IS THE FLOWHIVE BAD FOR BEES?

IS THE FLOW HIVE BAD FOR BEES?

The drama surrounding the Flow Hive is unending and riddled with misinformation. Beekeepers are infamous for our diverse and contrasting opinions, but the controversy over the Flow Hive is so extreme that it cannot even be mentioned without sparking a civil war among beekeepers. So, is the Flow Hive what its opponents claim it to be: an evil invention designed to enslave bees for honey? Read on to get my take.

Before I go any further, I want to be up front about my experiences with beekeeping and the Flow Hive because I have noticed many of the articles written on this subject have been written by people who are either new to beekeeping or people who have never used the Flow Hive. I have been keeping between 20 and 80 hives for the past seven years. When the news of the Flow Hive invention first broke, I was a skeptic, like many others. I decided to keep an open mind, mostly for the sake of my current and future students. I teach hundreds of new beekeepers each year, many of which have Flow Hives. In the fall of 2015, the company sent me a complete Flow Hive kit and an additional Flow Super at no cost. I put them to use in the spring, but had not harvested honey until just last week. During the past year, I have organized two local beekeeping meetings with presentations by the inventors, participated in their “Meet the Beekeeper” film series and was hired to write several educational articles for the Flow Hive blog. I am not being paid to write this article.

Addressing Criticisms

The majority of the complaints I have heard about the Flow Hive are not about the invention, but about new beekeepers who might use it. For good or bad, the Flow Hive inspired a wave of new beekeepers and with that comes a lot of ignorance and mistakes. The new Flow Hive beekeepers are similar to all new beekeepers. They make mistakes, they lose hives and then they either learn from it or they quit beekeeping altogether. For experienced beekeepers, this process is sometimes hard to watch. It takes incredible patience to accept and mentor new beekeepers. So, when the Flow Hive was released and brought with it a boom of new and naive beekeeping hopefuls it’s no wonder it overwhelmed so many of the experienced beekeepers. We were flooded with constant questions and many of those questions were based on misconceptions about what beekeeping involves. The frustration among beekeepers was paramount and it coalesced into a stubborn hatred of anything Flow Hive. Just take a look at the articles that have come out against it. In nearly all of them the writer’s irritation is clear and they openly complain about the number of inquiries they have had about the hive. I suspect this colored their opinions and this is one reason I waited over a year to share mine.

IS THE FLOW HIVE BAD FOR BEES?

Lazy Beekeepers

The most common argument I hear against the Flow Hive is that it creates or promotes “lazy beekeeping” practices. People who get a hive don’t bother to learn much about what they are doing and never perform inspections, but still may rob honey when they feel like it.

As someone who has been teaching a high volume of new beekeepers for the past 5 years, I have found that these types of beekeepers existed before the Flow Hive and they will continue to exist afterwards. The Flow Hive does make it easier for them to rob honey without understanding what they are doing, but I find that these kinds of beekeepers will harvest honey when they should not no matter what style hive they use. I also think it is rare that this type of beekeeper will progress far enough with a colony to the point where they will fill a Flow Hive. Likely the colony will die before it ever fills a honey or Flow super. Another point of contention with Flow Hive opponents is that these unmanaged hives will sicken the hives of responsible beekeepers nearby. Again, I would like to point out that this is a complaint about the beekeeper and not the Flow Hive.

Many blame the original teaser video for attracting so many potential lazy beekeepers. They complain that it was deliberately misleading. In response to this, I would ask that the reader imagine themselves in the shoes of the inventors for a moment. You and your dad are beekeepers and you’ve spent 10 years working on this invention and you are ready to go live with it, but you don’t want to release too many details about how it works for fear of copycats. You have a family member make a catchy promotional video that shows off your invention. You have no idea that this video will go viral and become so popular with the public. You are just trying to get the attention of other beekeepers like you. Can you really blame them for the response they got? I don’t think I would have done differently if I had been in their place. They were trying to appeal to existing beekeepers. I do not judge them for their initial release video, but instead I look at what they have done since and I am impressed with how they responded to the criticism they received. They didn’t have to do anything to address it. They were already wildly popular, having broken crowd funding records nearly immediately. But they went the extra mile because at the end of the day they are not some soulless corporation. They are a beekeeping family that cares about bees and other beekeepers. They have created a wealth of educational resources for new beekeepers for free: a blog, videos, and a forum. What more do people want?

IS THE FLOW HIVE BAD FOR BEES?

Honey Profiteering Mentality

Another worry from the beekeeping community is that the Flow design promotes a style of beekeeping that is fixated on profits and on honey. This argument actually makes me laugh. I have yet to meet someone with this mentality who purchased a Flow Hive. I always asking my Introduction to Beekeeping students why they came to class. Before the bee crisis was making big headlines, I used to get business-minded people in the class every once in a while, declaring their goals of starting a honey business. None of these people have gone on to actually do it. Probably because they quickly realized how challenging beekeeping is and how little profit honey actually brings.

The people I have met with Flow Hives have been of two types. Either they don’t want to learn anything at all and they want to hire me to manage their hives for them or they are just like every other new beekeeper. Nervous, determined, excited, caring, confused and in need of guidance. Some of them quit, but those who stick with it do it for a love of bees. When they harvest their honey, they don’t sell it! They give it away to friends and family. Do you really think someone with the kind of disposable income that affords a Flow Hive needs to sell their honey?

Weakening the Connection 

Some beekeepers worry that the Flow Hive interrupts the bond between a beekeeper and their bees. That the connection us beekeepers cherish will be lost. This is another one of the reasons why I waited for over a year to write this article. I wanted to consider these points and take my time working my Flow Hives before I made any claims. I can truly say that the Flow Hive has done nothing to take away from this element of beekeeping. I think it is based on the false idea that Flow Hive beekeepers do not have to perform hive inspections. They do. The only thing that requires less interaction between beekeeper and bees is the process of harvesting honey, something that is done only a couple of times a year.

IS THE FLOW HIVE BAD FOR BEES?

Solving a Non-Existent Problem

Some beekeepers dismiss the praise the Flow Hive has received by stating that it solves a problem none of us really have. Many beekeepers are happy with the traditional methods for harvesting honey. I think that’s great, but what is true for one beekeeper is not true for everyone. I would agree that there are traditional ways of harvesting honey that are not so bad, but I still save tons of time when I harvest with a Flow Hive. All of my apiaries are out-yards so even if I use a trap out board I have to make several trips: one to put the board on and another to come pick up the super. Then I usually have to make another trip out to put the “stickies” (now empty combs) back on the hive. Plus, I still have to haul the heavy super around, extract the honey, and clean everything up. I have some rooftop hives that I would love to have Flow supers on so I could avoid the dangerous and tricky business of carrying honey laden supers down a ladder. My point is that some people do not feel that the investment of a Flow Hive is worth the work it saves for honey harvests and some people do feel it’s worth it, but neither person is wrong.

The Price

I can see how the price of The Flow Hive would stop some people from purchasing it, but I don’t think this is a valid argument against it. If you don’t think it’s worth the price, don’t buy it. Since starting my own business, I have learned that products have many hidden costs. We have no idea what it takes to produce a Flow Hive especially when you look beyond just the manufacturing costs. They have to employ a team of people who deal with questions, orders, and shipping. Not to mention the time the inventors put into creating the Flow Hive. They worked on it for 10 years! Who are we to tell them what to charge? And if they are millionaires now, why are we not celebrating the fact that a beekeeper has had success? Why do beekeepers judge and ridicule each other when they try to charge for their skills? I have been attacked for charging for nearly all of the services I offer: mentorships, classes, hive tours, kid’s presentations, bee removal. I am proud to be a beekeeper and I think it’s high time we start valuing our skill set and trade. We should support each other and celebrate each other’s successes.

Robbing 

If you’re worried that honey pouring out of your hive from a spigot will cause robbing, I don’t blame you. However, it’s really such a simple fix that it isn’t even worth talking about. See photo below.

IS THE FLOW HIVE BAD FOR BEES?

The Plastic 

Out of all the complaints against the Flow Hive the only one that I feel is valid is its use of plastic combs. I prefer to let my bees build natural combs and don’t use foundations in my hives. I am a huge advocate of this practice because I think natural comb plays a role in honey bee health. Although not all of it has scientific evidence, reasons for shunning plastics/foundations in the hive include natural cell size, chemical leaching, off-gassing and communication disruptions. In addition to all that, I have observed that bees prefer natural comb to foundation and this preference is reason enough for me to keep foundation and plastic out of my hives. I know that many of the beekeepers who agree with me on this point are confused and even angry with me for not condemning the Flow Hive. So, I will do my best to explain myself.

Misconceptions

Many people mistakenly believe that the Flow Hive forces bees to live in a hive that contains only plastic combs. This is not the case. There is a single super of plastic combs and the rest of the hive can be natural comb or foundation, whatever the beekeeper chooses. I would argue that using a Flow super isn’t that much different from using foundation. It may even be preferable because Flow Hive encourages beekeepers to allow for natural combs (no foundations) in the brood boxes.

Allowances & Trade-offs

I am of the opinion that we are all hypocrites. Every good thing we try to do has a consequence. In beekeeping, especially there are lots of trade-offs. Personally, I try to maintain a “do what works for you” philosophy. If someone is having success with a certain beekeeping practice, even if I would not personally do it, I don’t feel the need to lecture them.

On the subject of potential negative impacts of using plastic Flow Frames in a hive… I don’t think we have enough data to make any claims and I have not seen any anecdotal evidence to suggest Flow Frames are harming bees. It would be different if the bees were forced to lay their brood in plastic combs, but that is not the case. I just don’t think a single super of plastic comb is that big of a deal and one could argue that there are some benefits for both bees and beekeepers.

IS THE FLOW HIVE BAD FOR BEES?

Benefits

For the Beekeeper 

For the beekeeper, the benefits are that you will save time and effort when you harvest honey. That’s it. You still have to inspect your hives, deal with mites, monitor for diseases, add supers, make splits, requeen, lift heavy boxes, lose colonies to pesticides etc.

I think it’s curious that so many new beekeepers latched onto the Flow Hive under the misguided impression that it would make beekeeping more accessible to them. It’s a pretty box with a clever mechanism inside, but it can’t give you power over your bees or nature. It will only ease the burden of labor involved in harvesting honey. New beekeepers have never experienced that before so most of them enjoy that process. It’s still novel! It seems like experienced beekeepers would be the ones to get the most excited about this invention, but the majority of them seem to have shunned it.

When I did my first Flow Hive harvest it really was like magic. It’s so wonderfully easy to turn the key and drain the honey right into a bucket. I was giddy! Because I run my own beekeeping business almost entirely by myself, time is insanely precious to me. Especially in spring. The time and effort the Flow Hive could save me if I were able to harvest this way on all my hives would be invaluable.

For the Bees

After seeing it in action, I think there is no way to dispute that the Flow Hive’s method of honey harvesting is less invasive for the bees. We could tell through the window that the frames were capped and there was no need to open the hive at all for the harvest. Other methods for harvesting honey not only involve opening the hive, but physically removing the bees from each frame. People use brushes, leaf blowers, strong smells and smoke to drive bees off the honey. It’s never a fun process. The trap-out board is the least invasive traditional method, but even with that you have to lift the super and put the board on. A process that usually crushes at least some bees.

IS THE FLOW HIVE BAD FOR BEES?

Drawbacks

The practical drawbacks of the Flow Hive are similar to using plastic foundation. The bees sometimes will not accept the plastic combs until they have been coated with beeswax. It is an easy enough fix. Simply brush or rub some wax on the face of your Flow frames.

Another similarity to using plastic foundation is that some hives seem reluctant to fill Flow frames when there isn’t a strong nectar flow. San Diego’s climate has fickle nectar flows and I have trouble getting bees to make and cap honey at some of my apiaries, especially during drought years. This year we received above average rainfall and the bees have been more willing to fill the Flow super.

Conclusion

Like everything in beekeeping, the Flow Hive has pros and cons. It is a trade-off. If you choose to use it you will sacrifice one super of natural comb in exchange for a less invasive and time-consuming honey harvest. Like everything in beekeeping, you will have unique challenges because of your particular situation and climate. You might decide that these challenges outweigh the benefits of using a Flow Hive and find that it doesn’t work for you. Another beekeeper may find the opposite result. Like everything in beekeeping some people will disagree with you. Some of them will have interesting, challenging thoughts that change your perspective and others will just be a-holes. Just remember, in the end it’s your journey.

 

 

48 Comments

Claudia

Excellent article! Well written, fact based and very balanced. Thank you, Hillary, for continuing to educate us in the beekeeping world.

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lifeunderstrawberryskies

Thank you for this article. I have only recently gotten interested in beekeeping, it’s so easy to get confused with all the information available. It was great to read an article with both the pros and cons of this type of hive.
-Kim

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Susan Rudnicki

For me, a beek for 6 years, foundationless, the plastics issue is the biggest complaint. The bees avoid plastic, building away from the face of plastic foundation so as to pass behind it (I have re-habbed some colonies on plastic foundation/frames) The true environmental cost of plastics production—fossil fuel extraction, processing, chemical additives and their notorious toxicity, the near non-biodegradable nature of plastic—all these “externalities” to the costs of production for human desired gadgets needs to be better kept in mind. SOMEONE, somewhere, “pays” for his habitat to be poisoned by the wastes of industrial production. The loops are never closed but always dumping out stuff needing “disposal”

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filype

perfect… no bull****… and not trying to go only positive or only negative… thanks for the wonderfull article, that was what I needed.

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sally duffy

Good, thoughtful and experienced discussion. Thank you for taking the time. My problem has always been with the developers who thrust these things upon the universe of existing beekeepers and clubs and expected us to do all their training for them. Certainly wish they had spent some of their millions on worthy bee education and workshops. Instead they just wanted to Skype in to sell more units and micromanage their messaging.

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Susan Rupp

Thank you, Hillary, for your article. I am a beekeeper who has been skeptical of the Flow Hive because the reason I keep bees is for the propagation of bees, not honey. That is why I have only had top-bar hives. I live in Northern CA and my ‘girls’ have been experiencing dought conditions. In the past 4 to 5 years, I have rarely harvested any honey from my hives. I am hoping this year will be different. I do appreciate your perspective on the Flow Hive. If I ever decide to try a Langstroth set-up, I will consider getting a Flow Hive.

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Liz

Thank you for a great write up of the flow hive, without all the baggage that seems to come with it! As one of the “new-bees” out there, it was fantastic to find your site- keep up the great work!

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Della Darling

Awesome article! I feel you have spoken to all of us. Beginners like myself that is trying my hand at bee keeping and as a learning experience for my Grandson. Thank You for your willingness to share your thoughts and wisdom in bee keeping. I learn a lot from reading your information. I hope I can learn enough to be successful in keeping the bees. All three of our hives up and left at the end of October last year and we are waiting for replacements.
Della Darling in the Mountains of Colorado

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Torbjörn Andersen

Great article! I have been a sceptic, mainly due to the plastic. But after this I know better.
I would take the time to read more of your articles if you would cut them shorter, half would do it 😉

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mildren81

Love it or hate it, the inventors from Australia are responsible for a surge in beekeeping and general bee awareness on a global scale. That in itself is impressive! Simon from HiveKeepers.

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Rich V.

I commend the author for a well-balanced article. I will admit I’m one of those beekeepers who was dead-set against the Flow Hive, for all of the reasons given as examples by Hillary. But I had never spoken to anyone who actually used one. So my judgement was premature and not fairly based in experience. As I read this article, I became enlightened to the real pros and cons of the Flow Hive, and I have to admit it doesn’t sound bad after finishing the article and contemplating on Hillary’s observations and experience. In other words, I was wrong in my judgement. As difficult as it might be for my ego to admit I was too hasty, I will force it to accept the facts and make new conclusions from those. Thank you for the honest article.

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John L.

Thank you for coming around on the Flow hive, I have been bastardized for having them, I started last year with 2 flow hives from campaign (6 frame flow/ 8 frame langs), but I now have 3, but have just now put 2 of the flow supers on, Have spent the last year working my 2 flow/ langs hives, and I have added 1 more flow hive (7 frame flow/ 10 frame langs) this year and 2 traditional cedar langs. I didn’t start this to become a Honey Business, but a hobby, to help my farm, pecan orchard, lake and everything else on the property. I have planted 1 acre of wild flowers, another 2 acres of millet, sunflower, milo for the dove, duck and goose hunting over my lake. Love my Flow Hives

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Patrick Purcell

Hi Hilary,
I have not had the benefit of seeing nor using a flow hive yet but I have one concern. You state “We could tell through the window that the frames were capped and there was no need to open the hive at all for the harvest.” How do you know that the nectar in the middle of the frames or out of sight, is in fact capped honey?

My latest inspection of a hive in one of my apiaries had capped honey on one side of the frame and nectar on the other. I’m hoping that by next week when I get back there that both sides will be capped.

Other than that question, I agree and celebate the invention for getting a lot more peolpe interested in beekeeping.
Regards,
Patrick
Solomon Islands

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Hilary

I originally thought I would still need to pull frames to check to make sure they are capped, but I found that the bees consistently started filling from the center of the frames so by the time nectar was in the cells on the edges of the frame everything was full. You can see the thin layer of wax that caps these outer cells, too. If you really wanted to double check you could pull up frames, but there wasn’t a need.

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April Hay

I am a bit of a skeptic, only because I question the durability of the outer clear plastic of the Flow frames. It seems like anything made of thin clear plastic has a pretty short lifespan. What do you think, Hilary? After using a Flow Hive and seeing how they are made, how many years would you estimate the Flow frames will last in Southern California? Is there any problem with cleaning them out after the honey flow has ended?

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Hilary

The plastic isn’t clear and it doesn’t feel too delicate. I really don’t feel like I can speculate on the lifespan. I have no idea! As far as the cleaning goes, the bees will clean it out so, you do not have to worry about that.

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chris

Hillary – you have done great video’s in the past about other topics. I am sure you video’d your honey harvest using the flow hive. It would add greatly to your argument if you showed this as well. Just curious why no such excellent video. Also, are all the photo’s of the flow hive taken by you or are they pictures supplied by the folks at Flow hive ? Just curious. Even though I can afford the flow hive easily, I have no inclination to do lazy bee-keeping as I’m just a backyard bee keeper. I have spoken to absolute never had bees people who ask me about the flow hive….because they like the idea of just turning on the honey tap…LOL. Why are people looking for the path of least effort and maximum gain at all times ?
I can see the usefulness for commercial honey suppliers such as yourself.

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Hilary

You are correct, I did take video of the harvest I did. I probably should have included it. Maybe I will add it in. In answer to your other question, I took the photos myself.

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Julie P

Thank you for a clear explanation of what the differences are. I am considering a hive and I am trying to learn as much as possible before I commit. I would like to try the traditional setup because those mentors who are available seem to prefer that method. After I get some experience I would consider a Flow hive, If cost is not prohibitive. I mean besides the side benefit of honey, fostering the bees and having kick ass pollinators by my garden is the most important reason I have. Once again thanx……

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Bernadette Russell

Thankyou so much Hillary for your article. I started my bee journey with a flow hive but before using it did classes. I had wanted bees for about 8 years but didn’t like the idea of the messy clean up from spinning frames with only one hive. Then the flow popped up. I have an ideal of frames on top of my brood box, mainly because of weight issues,half wXed and half with just a strip this year. They have capped all these. And they are working in the flows. We have not had a good year with the weather so I am very happy. I have found the negativity a major hurdle to learning more because there are so many negative bee keepers around in Australia about it. Thankyou for your comments because it may help some of these negative bee keepers help some new bee keepers on their journey.

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Emily Scott

A well-written and balanced article. I would be interested to try one, but the cost is too much for me and I believe is what’s putting experienced beekeepers off. Some of the beekeepers I know save money by looking in skips for anything useful they can find! They are not going to spend money on a fancy box when a wooden one will do the job. I’m not complaining about the cost, I understand why it costs what it does, but it’s not worth it for me when the honey harvest takes such a small part of the year – and some years I don’t even take any honey!

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Charles Rivers

Never on my watch. I am oversuspicious of any article written from someone commenting on a free whatever. I am into natural bee keeping & try to treat the bees as family.

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Jenny Cocks

Thank you for your very interesting article.
It was because of the Flow Hive invention that hubby and I are now proud bee keepers. We have been to courses to learn more about all that is involved in beekeeping. We originally were only going to have one hive, now we have five.
We are fascinated with watching our bees and have a genuine interest in this wonderful new hobby.
Yes there are many people out there who dislike the Flow Hive and are not willing to change their views.
But for us, the way of harvesting the honey is the key. Non invasive, not bees harmed or disturbed was the main reason we went this way.
Since we started bee keeping we have formed a strong bond with other traditional bee keepers who have in turn, have watched how our hives have developed etc.

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robert

The man who really invented the flow hive as it is called is not from australia it was invented by a man i believe out of spain. One of the forums I was on had the actual 1940s patent. People think having bees is so easy as the flow hive commercials seem to act. You have to have knowledge. Not this mentality of life is easy. I have seen grown people go into a store and complain why something is not on the shelf. Its like getting a rabbit for easter or a cute dog you see after the disney movie or chickens and soon do not have the time or patience for them Same goes with kids only thing is you cannot return them to the store lol. I just dumped 1200 into this year buying and building frames then more honeybees over this dec to early march wind to the ice was bad here. I recommend on youtube michael palmer then watch parts 1-5 the monk and the honeybee also a man out of oregon state,usa thebeevlog and don the fat bee man,628DirtRooster,Tom Seeley: Honeybee Democracy. I hope this helps. Next to oogle on facebook local outlets and gain sources. More than honey,the vanishing of the bees. The crazy world of the honeybee. I recommend if you are in the states or canada buckfast honeybees much more gentle 1 queen costs 90 dollars but if you have let’s say aggressive italian honeybees the buckfast will turn the hive over to buckfast bees. Just giving my 2 cents. Plus watch videos on killerbees. Learn what is going on in china and japan. Look at india some of these places are killing the honeybee. Look into also killerbees.

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sweetgreyhappenings

Posting using my wife’s account. Great article. We were sceptical about being able to tell when the cells were capped, you cleared that up nicely. I would seriously consider using the Super now. If I had to bet, I would think that some people will buy this under the mistaken perception that it is “easy” beekeeping. Maybe there will be some that pop up on craigslist. We have not harvested honey, we have let the bees keep it so far. Thank you for the objective and detailed take on this!

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Sue

I am a new beekeeper and I think the people already keeping bees need to take some responsibility for the high failure rate of those starting out. I got my first hive on the 27th of March and a week later I find out the colony was in trouble because it was infected with chalk brood. The only reason I found out was because I visited a local major beekeeping shop in order to get some foundation and frames and casually mentioned the funny white stuff the bees were rolling out the hive entrance. The hive had been sold to me diseased. The registered beekeeper who sold it to me also told me not to open the hive for a month and not to feed them. What chance does a new beekeeper have in that situation?
I opened up the hive and found that half the frames were empty and the colony was struggling.(I also managed to get stung and found out I am allergic to bees ,ha,ha…. that might be another reason why people give up in the first year? I haven’t yet. I went to the hospital and now have an Epipen just in case).
I fed the bees, and bought a new ventilated base board for the hive which incorporates a large beetle trap. I opened them up yesterday and they have not made any new comb but there are more bees and they are more energetc.
I bought a traditional langstroth hive to start with and I have two flow hives that will bee delivered tonight. I am very excited, however, I will not take honey this year at all. I have bought flows for the traditional langstroth hive as I am hoping it will encourage happy bees. I am also treating the sick hive with Hive Alive.
Wish me luck please :). Thank you for your great website and insights.

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NaturoCath Naturopathy

Thank you for such a balanced assessment from a skilled beekeeper. I have a flow hive and it has been a wonderful experience. I take the responsibility of caring for my bees seriously and enjoy them immensely. I do take your point about having some concerns re plastic etc but for me the upside is the avoidance of harming the bees during harvest. I am so happy with my set up that I am looking at getting a second flow hive.

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Susan Low

Thanks for the informative article. I’m a very experienced Canadian beekeeper who has been bombarded with questions about the Flow Hive. One of my concerns in our northern climate is whether the honey will actually flow out of the hive if the weather really cools down during that period. We often get a late honey flow here in August but temperatures can be quite cool. I have heard of a couple of a couple of ‘newbees’ in our area who purchased Flow Hives last year but I haven’t heard how they made out.

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Amy Keller

Such an interesting unbiased article. The most interesting article I’ve read about the flow hive thus far. I just started with two standard hives. And yes, I’m so looking forward to my first honey harvest the traditional way. But who knows? Maybe some day down the road, I will want to give the flow hive a try.

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Li

Thanks for your thoughts and observations. You make a good point about how advantageous the flow frames would be in certain conditions, like roof top hives. All beekeeping is local and to each his own.
I do think some people were inspired to try beekeeping who thought it finally looked easy. I had someone come up to me at the market where I was selling honey and say “I’m having a cedar Flow hive delivered. If I put in my yard will the bees move in?”. I encouraged her to get a book but she did not seem interested in bees, just excited about the gadget. I’m glad to hear
she was an anomaly.
I heard from someone who sells equipment at one of the bigger suppliers that they were a little upset at having been cut out of the sales. The hives were all being ordered directly from the maker, instead of through US suppliers. Maybe the suppliers would have promoted good thoughts about the hive if they had been allowed to sell it?

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Hilary

I believe Bee Thinking is the US supplier. The creators wanted a supplier who used sustainable wood.

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Ashley K

Having only played with a flow frame outside of the hive, can I ask if you had any problems withe bees propolyzing the turning mechanism shut? Or bees getting trapped and dying in the flow frames once they’ve been drained and closed again?

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Mani R Subramani

I live in Minnesota and am a fourth-year bee keeper. I got a flow hive last year but my experience has been disappointing. There was a good flow last year but he bees seemed to just ignore the hive and fil the supers above this one….there was a lot of through traffic but no honey stored! Last year, I sprayed the flow hive frames with sugar syrup with some Pro-health…and did the same this year when I put in the flow hive on my brood box last week.. You indicate that I could rub some wax…can you please provide some details? Do I just brush on wax onto frames with a painting brush from a contained with liquid wax? I am concerned about gumming up the mechanism.
thanks in advance.

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Hilary

I think I am going to do a post on this since you are not the only one to ask, but yes, just brush on melted wax. It also sounds like you put empty supers on top of your flow super… is that right?

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Tim Blodgett

Very subjective article. But I did learn a few things. If you folks are only getting 30-60 pounds of honey per year I can see your point of view. $400-600 per honey super for a hobbyist might not be that big a deal. In Central Florida a double brood box with 3-6 honey supers is common during nectar flows despite being a hobbyist, sideliner or commercial beekeeper. The per flow-hive honey super cost would quickly becomes prohibitive. Especially when you consider that after 2 years the internal comb coating becomes constrictive to the point that bees can’t get their heads in necessitating replacement of the comb by the third year. But I guess it would take 2 to 3 times longer in California considering your honey production rate. I notice you didn’t mention anything about accumulations of toxins in wax? In Central Florida we provide 80-85% of the honey bee pollination services for the entire USA. First stop in the spring is the almond crop in your southern region followed by various produce as they head north throughout the state. The bee colony death rates coming out of CA is outrageous to the point that many farms have been black listed, pollination fees increased the past few years from $225 to $475/hive per stop. In response to this problem we recently raising funds for a Bee Lab that includes the ability to measure the amount of toxins from beeswax in hives returning from California. The state is a toxic cesspool for bees. So I pose this question: Why would you teach and promote a system (the flow hive) that suppresses toxic wax removal from the hive as a part of routine maintenance at such an astronomic cost? Put simple, $15 to replace a set of frames and reduce toxins every few years vs $400-600 to replace an entire flow hive honey super that leaves the toxins in?
As for my qualifications: my degrees don’t matter, I have been mentored by numerous master beekeepers & attended Bee College at UF at Gainsville, I teach beekeeping,give presentations to all ages & interest groups for free, provide multiple free public bee capture, relocation and educational services including a live public observation hive.
Tim Blodgett -President Beekeepers of Volusia County FL
http://volusiabeekeepers.org/

Reply
Hilary

Hi Tim, in what way does the Flow Hive suppresses toxic wax removal? The Flow super is plastic combs so, there is very little wax up there and what is up there breaks apart when you turn the harvesting mechanism. The brood boxes are no different from any other Langstroth hive and the beekeeper can rotate out old combs or not.

Reply
Timothy Kennedy

Hi Hilary, because of my age I can get away with saying things like “I like your picture, you’re as cute as a bug… I mean bee”. I’m 74 years old and have been a beekeeper for a long time… about 60 days so far. I’ve watched so many videos and read so many blogs since the first of the year that I can’t remember what my wife looks like. I particularly appreciate your calm reasoned analysis of “the flow hive question”. I have yet to harvest a drop of honey but am amazed at the diversity of “expertise” found on the internet. Because of shoulders which have been thoroughly beaten up over the years I decided to use 8 frame mediums and a flow hive super. I calculated the area of foundation on two ten frame deeps and came to the conclusion that I needed four 8 frame mediums to match that for adequate winter capacity for northern Illinois and I was hoping that my Nuc colony would be able to grow and strengthen this summer, enough to get through winter, and perhaps I’d be lucky enough to harvest a bit of honey as well. I knew the first year was critical and had no illusions that I could sit back and do nothing. I was not warned about what actually happened. As of this week (July 10th) all four mediums are jammed with brood and honey and I have added the flow super. Yesterday I did a non-invasive inspection and the flow super is full of bees prepping the flow hive for nectar. I was not expecting that we might harvest honey this early and am wondering if you have any advice concerning things going way too well. There are no blogs about how to deal with such prosperity.

Reply
Hilary

Hi Tim, how lucky for you! If they fill the flow super and you have 4 full mediums under it, I think you can probably do a harvest. Was that your question?

Reply
Rich Staley

Great article. I have both hives. Love both for different reasons, and hate both for different reasons. But I love the Flow Hive for education with children.

Reply
Greg Maulder

Can you tell me what happens when the Flow Hive harvest has been made and the bees have capped cells without honey behind the caps. Do they tear the caps off and refill because they sense the lack of honey in those cells, or are they left capped until they are looking for the honey they thought was stored there?

Reply
Hilary

When the key is turned to harvest the honey, the caps are broken. The bees clear them away and will refill if there is still a nectar flow.

Reply
Michael Bush

It is very refreshing to read an article on the Flow Hive by someone who actually has at least SEEN one. You actually have USED one. Thank you for a well thought out, well presented article on the topic. I can’t say how they will age yet, but I got my first one a year before they hit the market and it’s still doing great.

Reply
Bill

http://beekeepinglikeagirl.com/is-the-flowhive-bad-for-bees/

G’day Hilary.
Your article title invites reading in exposing an experienced BKs opinion
as to the adverse impact on a colony yet nowhere in the piece or indeed any of the published comment are bees mentioned, social impact however
runs as the backbone of the work.
There are three commons shared among your article, and by far the majority of responses to this bLog article;
1. Without the Internet this project of 10yrs plus would be dead in the water.
Both inventors knew this from day one regardless of whether they had sighted the earlier patent. A patent still uncontested as I am best informed.
2. A claim – either directly or by inference- the owners of these frames are
not expecting a return in cash on the investment . Naive at best. wholly false/misleading “feel good” propaganda is the actual reality, given the many implied motives for questions asked by Flow owners who do seek advice publicly.
3. It is the management of the colony which is going to prevent this bubble
from expanding beyond the initial honeymoon phase, A point in histort which may prevail for some five years yet. There are no released plans beyond the initial supply of launch orders developing into something else, as an ongoing contribution to the industry. There does though exist the distinct possibility other equipment and resource suppliers will ride on the back of the bubble as Flow owners struggle in managing colonys, given the plethora of advices at odds in anecdotal opinions.
I noted Cedar’s discomfort with the pressure to swap to corporate mode, in going forward. I truly felt a pang of pity/empathy for his situation. He is not the first to extract those ties of understanding from myself – https://m.northernstar.com.au/news/world-catching-up-with-peter-pedals/532910/

That line long trumpeted on the Internet “beekeeping is local” is the backdoor excuse for many snafu’s created for bees by us humans.
Largely promoted by that region highly targeted, the USA, it will be part of history where the Internet was used to source and recruit BKs in a part of the world entirely alienated from that “local” the 10 year long R&D was conducted in. As even in your account there was no proof of excellence over seasons in the USA and Europe, release happening immediately recognisable USA apiarists were onboard.
There is a devil in that sales strategy in that “local” on the Internet is right there on the keyboard.
In Australia “local” is “word of mouth”, and whilst many an Aussie BK of extensive experience is wisely keeping their own counsel around the frame’s use, it would be a struggle to gather a quorum of recognized “local” opinion supporting the frame in a wholescale takeup.
Yet the Internet can easily pull in an audience through blogs, forums and showtime video releases.
One example where “beekeeping is local” can be trotted out as excuse is
that old hair-coat of queen excluder use. Locally we run single Lang brood chambers in 9/10 config with up to 3 full depth 10fr supers above, For most of the 300 days available the excluder can be manipulated as flows wax and wane. Brood is not encouraged above that single box, the excluder being used for those days bees may expand the core of the brood pattern, upwards. For the USA the flow season is so short as to always encourage an expansive brood chamber, with wintering a background noise in management. So it is excluders are not in wide use for “local”(USA) management reasons. Yet when brood appears in USA Flow frames out comes the “beekeeping is local”, and the excluders rattle out of their storage, or not. I am not alone in questioning the ethics of those who would promote Flow frames in a market which is so far removed from “local” as to have use of just that one piece of kit in such high contention.

The whole of the argument the inrush of available honey in all markets is not going to affect established apiarists across the outyards of the USA can be debunked by simply asking yourself, “how much honey in pounds do my immediate contacts consume in a single year”.
My answer to that? “30 pounds, tops”, back in the day.
So now, hypothetically, I have a Flow super returning 60 pound/yr in downtown Miami. What do I do with the excess 30 pounds? My bee club numbers have tripled with Flow purchasers eager to “have honey on tap”, making a possible tripling of my problem, assuming we all get past the two year barrier without sufficient loss to take the shine off beekeeping.
The bottom line is;
a.) no effect on mainline producers as it is unlikely any Flow owner is going to produce enough product to engage a broker.
b.) where any impact is seen it will be amongst neighbours “local”, as existing local markets will be enjoying a glut from that excess 30 pounds
for at least for a year or so.

It is not a cash cow mentality behind any market inrush from Flow only owners, it is the “oh my, what do I do with all this honey!”. They will sell it, period.

In closing I note nowhere do you address the elephant in the room, I am hoping that is only because your practice is TF, and so disease controls
do not exist beyond “let bees do what bees do”.
Beyond wax moth and toads I own little of the P&D experience peers in the USA and Canada would own. We are yet to see Varroa identified in Australia, so I ready myself for that intervention in what is largely a TF practice of mine own to date, for many a year now. Yet I fully appreciate the sentiments of those in the USA who forecast significant increase in “mite bomb” numbers from the adoption of these frames into colonys.
The inventors do address management controls yet not with the same gusto given to introducing the product.
As you well know or should know there is no complete management plan to hand over for every situation. Any method to be applied comes from a wholesome knowledge of the essentials coupled to alert observation and ingenuity.
Effectively handing over an automatic ‘weapon’ without making the above very plain and very clear is hard to condone when executed by well experienced beekeepers.

For the record, Hilary, the Flow is a smart introduction to beekeeping
well worth the admiration held for two blokes who saw a problem, solved
it, and rode the tiger that is the Internet. One effort not to be sneezed at, I believe the Flow will find it’s place in history for that achievement alone.

I was led to your article by your recent referral in a Flow forum;
https://forum.honeyflow.com/t/standing-up-for-the-flow-hive/10562/79
I do understand my comments might not be added to those supporting your
article. I do however reserve the right to use the work (links inclusive) in other forums where the debate continues, openly.

Cheers.

Bill

Reply
Hilary

Hi Bill,

So many words here, but to be honest, I understood very little of what you wrote and what your actual objections are.

Reply
Bill

“Objections” Hilary?
I do not recall writing any of the above as “objections”, the piece
simply put together as your use of title – in referring folk to your site/article – implies there is something “bad for bees” in using Flow frames. The expectation then is to read a piece which debunks that line of thought, or outlines just what in Flow frames is “bad for bees”.
Your piece does neither, really.
My piece simply follows your format yet finishes with addressing
that single looming “bad”. A “bad” which has nought connection to
the actual frame itself but is hugely connected to the use of them, wholescale, as the product launch has initiated. A “bad” your piece fails to address.

Cheers.

Bill

Reply
Zad

Hillary my complaint with the flow hive isn’t the plastic, nor the ease of use or supposed lack of connection to the bees.

My complaint is the total lack of customer service skills provided from said company. In short I funded a 6frame and box within minutes of their launch on indiegogo. To the tune if about 600$ With more in shipping to be paid later after they figured it out. In a few mins later I discover that a complete hive could be purchased for just about 60-80$ more. (It was lower on the page) I was told I’d receive my box just before spring in the us. I quickly sent an email with request to change it to a complete hive and pay more. To which they relied my order would now be bumped to sept/October effectively preventing start of a new hive here.

When I wrote back to ask them to reconsider they became down right nasty about it. They could care less I was one of the very first supporters (before they broke indigogo)

When I said something on their Facebook page, hoping another member of the company was managing that) they blocked me!!!

I asked for my money back and was glad to get it. A few weeks later. My opinion is they could care less about the individual service. Manlake, Dadent and others would never behave this way. Personally I hate flow hive.

However I bought a much cheaper Chinese knock off and plan to use it.

A while back flow hive emails me to offer 25% off. I’m thinking wow. Maybe they ARE sorry for the way I was treated. Nope. It was just a mass marketing ploy to everyone ever in their database. When I reached out I found out I was still blocked and they weren’t trying to reestablish a relationship In fact, they expected me to apologize and “play nice” and they “might” reinstate me on their face book page.

Nope. No apology for the misunderstanding or the way a first supporter was treated. No concern to establish customer service or regain a customer. Basically we have enough money, so forget you.

Personally flow hive will never gain a dime from me. In fact I link everyone I can to ebay and amazon for the knock offs to show them how they can pay 25% of the cost of a flow hive.

I just worry about all those backyard bee keepers who didn’t buy. When they have a problem they will find flowhive a level of concern for the customer is zilch. So my problem with flow hive? Why pay 4x the cost for zero customer service?

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Buzzing to say something?