for being industrious, bees are praised in the natural world for their work ethic, inspiring expressions like “busy as a bee”.  Capturing that spirit, we aspire to be single- minded in our purpose of fostering creativity and making art.   We tried on a bunch of names for size, none of which rang authentic.  Lisa finally suggested Skep Space, and after searching on its meaning, it eventually took hold.  


/ (skɛp) /


  1. a beehive, esp one constructed of straw
  2. mainly dialect a large basket of wickerwork or straw

Eureka!  A skep, as referenced above, is a hand-made vessel that houses the beehive, used in the days before the advent of modern-day equipment.  Handmade and shaped like a natural beehive, the vessel lovingly protects the fruit of the hive. The fruits of our little hive colony are both literal and simultaneously abstract in nature.  Of course we come together to make beautiful art to share with the world.  At the same time, we build community, provide support and exist in a like-minded capacity.  The Honeycomb Gallery furthers the mission.  If it weren’t so wordy, I would include the intended tagline: “Fruit of the Hive.”  One of our first artists to join the gallery, Betsy Steckler, brought prints that celebrate the importance of pollinators.  A favorite?  A group of bees gathered on a honeycomb with the tagline “The Future is Female”.  We couldn’t agree more.

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