There could be several reasons for why your bees are not expanding into the Flow Hive super. Some of these reasons apply to all hive styles. Bees, for example, will not build new comb when they are unhealthy, in a nectar dearth or at certain times of year. But getting bees to accept plastic can be tricky and so sometimes a colony will refuse to use the Flow Hive super even when conditions for building are good. So, how can you make your Flow supers more attractive? Read on to find out what worked for me.
Are the Bees Ready?
Before putting your Flow super on, make sure your bees have filled their brood nest out. A healthy colony in spring will do this in a few weeks time. Depending on your area and the strength of your colony, you may need to feed your bees to help them achieve this progress, but once you add your Flow super, it is time to stop feeding. You should wait for your bees to build on at least 6 out of the 8 frames in your brood box before adding the Flow super. I actually recommend letting your bees build out two brood boxes before adding a Flow super so that you and the bees have more flexibility. If you want to follow that advice, you should add a second brood box first and once that is built out, you can add your Flow super.
Preparing the Frames
Make sure the cells in your Flow frames are in the correct formation. They should look like regular hexagonal cells, but with small gaps in the top and bottom. If the frame key has been turned the cells will be in the harvest formation and will look like vertical, zig zagging channels.
Just like with plastic foundation, the bees will be more receptive to your flow frames if they are coated in beeswax. I applied the beeswax by melting some in a double broiler on the stove (don’t walk away from beeswax on the stove– it’s flammable) and then using an old paint brush to apply. When painting on the melted beeswax, hold the frames upright so that wax does not run down the cells. You just want the wax on the face of the “flow comb”. Other people have had success just by rubbing burr comb over the frames or by spraying them with sugar water.
If you see the bees filling in the cracks of the cells with beeswax, good news! That is the first sign that your bees have accepted the flow frames. If there is a nectar flow happening, you should start to see them fill the cells. They seem to start on the center frames in the center of each frame and they work their way out. So, if you see honey from the windows, you are likely very close to having full frames of honey!
I have found that some bees are simply less willing to use the flow super than others. If you are not seeing progress and all the above has been considered, you might try moving the flow super to a different colony.
Want to learn more about how tips and tricks for Flowhives, check out my latest online class. It’s all about hive inspections and there is a special section on Flowhives.