Flow Hive: First Impressions

There’s so much talk on the web about the Flow Hive that it’s difficult to find data. Do a search for Flow Hive anything, and the results are full of doubters, nay-sayers, and haters, but very little helpful information. I haven’t been bogging myself down with all the nay-saying because I notice most of it is coming from those who haven’t tried and never intend to, so they have no personal experience to share, just their opinions on why it’s “bad.”

Even people who have never kept bees and know nothing about bees are telling me how bad it is:

“It destroys their home!”

Last I checked, bees don’t live in their honey. Do you live in YOUR pantry? And how exactly do they think I harvest the honey now?

“It makes beekeeping TOO easy so people who don’t care about beekeeping will want to try it.”

It may make HARVESTING easier (which remains to be seen), but the labor and heavy lifting of beekeeping hasn’t gone away. The beekeeper still has to know how to set up and start a hive, if their hive is queenright, if she’s laying well, if there are pests and how to treat them, and how to manage the hive for swarm prevention. That fancy box of frames doesn’t change any of that.

On the other hand, I have seen a handful of blog posts and videos from people who HAVE bought one, and most of them seem pretty pleased with it. Truthfully, I didn’t buy one to make harvesting easier. I actually enjoy smelling the honey-filled wax as I’m working with it, watching it drip and drizzle through the strainer, and filling jars and bottles. I bought one to support innovators who are trying to share their ideas and excitement for beekeeping. They put years of trial and error into their work and were hoping to find a handful of people who would help get their production started. I hope they do well and inspire new beekeepers and maybe a few old ones, too.

I didn’t buy a full set up, just the Flow Hive light, which is a deep with four Flow frames. The Flow Hive guys made a big to-do about upgrading early buyers to some fancy cedar, and it is pretty, but the material splits easily so has to be handled with care.

First impressions of the equipment:

The jig they’ve used to create the finger joints need some tweaking as they don’t fit properly and need to be either cut a little more or, in my case, hammered harder until some of the wood peels away (My father always says, “if it doesn’t fit, get a bigger hammer and paint it to match.”) It’s a snug fit now, that’s for sure. They have an instructional video demonstrating how to assemble the body and I noticed the guide’s box all fit perfectly.

The perimeter of the body isn’t exactly that of a standard 10-frame Langstroth body. It’s about 1/4 inch shy of standard dimensions. Maybe not a big deal for most set-ups, but it’s annoying that it wasn’t designed with a little more exactitude.

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However, this lack of precision is hardly limited to Flow Hive. I have standard frames that were bowed, entrance reducers that are either too long or too short, leaky Boardman feeders, and one screened bottom board that is a different height and takes a different tray than the rest.

The knobs on the upper door, through which the key slot is accessed, prevents either a telescoping cover or a migratory cover from being directly on the box because they’re so close to the top. I tried finding useful information on what type of cover to use, but back to the issue of searching for anything with the term “Flow Hive.” It appears that either a special cover is required or another super must go on in order to use a standard cover.

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One of my frames was missing the upper port that covers the key slot. The bees can’t get to it, so it didn’t prevent me from using it. I contacted customer service and they responded promptly and promised to send one to me right away. Wonder how long that will take coming from Australia?

The super is a deep box, which means to do inspections I have to remove a box of honey that could potentially weigh up to 90 pounds.

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The frames are interesting: partially formed hexies that shift when the key is turned. I turned the key several times to see how it shifted and really wondered if this can work. Only one way to find out.

 

There is a window on one side of the box so you can peek at their progress. And there’s an access door on the back of the box through which you can see the Flow frames without actually opening the hive. I must admit I’ve enjoyed peeking.

Since I’m feeling experimental this spring, I’ve put my Flow super on my double-queen hive. That should keep them busy for a while. I put in a frame feeder with 1:1 to help them draw the comb. I also moved the super already on the hive above the Flow super.

Just a few days after adding it, I can see the bees deep in the cells, beginning to wax in the bottoms and sides of the extra-deep cells. That’s promising.

A particular quirk of it is the need for a 2-4 degree tilt towards the back. Of course when I put a level on mine there is a good tilt, but it’s to the front. So when I’m ready to harvest, I’ll have to put a wedge under the front edge of the super. I believe the ramifications of failing to do so will be honey draining out the front rather than out the tubes in the back.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Flow Hive: First Impressions

  1. Please keep updating regarding your flow hive please! We have 2 flow hive supers on order. They have been delayed due to manufacturing difficulties so am afraid they will arrive after our main nectar flow in NC. My husband is a bit crushed because he really doesn’t want to help extract the honey.

    • Mine was delayed several times too. I’ll post updates on how the bees are doing with it. So far, they have started filling in the seams of the cells, so they’re off to a good start.

  2. Do you still use the plastic 2 frame crank extractor when you harvest your honey? Would you recommend it? How long do you have to crank it to empty the frames?

    • I must confess my hubby spoils me rotten and he bought me an electric extractor last fall. Before that I was using a hand crank one and it does the job, but it leaves a good bit of honey in the frames due to the rotation speed of the extractor. You’re simply limited by how fast you can crank. But it’s what I used for a few years and it’s an affordable option. Plan to spend some time cranking, it does take a while. At least you’ll get a workout. 😉

      Having a little left in the frames isn’t a bad thing; just put the frames in a super and set it over an inner cover and let the bees clean it up and start to refill it.

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