What’s the big deal about the Flow hive?

Chances are, you have heard about this new idea in beekeeping called the Flow hive, the invention of father and son Stu and Cedar Anderson from Australia. To make a long story not so long, they thought they  had a great idea to change beekeeping, set up a Kickstarter, received a whole pile of money from backers who also thought it was a great idea, and now had to figure out how to make what they thought was going to be a small-scale business into a now multi-national business. Things happened, ship dates were delayed, at least one machine went kaput, etc etc. as they tried to keep a handle on everything. Check out their website for their full story and videos.

The interwebz is love it, hate it, and everything in-between. Many of the haters are of the “people who don’t know anything about bees are going to now have beehives and screw it up” sort. Flow has a ton of videos about the nuts and bolts of beekeeping available on YouTube (to join the three tons of videos about the nuts and bolts of beekeeping  already available on YouTube), they have compiled lists of beekeeping organizations by country and state, and have generally be pretty darn proactive about giving people the resources they need to be successful in beekeeping. The glass of information is full – take hold of it and drink deep.

Fast forward – I received my two Flow supers a couple months after the targeted shipping date (not the full hive option, just the 7 frame super) and put them together. The cedar wood is a nice upgrade, by the way. Some of the corner joints didn’t fit very well (too tight), so I had to Dremel them down to fit. Aggravating, but nothing to skewer them over. I’ve gotten worse constructed items from well-known bee supply companies. I got them assembled, then coated them with Spar urethane for protection from the weather.

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Flow super fully assembled – the bees will be living in the box under this, and there will be a cover on top.
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Side view – observation window with cover
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Covers removed and ready for honey harvest. This side is at the back of the hive so the bees are not disturbed while harvesting.

The girls have been bringing in the pollen over the last week, which means spring is definitely here, so I will check the hives on a calm, sunny day to see how the frames are filling up. When it looks like they need more room, I’ll add a Flow super to 2 of the hives, and a regular medium honey super to the third hive. This is a brand new honey super, so the bees will have to make the honeycomb on the frames before they can start the honey process. Will the Flow supers be filled and ready to harvest before that?

Why did I spend the money on this? Like many beekeepers, I don’t want to disturb the bees more than necessary. Taking frames out of the hive to harvest the honey is something that can upset the bees (I’m taking their winter food, in their opinion), and honey harvesting itself is hard work – put on the beesuit, go to the hives, take the heavy honey box off the hive to wherever you’re harvesting the honey, remove beesuit, uncap the frames, put them in the honey extruder, spin the honey out, filter the bits and pieces out of the honey, pour the honey into jars, put the frames back in the box, but the beesuit back on, take the box back to the apiary, put the box back on the hive, clean everything up.

Also, 1 frame can be harvested at a time. You can lift the frame up to see how many cells are capped, and if it’s ready – harvest time. If there are still a lot of cells that aren’t full, put it back and check the next one.

By this point, the beekeepers in Australia and other places in the southern hemisphere have had their honey season. They’ve put up videos of harvesting the honey from the Flow hive – standing right next to the hive with no beesuit.

I have seen one video (not in English) of someone who had taken the Flow super off of the hive, and took it in a building to harvest. He seemed to be having lots of problems with the harvest. Without being able to understand what he was saying or know the context of why the super was in a building and not still on the hive, I’m leaning toward operator error. I could be wrong.

So this season will be an experiment in honey harvesting. With any crowdfunded item, there’s a non-zero chance that the item was great in theory and not so great in application. But all indications so far are that the Flow works. Stay tuned to see if it works for me!

And just so it’s in the open, these are documentation posts. I will not be debating the merits (or lack thereof) of the Flow, but recording my experience. Take any hate elsewhere.