“Flow” is the name for our new invention that allows honey to be harvested directly from the hive without opening the hive and with little disturbance to the bees. The Flow Frames are the beehive frames that make this possible.
What is a Flow Hive?
A Flow Hive is our term for a standard beehive using a brood box with one or more Flow Supers for honey storage and extraction. A honeybee hive is usually made up two boxes; the brood box where the queen bee lays eggs, and the ‘super’ with honeycomb for the storage of honey. A ‘Flow Super’ is a beehive box using Flow Frames that the bees store honey in.
How do the Flow Frames work?
The Flow Frame consists of already partly formed honeycomb cells. The bees complete the comb with their wax, fill the cells with honey and cap the cells as usual. When you turn the tool, a bit like a tap, the cells split vertically inside the comb forming channels allowing the honey to flow down to a sealed trough at the base of the frame and out of the hive while the bees are practically undisturbed on the comb surface. When the honey has finished draining you turn the tap again in the upper slot resets the comb into the original position and allows the bees to chew the wax capping away, and fill it with honey again.
How do I stop the bees getting to the honey while it’s draining out of the Flow Hive?
Quite often we can drain the honey out without the bees even noticing us at the back of the hive but sometimes they do and you will need to cover the the jars or better still, make a sealed system. This can be achieved by simply by making a hole in the lid of a jar for a tube to go into. Or if you are using a bucket, you can put many holes through the lid of a bucket or make up a manifold.
Do I need a Flow box for the brood box too?
No, the brood box stays the same as it always has been. You can simply replace the honey supers on a standard beehive with one or more Flow Supers.
Can I fit the Flow Frames into my existing beehives?
We want this to be as affordable as possible so we have designed it so you can use your own boxes. The Flow Frames are designed to fit Langstroth size deep boxes and are inserted into standard bee supers (boxes) in much the same way as standard frames. The box itself is slightly modified by cutting two access doorways in one end. When the frames are inserted, the ends of the frames now form the end of the super. This allows access to the operating slots and honey pipe outlets.
Does the Flow Super fit an 8 or 10 frame Langstroth hive?
The Flow Frames will fit either an 8 or 10 frame Langstroth. A full “8 frame, deep” Super would take six Flow Frames, and the 10 frame super would take 7 Flow Frames as they are wider than traditional frames. It is also possible to have a combination of traditional Langstroth frames and Flow Frames in the one Super.
Can I put a Flow Super on a UK National?
Yes, this can be done in two ways:
1/ Use an adaptor from UK National to Langstroth size box. This can be made or bought so that the more common Langstroth size box can be used.
2/ The Flow Frames are available in lengths to suit a UK national. Eight Flow Frames fit across a UK national box. However UK National boxes and frames have different depths than Langstroth. The box walls height can be adjusted by adding a strip of wood to the bottom of the box.
Can I put a Flow Super on a top bar hive?
Yes and it will be up to you as to how to adapt and join the two. As long as the bees have good access to the Flow Frames and sense that they are a part of their hive they will fill them with honey.
Do the bees willingly fill the Flow comb compared to the traditional wax comb?
In many years of testing we have found the bees readily wax up and fill the Flow Frames. We have done quite a few experiments putting Flow Frames in the middle of a standard supers with wax foundation frames either side. The bees have shown no preference either way and readily start building on, and filling the Flow Frames at the same time as the traditional ones.
How long does it take before I can drain the honey from the Flow Hive?
This depends on the amount of nectar available for the bees and how strong the colony
We have had Flow Supers that have filled in a week during peak times of the flowering season, however a super usually fills well within a month during the spring and summer.
How long does it take for the honey to drain out?
Anything from twenty minutes to over two hours depending on the temperature and the viscosity of the honey. It is OK to leave it draining overnight (if it is secure from nocturnal animals). When you have finished draining the honey remember to return the frames to ‘cell closed’ position so that the bees can seal the broken cells and recommence filling them with more honey.
How much honey comes out of a Flow Super?
About three kilos per frame (more if the bees really build each frame out), if you have seven frames in your super box then you can expect to harvest at least 20 kilos when every frame is full.
Can the Flow Frames come out of the super, like the standard frames do?
Yes. This is important for inspections and because this is how most hives in the world work. However there is no need for this in the normal operations of extracting honey.
What extra equipment will I need to get the honey?
You will need a container to collect your honey. You will also need some pipe to connect your jar or bucket to the honey drain points on the hive. You will also need a bee suit and gloves or at least a bee veil in case your bees get aggressive. You will also need to open the hive to inspect it for health as usual which you will need a bee suit, smoker and hive tool for. If you are new to beekeeping you should link up with an experienced beekeeper to get to know how to care for your bees.
How do I know when to harvest/drain the hive?
The ends of the Flow Frames are visible by taking the cover off one end of the hive box. It is worth having a look at the bees regularly through this window as you’ll get to know your hive and it doesn’t disturb the bees. You will see the bees depositing honey in the cells and, when the cells are full, they seal them with a wax capping. You can rob a frame as soon as you see that it is full, although there is no hurry, the sealed honey will keep until it is convenient for you to drain it out of the hive.
Do I need to smoke the hive?
No, not when you are operating the Flow comb or just viewing the bees. Smoke is usually used to calm the bees when the hive is opened. However, bees do react to the hive being jolted so it’s a good idea to have a smoker on hand in case the bees do start getting aggressive. A little smoke puffed into the entrance of the hive and some puffed around the hive itself will tend to calm them down. You will still need a smoker to do the routine inspection of the brood nest.
Do I need to wear a bee suit, bee veil or gloves when I drain the honey out?
We do recommend you wear a bee protective suit, especially if you are new to beekeeping or have a new, unknown hive. Some beekeepers just use a veil as being stung on the face particularly up the nose is painful and inconvenient! We have found we can work at the back of the hive without the bees seeming to notice our presence, however we highly recommend that you wear a bee suit or at least a veil until you get to know your bees. Sometimes, for many reasons, bees can be quite aggressive so you need to be prepared for that. After a few inspections you will know whether it is safe to approach your hives without any protection.
Is there a best time of day to rob the hive using Flow?
It is possible to harvest a Flow Hive at any time of the day or night because the hive is not opened. There is not the concern of chilling or disturbing the bees on cold or windy days. We have found the bees are calmest in the late afternoon, and at this time the honey in the hive is likely to be warmest and runs easily, therefore we tend to rob at this time.
How often do I need to check the brood?
This depends on your location. In our area it is normal to inspect the brood nest of each hive twice a year for disease. In some areas beekeepers check more frequently. If the hive is weak it should also be inspected. Our invention changes the honey harvesting component of beekeeping. All the rest of the normal beekeeping care for the hive still applies. Beetles, mites swarm control etc. The flow hive clear end frame observation does assist with allowing you to look into the hive and gauge the strength and health of the colony.
How many Flow Supers do I need per hive?
One Flow Super per hive is the simple answer as you can keep tapping off the honey which gives the bees room to keep working and making more honey. However if you live in areas with a very high nectar flow or if your existing beehives are particularly large we would recommend you use two Flow supers or more. The Flow Hive is new
and we are interested in your feedback as to how many Flow Supers you need in your situation
Do I need to leave some honey in the hive for the bees?
Yes, this applies to all beekeeping, your bees need honey to get them through the times when there is no nectar available. The number of frames of honey that you leave depends on your climate, you should consult local beekeepers as to how much they leave their colonies over the winter. The Flow Frames make it a lot easier to see how much honey is in your frames at any time, so you can learn to manage how much honey
to harvest and how much to leave for the bees. Watching the honey level change everyday is quite fascinating and I personally feel more in touch with the bees and can't help but look on a daily basis. You can also take just a small amount of honey if you choose, by draining one frame or part of a frame. Some Beekeepers do feed sugar
syrup to their bees to help them get through the cold winter months. They rarely use honey for feeding as this could spread disease and is a lot more expensive than sugar.