Flow Hive

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Imagine a beehive that makes harvesting honey a process as simple as turning a tap! This is exactly what some beekeepers were thinking when they first heard about the Flow Hive. With its innovative design and revolutionary method of honey extraction, this new hive design captured the attention of apiarists worldwide. As we explore the inner workings of the Flow Hive the idea is certainly appealing. Yet, some members of the beekeeping community did not welcome this new hive style with open arms.

Plastic flow hive frames inside hive box with honey flowing from spout.

As an experienced beekeeper myself, I felt this sounded too good to be true. Join me as we consider the pros and cons of the Flow Hive. Could this be a new type of beehive that will revolutionize your beekeeping experience? Maybe.

How the Flow Hive Works

In the traditional method of harvesting honey, beekeepers must open the hive and remove frames of comb that are filled with ripe honey.

This is hard work and requires wearing protective beekeeping clothing and dealing with protective honey bees.

The “magic” of the Flow Hive design is due to its special frames inside regular sized boxes. The frames that hold the honey to be gathered by a beekeeper are not traditional hive frames.

Flow Frames

They are not made of wood with beeswax or plastic foundation. Instead they have partially premade cells where bees store honey.

On the outside of the box, is a special key (or crank). When it is turned the frame cells shift just enough to break them open. Honey then flows along internal channels to a spout when it flows out of the box for collection.

The obvious goal of the design is to make honey harvesting easier, faster and gentler on the bees. Bees working inside the hive are not disturbed by a beekeeper removing frames. Promoting a more bee-friendly approach to beekeeping.

Advantages of Using a Flow Hive

No one can deny some of the advantages associated with Flow Hive beekeeping.

  • minimal disturbance to the bees
  • time saving & reduced physical effort
  • beginner friendly

Less Invasive

One of the biggest advantages to this type of hive is the non-intrusive harvesting process. The Flow Hive allows beekeepers to remove honey from the hive without causing a lot of obvious stress to the colony.

The top of the hive does not have to be opened and the bees do not have to experience the stress of a beekeeper removing frames or boxes of honey.

Time-Saving – Reduced Physical Effort

For many beekeepers, time is an issue. It is often hard to find time to do all the necessary tasks for our bees. Harvest time is a happy occasion but still one more chore to do.

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Due to the simplicity of the design, using a Flow Hive should allow honey to be collected in a quick and efficient manner. There is no need to spend time removing bees from honey supers.

Also, less physical effort and heavy lifting is required. There are no heavy boxes to lift off the hive. Only the containers of honey must be taken back to the house.

Beginner-Friendly

The Flow Hive offers a special intrigue to new beekeepers. Beginning beekeepers already have so much to learn.

There are so many management styles and beekeeping terms for a novice. If the process of taking off the honey crop can be streamlined – that sounds like a great thing.

Colony of bees with a flow hive box sitting on top. Honey is dripping from the spout.

Disadvantages and Challenges

While the advantages of using the Flow Hive are notable, you must consider potential disadvantages and challenges too.

  • cost
  • maintenance and technical issues
  • learning curve
  • plastic components
  • limited compatibility
  • mismanagement risks

Cost to Buy

One major drawback of using a Flow Hive is the price. Compared to traditional beehives – such as a wooden Langstroth hive – expect to spend more – a lot more.  

While the cost of beekeeping is already rather significant for beginners, an expensive hive may just be too much for some. You will find a lot of cheap knock-offs for sale online – are they as durable? Who knows?

Maintenance and Technical

The intricate design of the Flow Hive is a marvel. But, any mechanism requires regular checks and occasional adjustments to make sure it is working well.

Also, no matter how well something is designed and made – stuff happens. Be prepared to troubleshoot and address potential problems that may occur in the system.

Learning Curve

The design of the Flow Hive aims to make beekeeping easier. But, there is still a learning curve involved in its use.

The beekeeper must learn how to evaluate when the colony is ready for the special collection frames, when (or if) to take them off and what to do if the bees are not using them.

Plastic Hive Parts

Okay, the frames of the flow hive are plastic. Nothing wrong with that – plastic is a great material that allows us to make and do many things.

However, beekeepers accustomed to traditional beekeeping equipment may have concern over plastic parts. This raises questions about the environmental impact of the hive and long-term durability.

Limited Compatibility

The unique design of this hive may limit its compatibility with some types of hive management. Beekeepers that are used to using specific hive configurations – or rotating old frames/comb out of the honey supers may have to make adjustments.

Mismanagement Risks

In spite of the user-friendly design of the Flow Hive, there is still a considerable risk of hive mismanagement. This is especially a problem for new beekeepers.

Being a beekeeper is not as simple as walking out to the hive and turning a key to get a jar of honey. Long before that occurs, the beekeeper must pay attention to essential maintenance tasks that assure the colony is healthy and productive.

Comparison with Traditional Beehives

There is no perfect type of beehive to use. But, the design of a flow hive does reveal some stark differences to the traditional hives. (Langstroth – Top Bar, Warre hives, etc).

Honey Collection Methods

Traditional hives require beekeepers to open the hive and remove frames of honey. Then, the honey extraction process is used to produce liquid honey separate from the comb.

The Flow Hive boasts the advantage of less bee disturbance and the liquid honey flows out of the hive.

Flexibility

Traditional hives offer a higher degree of flexibility in hive management practices. Using different hive configurations, reversing hive boxes, making honeycomb to product chunk honey – all are possible with a Langstroth hive. A Flow Hive is not as flexible in practice.

Tips for Successful Flow Hive Beekeeping

If you are intrigued by the hive design and want to give it a try, here are a few tips to help ensure success.

Thoroughly understand how the flow mechanism works. Before putting the box on your production hive, familiarize yourself with how the key mechanism and frames work. This is so much easier without bees and sticky honey in the way.

Regularly monitor the condition of the hive. Not just the box you hope will fill with golden honey – but the health and well-being of the colony. Good hive management is necessary for any hive.

As with any hive, regular beehive inspections are necessary to catch small problems before they become fatal.

Overcoming Skepticism

Be prepared for a lot of skepticism if you choose to use flow hives. In the beginning, many felt that the flow hive was giving an unrealistic view of beekeeping. That all the beekeeper had to do was put out a hive and get a jar of honey.

There is much more to keeping bees, than turning on a honey tap. And honestly, we beekeepers don’t always embrace new ideas as quick as we might.

In some ways, the idea that this hive is fixing something that isn’t broken has some merit. Many of us enjoy the traditional process of taking honey from the hive – it also gives a quick peek inside that might signal population problems, etc.

Collaborate with others who share your beekeeping philosophy. Find your people, check with online groups and local beekeeping associations to find others who are experienced with this hive design.

FAQs

How does the Flow Hive work?

A Flow Hive works by using special frames that have partially formed wax cells. When the beekeeper turns the key, these wax cells are split – allowing honey to flow down through sealed channels and out of the hive through a spout.

Can traditional beekeeping practices be used with a Flow Hive?

A Flow Hive can be integrated into many traditional beekeeping practices. However, there are some beekeeper routines that would need to be adjusted to the specific features of the new hive.

Are there environmental concerns with the use of plastic parts in the Flow Hive?

Some beekeepers are concerned about the plastic components in the Flow Hive frames. You must weigh the environmental considerations based on your sustainability goals.

Can you use the Flow Hive in all climates?

Flow Hives are versatile and can be used in various climates. However, due to the parts and design, beekeepers in extreme weather climates (cold or hot) may need to make adjustments.

A Final Word

The truth is that you can be a bad beekeeper with a Flow Hive. And, you can be a bad beekeeper with a Langstroth hive or any other style. If the innovative design of this hive gives you a buzz – go for it. But, remember that no matter what type of box you put your bees in – they need proper attention to be healthy and productive.