How to Secure Your Flow Hive During Extreme Weather

Today’s livestream featured Cedar talking about preparing your hive for extreme weather and answering more weather-related questions. He also checked on the second super that was added last week, and answered lots of super questions. He harvested some honey, talked about pest control answered more general beekeeping questions. Cedar also warned about scams that are targeting our YouTube channel and using the Flow Hive logo. 

Video transcription

What’s the difference between genuine Flow Hives and copycat products? 

Yes, it's been an interesting journey from the beginning, with all sorts of fakes, all sorts of scams going on. Please be aware, we've got one at the moment where, where they're offering cheap Flow Hives. There’s one going on YouTube, and they actually won't ship you anything at all. They'll take your money and then sell your credit card details. 

So we're working hard to try and shut those down. They're going a step further, because they're targeting our product with that one. We just don't want people doing that. I mean, they’re using pictures of my kids. It's terrible. So there has been a long history of that.

And you also get Chinese copies on the market as well. Please bear in mind that they are illegally manufactured, illegally sold. You just don't know what you're getting when you're buying something like that. You don't get the support. You don't know whether it's going to work. You don't know the quality of it. I've certainly purchased some of those, tested them and found that it wasn't even possible to get the honey out. So please be careful. It's obviously not ideal to have those copies out there, but it's also a part of our world.



Securing your Flow Hive during extreme weather:

Some of you might've seen on the news that our area, the East coast of Australia has been smashed by really strong winds and a lot of coastal erosion. We had 100km/hour (60mph) winds, and they were going for four days. And I'm really happy to say the roofs of the hives stayed on. Because it really does cop the brunt of the wind coming up the slope and trying to lift those rooms off. But these little wing screws worked a treat and all of the roofs stayed on.

Now, if you've got our Classic hive, then the roof will probably blow off if you've got 100 km/h winds in your area. So we’ll talk a little bit about what to do if you've got our Classic Hive or our Flow Hive 2.


Base of the Hive

Starting at the bottom of the hive - if you know there's some strong winds coming, then make sure you're on a solid footing. Because if you've got wild weather, strong winds and rain, then if you've just got the feet straight on the earth, then you might find that, especially a tall stack of hives, will start sinking into the mud. And that could be the cause of your hive falling over. So just a paver, or a block of wood or anything under the hive to make sure it's really solid on its footing. And adjust these legs so that none of them are off the ground, they're there to be adjusted at each corner so it's nice and stable. 


Hive body

Once you've done that, you need to think about the hive in general. Now, if you've just put a super on top, like we have here, there's a chance that the bees might not have glued the parts together. Often a question people ask is “How come the boxes aren't secured together?” And it's because the bees secure them together from the inside. And they do that with their propolis, the tree sap that they collect and they glue it together quite nicely. Having said that, if you've only just put your hive together and there's a strong wind warning, then you’ll need to strap your hive to make sure it's going to stay together while the bees are still doing their work, glueing the parts.


Hive Roof

Then coming to the roof of your hive, if you've got our Flow Hive 2, these wing screws work quite nicely. You just do them up and that secures your roof on. And we've tested that now with the 100 km winds up the slope here, and the roofs stayed on. All the hives stayed there which is fantastic. 

If you've got our Classic Hive, then you'll need a strap to hold your roof on. And that’s simply going right around the hive like this. And you don't need to put an extreme amount of pressure in this case, a bit different to when you're moving a hive. When you're moving a hive, you take the roof off and you strap it really hard with a couple of big straps to make sure your hive is going to stay together in transport. 

In this case, if you've got a Classic Hive, you don't have the wing screws, or if you've just newly put together your hive and you've got some strong winds, then you can just put a temporary strap right around. You don't want to make it too tight. It just needs to be secure enough to hold the roof on and the boxes together. So one of these cam lock straps will do. Whereas if you are putting your hive on the back of a truck for transport, then you'll need to use those ratchet straps with the roof off.


And it's a case of just putting a bit of pressure. The reason why you don't want too much pressure, if you're strapping right around the roof like this, is you don't want to snap off the edge of the shingle here. 


Floods and winds

Rosemary in New South Wales had a mini tornado come through. She has the Classic Flow Hive, trees snapped in half, but she could not believe it that the Classic Hive just did not budge. 


That is incredible, that's a good story. Sometimes you don't get so lucky. I've had a hive floating down a floodwater creek once. That was simply due to me not coming back to that hive and giving it a really good footing, and it actually toppled over and slid down the bank. I had to fish it out of the flood water, which was an interesting experience, but not so fun for the bees.


Weather Questions

How do you control ventilation in the Flow Hive?

What they're talking about is this vented cover down the bottom. And if we pull that out, so you've got your tray here and what happens when you put your cover in and secure it with the L screws, the vented cover is sitting against this. Now, if you've got the vents on the upside, air can flow through those vents up past this handle area under the screened bottom board and provide good ventilation. If you've got it the other way around, then we've designed it so it limits the ventilation.

So this is sitting against there, and there's no holes in the wood. So we've got little ventilation going under your screen bottom board. And if you want to provide maximum ventilation, if your hive is really hot there, they're bearding out the front. They're trying to allow some airflow in the hive. Then you can take the tray out altogether and just allow maximum air flow underneath it. 


Do you leave the tray out overnight on a hot summer’s night?

You certainly can. I don't tend to, I just put the vented cover up with the vents up. I'll do that now. And this one, you can see I've got the vents facing down and that's limiting ventilation. But because we're in this warmer time, you're going to spin that around like that with the vents on the upper side, and that will increase the ventilation. 

If you’ve got a massive heat wave, perhaps pull the tray out altogether. But bees are incredibly robust. I guess the only time you're going to have a real problem is if your hives are in full sun and you've got an extreme heat wave afternoon. You do hear of colonies actually melting down when the temperature inside the hive gets above the wax melting point of 63°C (145°F). 

So that's extreme. I've heard of that happening on a rooftop and that was in a heat wave. A friend of mine had their hives without the ventilation bottom board. And it got so hot up there that they were sitting inside at the kitchen table. And honey started dripping down the light fitting and onto the table. And it was a mess on the roof with all of the wax and honey melting out of the hives and flowing down the roof, not good. 

So you can get issues like that, but mostly bees are incredible at air conditioning their hives. And if you can provide some afternoon shade in those hotter months, then that's fantastic as well. Try and position it so you get afternoon shade on your hive in summer, and your bees will be very happy. Having said that, a lot of commercial beekeepers and us down here in the row, there's no shade on those hives all year round and the bees are fine.


Do I need to insulate my hive during winter in a cold climate?

So it's a much debated topic, the insulation of hives. Some beekeepers certainly do go for insulation and they might wrap their hive for the winter time. And also  perhaps use some styrofoam from an old poly box under the roof to add some more insulation there. 

Other beekeepers say, no, they're fine just as they are, you can have an open mesh bottom board. You can dig it out of knee deep snow, and your bees are fine. So it's really up to you to decide what you want to do. 

There’s said to be pros and cons of insulating and not insulating. One is, in those extreme colds, that bees are actually going into a mode which makes them last a long time. They're really slowing down and forming a wall. Whereas if the hive is warmer, perhaps they might use a little bit more honey. There's all sorts of arguments and I'm no expert in this. So if you have some good information on it, chime in on the thread, it's all about helping people answer their questions. 



Does painting the roof offer more protection from rain and snow?

It does. So the roof area cops the most weather. You've got the elements beating down on that, and I would certainly recommend putting on a good coat of paint and also getting a nice lot of paint in the joints. You don't want water seeping into your roof and you want to make sure your roof lasts as long as possible. So for that reason, even if you're oiling your hive, you want to make sure you paint the roof. And I would actually recommend painting the underside of the roof as well. And that just limits the expansion and contraction the wood normally does when it's subject to moisture changes.

Can you oil the inside of the hive as well as the outside?

Look, you can. Generally, I like to keep it natural for the bees, but if you have a look at conventional beekeeping, beekeepers do all sorts of things to make their woodware last the longest. And they will actually dip the boxes in strong chemicals, a bit like they do with treated pine. Then they'll do several coats of probably the cheapest house paint you can find, because they're trying to maximise their operation. And they'll coat it inside and out. And the bees are fine with that. So once the bees are established, they will stay. I wouldn't oil the inside with a strong smelling oil and then put a swarm straight in there, or they might say “this is a bit average”, take off and find a new home. But if you've got an already established hive, like installing a nuc, you can paint the inside.

Should I paint the edges of the boxes and the inside of the box?

So if you're painting a hive like this one here, then you can paint the inside and out if you want to, that will provide more protection. It depends on what you want to do. We often suggest to just leave it natural wood for the bees, mimicking wood that they have evolved with living inside. 

One thing though, if you are painting all of the edges of these finger joints, just make sure the paint's not too thick, or you'll find that the door might jam a bit. If it does happen, then just simply get out your craft knife and just slice it back nice and smooth, or some sandpaper to make sure you get a good fitting door. Still, there are no rules. You can paint the inside and out, or you can not paint it at all. It's really up to you.


Checking on the second super

We just put the super on a couple of weeks ago, and it's great to see them now moving into the top of the hive. While we're here, let's just have a look at what this hive's doing. We just put this box straight on top and you can already see the bees working on it, which is a great sign. We identified that the numbers in this hive were quite strong and we either needed to take a split or add another box. So we decided to add another super and here they are already waxing up all the little pieces. We didn't add any wax. We didn't do anything. We just put them on top and away they went. If you missed that one, it was a couple of weeks ago.


Super Questions

What is it that you’re calling the super?

Okay. The super is a word for a box for collecting honey. So it's a fancy word. So that's called the Flow Super. But if it was a conventional box with wooden wax frames, it would just be called a super. And this is the brood box here because that's where the queen's laying thousands of eggs and they're raising their brood. That gets called a brood box. 


How can I encourage bees to go up into the super?

So the best recipe is lots of bees in the hive and a good nectar flow. But if it's not happening and you're getting impatient, then get your hive tool (that comes with our suit and jacket). Just scrape off a bit of burr comb from on top of the brood box. Mash it into the side of the Flow Frames. 

So you're basically just scraping off a bit of wax, and it might have a bit of honey with it as well, mashing it into the Flow Frame. And if you put it on the window side, you can enjoy watching them recycle that wax and repurpose it and start working on the Flow Frames. 

That might give you a little jump, but again, if you’re not getting a good nectar flow and you don't have a strong colony, you still shouldn't be expecting a lot of action on your Flow Frames for some time.


Can you add a traditional super on top of the Flow super to harvest honeycomb?

Certainly you can do that. So, um, what they're talking about there is just adding another little small size bee box with some honeycomb collection frames. Wonderful thing to do. You can get some honeycomb from the edges of the brood box on a Flow Hive. You can also collect it under the lid here. Using some Tupperware containers, pull the plug out of the inner cover, and you can collect honeycomb that way. But if you actually want to collect some nice honeycomb, perhaps you want to sell it to the local shops, then adding another box specifically for that could be a good idea.


How are the bees doing in the second super?

Great. We did just have a look at that, but let's have a look again. And you can see here, this is the second super, that they're quite a strong colony. We've had a week of rain and wind, so we're not expecting them to fill their super in a week. But you can see here, the little bits of recycled wax they're putting in, joining the Flow Frame parts together. You can see them down in between the cell lines as well, working away. And if we have a look at the side window, we didn't add any wax to these at all, but you can see they're in there doing their work and there's plenty of bees. So that's fantastic.


How long will it take the bees to fill the super?

If we had a really strong nectar flow right now, we would be starting to see honey already a couple of weeks in. And in an extreme case, you can actually get a whole box filled in a week. But the flowers have to be dripping to the ground with nectar and your colony has to be bursting at the seams for that to happen. And I know that Stone, who is holding the camera, had that experience with his first time. And it is certainly a great experience when that happens. But please don't think that that's going to happen every time.  

It's like any kind of agriculture. It depends on the season. It depends on how many flowers there are producing nectar and the strength of your colony. If you want to increase your chances, then run multiple hives. One hive can be doing extremely well while another is in a bit of a slow time as they get back on their feet. So it's always good to have more than one hive, and it'll increase your chances of getting that beautiful thing when the bees are filling it up so fast, you harvest all the honey and they refill it again within a week or two. That's amazing when that happens.

Why are the bees not filling my Flow Frames? Will using a queen excluder speed this up? 

So the queen excluder won't change that result. In fact, if anything, it'll slow it down a little bit, because it's a bit of a barrier between the two boxes. The recipe for getting a lot of honey is a lot of bees in the box and a good nectar flow. Until those two things coincide, it'll take some time before they will put honey in your Flow Super. 

If you're getting a bit impatient, scrape some wax from the brood box, some burr comb that's on top of the frames. Put it into the Flow Frame surface just with your hive tool, you won't damage it. And put it in the window of the hive so you can enjoy watching them recycle that wax and spread it around. 

But they won't actually store any honey unless you're getting a good flow on. Especially that first time when the bees are waxing all of the parts for the first time. After that, the Flow Frames will be treated just like any other “sticky” - they get called in conventional beekeeping. That is when you've got a frame you've already harvested and they're sticky in the shed waiting to go back on again.


Can you also add an extra super to a Flow Hive Classic?

Absolutely. So we have those available and it's a case of, just like any conventional beekeeping, you can add more and more boxes if you want to. A different strategy there, if you want to run your hives smaller, you'll need to split more often. Or, if you want to run your hives bigger, then you can just keep adding more boxes as the colony expands. 

So it just depends on your management and also the region where you are. If it's a very cold climate and you've got a very long winter ahead, then having another box full of honey or help your bees survive that winter. So that could be another reason to add either another brood box or another super. 


Harvesting honey

We might actually harvest a little bit of honey from this hive because you can see there's some beautiful colours here in the window. And we'll do that just by getting our jar. It's all pretty wet and muddy at the moment. We'll need our tube and key and away we go.

So if you find that this little cap is a bit tight to get out, sometimes they are, you can use the piece on the end of the tube just to flick it out. In goes the tube, have a  quick check and make sure there's not a whole lot of debris in that area. And then put the key in a little ways and give that a turn. And there we go, the honey’s coming out, it’s already coming down the tube. 

It's a wonderful thing. Here we are on a day where you wouldn't normally harvest honey, it's a bit of a grey day, it's been raining. You certainly wouldn't want to be doing a whole lot of pulling the hives apart in the conventional fashion for harvesting on a day like today, the bees would be very unhappy about it. But they seem to be quite happy to be in the hive where we're harvesting in this way.

Harvesting Questions

How much honey can you harvest from one Flow Frame?

I get up to about 3 kilograms (6.5 lbs), sometimes more, sometimes a bit less out of a full frame. And that's a lot of honey by anyone's standard for the kitchen table. So it's a wonderful thing. And then if you have all of these frames here, you'll have just about 50 jars of honey, which is incredible. 

And the beautiful thing is you get different colours and flavours from different frames. So I do really recommend harvesting honey to jars directly, rather than putting all of the frames into a bucket. If you put them all into a bucket, it's like mixing all the flavours of your kitchen together and you'll lose the flavour notes of one versus the multi-tones of another. View our Queen Bee harvesting video that highlights this.


Do you need to filter the honey after harvesting?

Not really. If you did notice some debris coming out, perhaps there was some debris built up in this trough area, then you could filter, but I'd have to say, I never filter the honey. It just comes out perfectly good, ready for the table. And there really is no debris in there. And if there was, it would probably just be some little bits of wax that would float to the top anyway, not really an issue. 

What you're seeing on the surface there is actually little bubbles created by the honey stream falling into the jar. It's perfectly clear. So it's amazing how well it works. Actually it was a real win because filtering honey is another task that I'm so glad I don't have to do anymore.


Pest Control

What do I do if my bottom tray fills up with rainwater?  And how do I trap hive beetles?

When we get wet and humid weather here in Australia, where we have lots of small hive beetles, they do tend to love that kind of environment - nice and wet and humid. So it's a good idea to clean out the tray, get rid of that water. 

When you've got a warm climate, the water in the tray isn't going to hurt your hive because it's below and outside of the hive. However, it is a good idea to empty it out. It will get mucky or debris from the hive will fall through. And if it sits there with water, it'll start to smell bad. 

So you want to get that out, clean it out, and then trap some beetles using some cooking oil in the tray.  Another thing we've been experimenting a bit with is some detergent and water. It's a little less messy than cooking oil, a bit easier to clean. It's something that we're experimenting with and having good success with. 

So by all means, give that a go as well, especially if you're in a warm climate. In the colder climates where you've got condensation issues and things, you might not want to have water sitting under your hive. 


Is it okay to leave the pest  management tray out for a while?

It's fine to leave the tray out. Many people, especially in North America, tend to run screen bottom boards with no tray at all, even in the snow. Open, meshed bottom boards. 


Do ants pose a problem to beehives?

Ants are a cosmetic issue. They can get behind these corners and just be a bit annoying, but they're not actually going to bother your hive or your bees. However, there's a few things you can do. And one of them is to simply add a little bit of grease to these leg bolts if you've got the Flow Hive 2. You could make a little water container to sit the legs in, that could provide an ant barrier as well. 

If you are making an ant barrier, whether you're greasing these bolts or using a water or oil trap, then you'll need to make sure the foliage isn't touching your hive because it won't work. If like this, you've got a leaf touching the hive, the ants will simply use that as a pathway to get onto your hive. So it'll be a case of clearing around a little bit, then adding whatever ant barrier you like. 

You can actually dust a little bit of cinnamon powder behind the covers as well. And that'll be a bit of a deterrent and you'll probably have to brush ants off to get rid of them. And then they probably won't bother you again for some time.


Some small hive beetle larvae got in my Flow frames - Do I need to pull them out and clean them?

The first thing to do, if you notice that there's hive beetle larvae in the honey, (which look like little tiny maggots), is to check that your hive is actually okay in the brood nest. So you'll want to get in there, make sure that you're not getting, what's called a slime-out, where beetles take over. They lay lots of eggs in the frames and it all turns into one sticky slimy mess. 

If that happens, then there's a few things you want to do straight away. You might be able to save the colony by getting rid of the honey and pollen on the edges and just reducing it down to just a couple of brood frames in the centre for the bees to manage. Because in the end hive beetles are an opportunist, they just take over when there's some kind of problem going on. And usually when the bee numbers are low and there's a whole big hive to look after and they can't get over all of the frames to stop the beetles laying their eggs. 

Now, once you've done that, and you've just got a couple of frames for them to look after in the middle, that will really increase their chances of survival. Take that honey and pollen away and replace it with blank frames. Or if you're using naturally drawn comb, you can just simply cut it out and put the frame back in again. Take the comb away, drown it. If it's got maggots in it, keep it under water for a few days or put it in a freezer for three days is another good way to manage those hive beetles. But you've got to get on top of it. If you're seeing a whole lot of hive beetle larvae in the jar, you might have a bigger problem.

Then the next question is, do you need to clean the frames? The answer is probably not, unless you're opening the windows and seeing a big slime-out. If you're just seeing a few larvae in your jar, then the bees will manage that okay if the colony is strong enough. But if the colony is weak you're not seeing lots of activity in the windows or when you take the covers off, then take the whole super off, reduce the size of that colony. And if you can put those Flow Frames in a freezer for more than three days, it'll kill the hive beetle eggs. And as your colony gets stronger, you can put that super back on again and away they go. 

So a few tips there, we've got more videos at thebeekeeper.org. If you want some in-depth training material, we have a fantastic online beekeeping course there with experts from all over the world, contributing to that.


Can you eat honey that has hive beetle larvae in it?

It's a bit like the tequila worm, you know, in the bottom of the bottle. Look, it's up to you to judge, but you can probably just wait for them to float to the top, skim it off. Just check the honey's not affected and fermented. If the honey still tastes good, I would eat it, but that's up to you.


How long should you leave oil in the pest tray?

So you'd want to clean it out probably monthly if you're catching hive beetles. Just because a whole lot of debris builds up and it tends to get a bit grimy. So get your hive tool, scrape it out, put some fresh oil in and put it back in again. And that way you can be trapping lots of hive beetles and limiting the numbers.  

Around at my place, the hive right near my house gets affected the most, because they really breed up in our compost heap. We've got one of those closed composting containers and the hive beetles just go crazy in there. So we're switching over to a sub pod, which will help that situation without that kind of wet dank environment that hive beetles tend to love inside those typical, plastic compost containers.


General Beekeeping Questions

What sort of bees work in a Flow Hive?

So these are Apis mellifera, which is the European honeybee that humans have dragged all around the world, wherever they go, because they're such extreme honey producers and such amazing pollinators. A hive like this, when it's really full of bees, could pollinate 50 million flowers a day. There is no other species on the planet that can do that. And for that reason, they're incredibly -


(A bee starts buzzing around Cedar’s face - so he moves away from the hive.)


Just wandering away from one grumpy bee. Sometimes you get that. The genetics in the hive determine whether they get grumpy. Also on grey rainy days like this one, they're a bit more grumpy as well. 


Do the adjustable legs work on a Flow Hive Classic?

So I believe we're making that available, if you want to put the base right under your Classic hive. But it would be a replacement for the whole base, not just the legs. Because the Classic doesn't have the structure. 

If you see how we've designed the base on this hive over here, it's almost as if we have another part of a box that we've shaped into a base. Where a conventional beehive just has pretty much either a piece of tin underneath it, or something like that without all of this construction down here and the tray and the mesh, et cetera. Our Classics are somewhere in between, with a much flatter profile base, some mesh and a simple corflute slider in it. So you won't be able to attach these legs to them, but you could replace the whole base section. That would allow your ventilation control and your pest management to be added as well.


Why are there bees in my honey trough?

Okay, so that's in this area here. If you have a look in there, bees aren't supposed to be able to get in there, and there's two reasons why that could be happening. One is the cap may have been left off, and some bees might've gone in there and then you've put the cap back in and that they're stuck in that zone. That's the most common reason. And it's a good idea to make sure these are put back. 

If you find they're getting in there some other way, then there is a problem with the Flow Frame. You need to contact support and we'll help you. Sometimes there could be a manufacturing error allowing a gap big enough in the frame parts for bees to go through the cells and down into the trough area. So do get in touch and we'll help you work that out.

Which hive do you recommend for a beginner beekeeper who lives in a residential area?

So any of our hives are good and it'll depend a little bit on your budget. So we've basically got more or less features, and then different wood types for you to consider.


Will keeping bees affect the birds that come to my garden? Do the birds and the bees get along?

Depends what you mean by getting along. There's types of birds that will eat bees. And from the bird's point of view, that's getting along just fine. We have the rainbow bee-eater come here and sit on top of the hives and they'll catch bees. I figure that's fair, that's just a part of how everything works. I haven't seen any issues with birds and bees apart from the odd bird eating some bees, which seems okay to me.


Do you have to replace the queen every once in a while? Or do the virgin queens go out and then come back?

Commercial beekeepers do replace the queen, but it's not something you have to do. The reasons for doing it would be to, to make sure you're getting a very productive hive. Maybe you've had problems with your bees swarming a lot. You could replace the queen for genetics that are less prone to swarming. 

Perhaps you've got an issue where the hive is just really dwindling down and the queen is not laying many eggs. She might be getting on. She can last up to six years, and that could be another reason. If the colony is just really not building up in numbers, but other hives are, you might get in there and change the queen as well. 

Another one is aggression. So if your hives getting really aggressive, if you don't want that aggressive trait. If it's getting to be an issue for your family or neighbours then you might like to get in there and replace the queen with some nice, quiet, gentle genetics. And that'd be a joy to have in your backyard compared to one that's a bit territorial. 


What is the oldest Flow Hive that you have?

That's a great question. I've actually still got some prototype hives in my apiary and I've kept them there just for memorabilia’s sake. But also to see how they go. So even before the pre-production models that we were testing out are some prototypes in my apiary. They're still there from 2014, 2013. So that'd be the oldest I've got. 

So in essence, this is still a very new way to harvest honey and we don't have hives that are 10 years, 20 years old yet. But I'm hoping we will, as time goes on.


Do I have to buy bees, or will they find their way into my Flow Hive?

The answer is very rarely. They might do that, but that's a method called a bait hive where you specifically set up a hive near other hives, hoping for a swarm to go “wow, that's a great new home and I'll move right in”. And while that happens sometimes, I certainly wouldn't be banking on it. 

So to understand where you can buy bees and  what you need to do in order to install your bees is to order either a nucleus, which is a small starter hive. And you can pick up that from a beekeeper or order a package, which is the bees and the queen bee in a little cage that can come in the mail. I know crazy, right? A few thousand bees in a box in the mail. But anyway, that's the way it's done. 

And you can shake those bees into your brood box, put the little queen in there, look after them and they'll grow. And the other methods, you can catch a swarm and shake them in. We've got videos of all of this at thebeekeeper.org

There you can find out the many ways to start a hive. A great way, if you've got a friend keeping bees, is to take a split and you'll actually be helping them in the spring time by reducing the numbers so their hive is less likely to swarm.

What are the different types of wood used in Flow Hives?

So this is Cedar. It's a very durable wood that is very popular in North America as the best wood you can use for a hive. It has properties in it that resist rot and resist mildew. Now it's the type of wood that you can oil like this and have good success. Provided you keep up a bit of TLC every six to 12 months to give it a bit of a rub back and another coat of oil. 

However, if you're using the other wood types we offer, then we would recommend painting them. So we have the Araucaria and the Paulownia as well. And like this one here, that is a painted hive. Now, if you don't paint them, they'll look good for four or five months or so. And then mildew will set in and it just won't look as good. The mildew won't hurt your hive, it's just more of an aesthetic thing. So if you decided to go for the oil, look on one of our other wood types, and it's starting to get a lot of mildew, you can change tactics and then paint it, bring your hive back to looking good, and protecting your hive and giving it a bit of TLC will make it last longer as well.


Do you have different genetic lineages in your apiary?

Okay. There's a bit of a mixture here. Sometimes we buy in queens. Sometimes we take splits and let them raise their own queens. And when we buy queens, it's generally what we can get. So they might be Italian, they might be Caucasian, or they might be Carniolan. And all of these are breeds of bees that are said to have different traits. 

The Italians are supposed to be a good starter bee, whatever that means. Because the queen tends to mate with a lot of drones, up to 30 or more, you're getting all of that genetic material into your hive. And your hive, or more often than not, will be a bit of a mixture unless you've got a queen that's been artificially inseminated by the breeder. 

So it's just a bit of a mixture here in our apiary and we haven't found a great deal of difference between the different breeds. But I have found hives that are aggressive and hives that are not. That's the main one. When you're starting out, you want a nice gentle breed which just is a pleasure to be around and work with.


Do I need safety equipment with a Flow Hive?  

Absolutely. If you're, you're getting your first kit, then grab one of our bundles, which has your, your basic smoker, your hive tool and your bee suit and that's your basic kit. And you'll need that when you install your bees and you do your brood inspections. 

If you want to have a hive in your yard and not do the brood inspections, you'll need to get somebody else to do it. So you'll need to get a service agreement with a local beekeeper to come and manage your hive and make sure it's happy and healthy. However, what most people find is even if they start out that way, they start enjoying the learning process of learning about their bees. And before you know it, you're in there marvelling at the wonderful world of bees in the brood box, as they build their comb, as they grow their hive, as they collect their pollen and make their honey.


What do bees do during winter?

So here in the subtropical region, the bees are foraging during winter, summer, all year round. We can harvest all year round as well. So it really depends where you are. But if you're in a cold climate that gets a long, cold winter with snow, et cetera, then yes, your bees are going to go into a mode where they get organised. They even start making what's called fat bees, bees that are a bit bigger in their fat body and can last a bit longer. 

They will reduce the size of their colony and they'll form a tight ball to keep warm, to power themselves, keep themselves going to keep themselves warm. They will stay in the hive for the most part, but they'll wait till the weather is more favourable. They don't actually defecate in the hive. They will fly out of the hive to do that. So as soon as you get a vaguely warmer day that's nice for flight, those bees will fly out and go to the toilet and come back again.


Can you use the Flow Hive for Manuka honey?

Yes, but if you get 100% Manuka, or around here, we've got another one called jellybush, which is similar. And it's got that thixotropic property, where if you put it in a jar, it will set like a jelly. And if that's the case, it won't come out of the Flow Frames and it won't come out of conventional frames either. 

And what beekeepers do when they get a high content of that thixotropic honey is, they take the frames out, they prick down the cells, and then they centrifuge the honey. The act of pricking that honey, or giving it a little stir, I guess, turns it more liquid for a short amount of time, enough time to get it out of the frames.

So it's unusual. Around here we have those species and you'll see globules coming out of the hive. And as long as it's a bit of a mix, it's fine. But if you're specifically going after that and trying to get 100%, you might have trouble where the thixotropic honey will not come out of your Flow Frames. 

 

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