Good morning all, excuse the general advice post, however I wondered whether someone may be able to point me in the right direction in respect of the relevance of 6 or 7 frame flow hives and the Scottish climate. In short we are on a farm in Fife and I am looking at purchasing equipment as a a gift for my wife so she can start beekeeping - something as family we have talked about for years. I have researched and not found a definitive answer as to whether a certain size may be more advantageous over the other. Again apologies for the general question which may have been answered many times, but would greatly appreciate any input from UK based flow owners or indeed those in Scotland. Many thanks in advance.
I think generally you can do either but you may want to consult with your local club and beekeepers.
A personal consideration may need to be made due to the weight of a full box as there will be lifting involved during the changes of seasons and during inspections.
There’s a whole additional discussion about single or double brood boxes that you may want to look into.
I don’t know exactly where @Dawn_SD kept bees in the British isles for many years - she is probably the most prolific contributor on this forum and likely has some pertinent advice!
Hello and welcome to the Flow forum!
I would say it doesn’t really matter from the climate point of view, but she is going to need an extra brood box - either a medium or a deep. With your long, inclement winters, the bees will need that much space to store sufficient food until the spring nectar flow gets going.
I agree with @chau06 about the lifting. I personally prefer 8-frame brood boxes (the 6 frame Flow hive), because they are about 20% lighter. Although more expensive, the cedar hives are also a lot lighter than the pine versions, and they stand up to wet climates better too.
As @chau06 says, I kept bees in the UK for a long time, but that was over 20 years ago. They were mostly in Oxford, but a couple of years in other places. Nothing north of Leeds though. Having said that, there are members of this forum who are based in Scotland, but they are a very quiet bunch. @HappyHibee is Scottish, but he is currently keeping bees south of the border - he is one of our more prolific UK forumites.
One further thought, if you have large areas of heather shrubs around you, your wife may not want to have the Flow super on the hive while it is flowering. The honey is a thixotropic gel, and will be very difficult to get out of the Flow frames. Your local beekeepers will be able to advise weather heather is abundant in your region, if you aren’t sure.
Please ask if we can help with any further questions.
Thank you both @chau06 @Dawn_SD for the valuable information. There’s not an awful lot of heather on our land or indeed locally, however plenty fields of wild flowers and the like. Unfortunately, contacting the local associations was not very fruitful, partly due to the fallout from Covid with timescales of assistance apparently into next year! From local research, I also got the feeling that even mentioning ‘FlowHive’ would not get me very far. They also advised that they would not be able to supply a local nuc. If you had any input on this process or where I may be able to source appropriate bees in preparation it would be greatly appreciated.
I have since ordered 2 of the new 6 frame flow 2 hives (on preorder with expected delivery late May) but in short was just looking to make sure that she has everything required to get started as we leave Spring towards Summer.
Thanks again for your advice.
Unfortunately that attitude is very prevalent in many bee clubs. I usually advise people to just say that they are starting a Langstroth hive. The Flow hive is a Langstroth, just the super is different. The brood boxes should be managed the same way as your locals manage theirs, and we can help you here with honey extraction advice.
I think that Flow also has British National size Flow supers now - perhaps @Freebee2 or @Bianca can weigh in on that. You may need to buy the rest of the hive parts locally, if Flow doesn’t supply those, but if so, just come back here and I can help with describing what you will need.
The reason for mentioning National hives is that most beekeepers in the UK (and Ireland) use that size and style of hive. You will probably find it much easier to get a nucleus on British National frames than on Langstroth frames. However, even that is not hard to work around. One member of this forum developed a very neat way of adapting National frames into Langstroth frames to get the hive started. You will need to rotate the adapted frames out of the hive over time, but that isn’t hard. Here is the link:
You can do this. It isn’t easy, but it isn’t that hard either. With some determination, you will have a very rewarding hobby for years to come.
By the way, late May is pretty late to start a hive. The main nectar flow is mostly over by July, so the bees will not have much time to build up. You may have some Autumn nectar too, it just depends on what local forage is available. Most nuclei are ordered the year before, and installed around April, depending on the Spring weather and queen mating timings.
Hi @CJHar, I’m so glad you’ve reached out to the Flow Forum, it’s always so nice to hear from people in Scotland.
Since you’ve purchased the 2 x Flow Hive 2 6 frame, let’s go with this. Let us know if you have any questions about the post @Dawn_SD shared with you for converting UKN to Langstroth frames. The best place to source bees is locally with your local suppliers (you may be lucky to find someone that uses Langstroth frame/boxes!). Other options for sourcing bees include here - How do I get bees?
I suspect that your typical hive set up would be 2 x brood boxes and 1 x super, however, this should be confirmed with your local beekeepers. The point here is, how much honey stores do your bees need to get them through winter i.e. time of dearth with no forage for the bees. The colony will consume a lot of honey during the cold months to keep warm and if there isn’t enough honey, they will starve to death.
If a double-brood is the way, you will need to purchase another 8 frame brood box for each hive https://uk.honeyflow.com/collections/flow-supers-and-brood-boxes/products/brood-box-flow-hive-2-cedar. I recommend adding the Flow Super before the second brood box. This method just supports a quick uptake by the bees to the Flow Frames. Note that the boxes are added progressively, typically in spring and summer as the hive fills with bees, comb, honey, brood etc.
I can’t agree more with the others about seeking local and experienced advice on the flowering season within your hive’s proximity. This is really important information as a beekeeper, particularly for those in colder climates. Reading local books on keeping bees in your region and climate will be mega helpful, as these are certainly relevant for your Flow Hives too.
Make sure to utilise other resources online too, Flow and elsewhere, especially those specific to cold climates, e.g.:
How do I winterise my Flow Hive?
Fred Dunn Q&A on cold climate beekeeping:
And then not harvesting before adding the second brood box under or over the flow super?
I thought the general advice has been don’t worry about the flow super and any surplus honey for the first season, just get the bees settled and built out so they are ready to overwinter and come out strong in the spring.
That would be my advice, but then I care more about the bees surviving than getting a first harvest. Others differ, and can’t wait to have their own honey. I guess that in order to protect their reputation, Flow wants their customers to have a harvest ASAP, so they have decided on that approach.
Hi Dawn, thanks for the advice, it’s greatly appreciated. Given your comments regarding the first colony and the national frames would I be better to maybe cancel the flow hives 2+ 6 frames (not shipping for a while and I note extra flow brood boxes are not available) and look at the former rather than adapting them etc. Whilst the honey is an added bonus, she’s more interested in the actual beekeeping. Given the time of year and as you suggest, it would maybe be better preparing for next year - just wanted to have the actual equipment ready, however now a little confused! Thanks again.
Yes, completely agree. Thanks for fleshing this out for me
I intend to highlight the importance of wintering your hive appropriately over a first-year significant harvest, for sure.
I truly apologise if I confused you. Beekeeping is very seasonal in the UK. It isn’t the same in subtropical or tropical climates. I would encourage you to go ahead with your purchase, and build then seal your hives. You can have many enjoyable months of designing and planning, then be ready for your bees early next year. Sealing can take a couple of months, depending on what sealant you choose, so the extra time will be well spent.
I am just concerned that it would be very rushed for you to start this year in the UK, and a failed hive is always very discouraging.
You could also take a look at this website for some general beekeeping lessons.
Please ask if there is anything that I can clarify.
Aww right CJhar,
I’m from Edinburgh and family in West Lothian so not far from you.
Brood and half or double brood is really common in gods country .
The FlowHive UK group on Facebook has a few clansman and woman.
I’ve personally never kept bees in Scotland (live in the West Midlands since 2013).
But my family have and if you can get hold of locally bread bees they seem to cope with the weather.
Winters are rough but plenty of honey farms around and Scottish Heather honey is considered great quality and taste.
I’d be tempted to buy a flow hive and a standard super somewhere else and experiment. If it doesn’t take or problems harvesting you’ll have no shortage of takers to buy the Flow super and Flow Frames online without losing out financially.
A few have mentioned the different types of problematic flowering plants but if you harvest early enough I’m confident it’ll work. If not you just clean it out.
Flow do a UK National super which is a cost effective way to start out. They don’t do a full UK National hive though but it’s the flow super and frames that are all you need and use it on a standard National hive or langstroth.
To be honest I’ve not actually heard from a flowhive owner in Scotland who has said it’s problematic. It’s all people saying “it won’t work”.
Go for it. First year your building up colony strength and numbers. Learning all you can about bees and husbandry.
Don’t be tempted by the cheep copies they are problematic nothing like the original kit (I have one) got it fir £20 so being a tight fisted jock it was a cheep hive and I’ve bought an original flow super for it.
Other than harvesting honey there is no difference. Red Cedar fir sure as it’ll weather better and braw when you oil it.
If your a Jambo forget the above GGTTH cup final here we come.