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A few obvious spring time queries

I have had my Flow Hive since December here near the Hunter Valley, NSW. It was active all through winter, happy bees. Placed a second brood box on it in August and it is already 3/4 full with a good mix of brood and capped honey.

I have some Newbie questions that have been on my mind and would be grateful for some advice (I have searched the forum before posting this). They may seem obvious, but thought I’d ask.

  1. I keep reading about using frames of “drawn comb”. Where do these come from? Is it worth me occasionally removing a frame that has been drawn but not filled?
  2. Now I have a second brood on, and probably about to add the Flow Super in next few weeks, when inspecting and lifting off the top box, where do I put them!? Don’t want to put them straight into the grass around the hive, or squash bees if I placed on another surface.
  3. Since having the hive I have still not seen the queen! Have inspected regularly and is plenty of brood and yesterday’s inspection had plenty of eggs and larvae visible, so she’s there. Should I spend more time searching or just be happy with the obvious signs that she is there.
  4. In a recent Flow Hive video, our guide mentioned only inspecting brood twice a year? Seems in contradiction to everything I have read, I appreciate it is different in each area, but this still seems odd. (https://youtu.be/MrRzp78NHcc)
  5. Given it is my first year, I really don’t want to split the hive to avoid swarm this year, I would just like a year experiencing the one hive, or should I expect to have to do this, given the constant flow.
  6. If there is anyone in the Stroud / Booral area of NSW happy to connect, I’d welcome the company!

That’s all for now, apologies if they’re obvious questions.


Hi Jon, good to see you here.

Let me start out by saying that if you have a question, it is usually not obvious. From the way you have written your questions, you have done your best, and that is all anyone can ask. Based on that, I am more than happy to try to help.

We are a bit lazy about telling you that, aren’t we? :blush: Well, there are many sources, but you need to have been a beekeeper for several years, and/or have several hives to have these little pots of gold. I only ever use “drawn comb” from my own hives, never from anyone else.

The comb either comes from uncapping and spinning honey out of honey storage frames, leaving only empty cells behind. Or more sadly, it comes from when a hive absconds, dies etc, but isn’t overtly diseased. I always freeze such empty comb as soon as it is empty, to kill off wax moth and small hive beetle. Somebody else’s comb carries a risk of other diseases, so I never risk it.

Brilliant question. Here is what I do:

  1. Buy an extra flat roof (the gabled Flow roof is pretty, but won’t work for this). Buy an extra brood box at the same time, if you can’t lift a full brood box (at up to 25kg, I can’t do that on my own).
  2. Put the flat roof upside down on the ground next to the hive you are inspecting.
  3. Put the inner cover/crown board inside the rim of the inverted flat roof. That will give some bee space below for what comes next.
  4. If you can lift the whole box that you have just inspected, put it on top of your inner cover/crown board/roof assembly very slowly, giving bees underneath time to move away. If you can’t lift the whole thing (like me), put your empty box onto the roof and inner cover, then load the frames one by one into the empty box as you inspect them. Then instead of lifting 25kg at once, you have lifted 3kg at a time, and still done everything you needed.
  5. Reverse the process to put the hive back together.

Don’t sweat it. My queens are all marked and we have been keeping bees for more than 30 years. I see the queen less than 50% of the time, unless I really need to find her. Even then, 5% of the time I can’t, and I have to use less gentle methods. If you see eggs, and/or uncapped larvae, you have had a mated queen in your hive less than a week ago.

This is a very “hands-off” approach. If you are at all worried about swarming (neighbour complaints) or diseases, most people would say that inspecting at least every 2 weeks during a nectar flow is essential. I aim for weekly, because then I can prevent swarming (mostly), but I don’t always achieve that. In winter, monthly or less may be just fine.

I am now going to hit you with more info than you need. If you definitely don’t want your hive to swarm, but they want to, you will have to split. The way to know is inspecting for queen cells. These are two long articles. Don’t try to understand all of the info now. It took me about 20 readings to get much of it, and every time I read them I see something new. However, if you start to see true queen cells, they will help you greatly in deciding what to do. The first document tells you how to recognize different types of queen cell. The second document tells you what to do. i usually do the method on page 17:



Thank you for the smart questions. You have obviously done a lot of homework. I wish you and your bees much success, you deserve it. :wink:


Dawn, thanks for the reply, really appreciate it. It constantly amazes me how quickly a forum post, even on something as gentle as Flow Hive starts to degenerate due to misunderstanding and impatience, so i try to think very carefully before entering the world of Forums in any context, so thanks again for the patient reply!

Drawn comb is mentioned regularly in many of the beginners books I have read, without this explanation, so thanks for clearing that up. Presumably, with the invention of the Flow Hive, access to drawn comb is more limited as there is no need to spin for honey?

I figured this would be the answer! Presumably then, the amount of hives we own grows exponentially year on year! Or do you end up giving them away, or accepting the occasional swarm (“he says hesitantly awaiting the barrage of comments regarding a newbie allowing a swarm”)

Thanks again Dawn, appreciated.

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Dawn has given you sound advise and there is nothing I can add to that.
I use migratory lids and place the lid next to the hive upside down and place the hive box at right angles to the lid so the is only a small area to risk squashing a bee.
I am shocked that someone would advise hive inspections twice a year, that is nothing short of neglecting the bees. I do a visual check on all my hives weekly and each fortnight go down into the brood box to check the health and strength of the colony and to be preemptive of managing the hive. It gives you a chance to check for SHB, small hive beetle, and ants. Checking the hive is the only way you can anticipate a hive making a new queen and a swarm developing.

Never give away a hive, it is a very saleable item when you don’t want to expand your apiary, the local paper or Gumtree are good for selling hives. At present I sell a premium hive with a metal queen excluder and mouse guard with a new queen and all new wood ware for $350 that has a brood box and a super. The frames are all in their first season.
Hope that adds to your knowledge and well thought out questions are always welcome on the forum.


Mostly true, yes. You will still have hive losses, unless you are are very lucky, but probably less in Australia than in the US. In the US, the numbers for overwinter dead hives are between 30 and 50%. It is very likely that a large part of that is Varroa, and much of the rest is either condensation/chilling or starvation. At least you don’t have Varroa. Plus much of Oz is warmer than the northern US in winter, and has year-round nectar.

If you have a very strong hive, and you feel you want to keep some drawn comb, there are ways of doing that. I wouldn’t though. Although it is pure gold in terms of resources for a new colony, it isn’t worth weakening a hive and going to the trouble of storing it, if you don’t have to. :wink:

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You have already got some of the best advice from some of the forums most experienced bee keepers and I would like to add a couple of comments re our experiences.
I use a pair of cheap bunnings saw horses to sit a removed super on to. It is a good working height. I use a couple of plastic door wedges to sit under one side of the super so to not squash bees. These same wedges I use when seperating the super from the brood box again lessens squashed bees.
Has been a few years now and we rarely see the queen, dont waste time on it just look for the signs of a queen.
We only ever wanted one hive but now realise to prevent swarming and keep the hives strong it is always best to have two and always be prepared with an additional location, spare frames and boxes to quickly make a split. Once the split is done sell it as there are plenty of takers. We just recoup the cost of frames. Much easier to do a pre swarm split than trying to catch a swarm but always have a swarm catching setup ready.
Good luck


Hi Hazjo,
I started with my flow hive about a year back and moved to a double brood box before adding the flow about late January. What happened for me was that they partially filled the flow frames (we harvested 3) but as we were coming into autumn and winter they back filled the brood boxes. Box 2 was completely back filled and the bottom box was nearly half full by late May. I was able to spin out/harvest the “traditional” frames and pulled the brood box down to one in late autumn. You may have better luck with getting the flow frames filled completely but my guess is you will need to do something with the full frames of honey (non-flow frame) that you’ll get.
Agree with Dawn that frames of drawn comb are “little pots of gold”! So if you can find/borrow a spinner from somewhere it would be useful.

I’ll be trying one brood box this year and trying to manage swarming as opposed to double brood.


Brilliant, thanks for those hints and tips, will give them a go.

Thats great, thanks for the help.

I’m trying to download the wbka site but it stops mid download. wondering if anyone else can access the site/download the pdf?

It works for me, but it is slow as the document is large (over 20Mb). If you want me to e-mail it to you, or you have dropbox or similar, I have downloaded the Swarm Control pdf and would be happy to send it. :wink:

Thanks Dawn,
I finally got it to work, you were right it was the file size that was the issue.

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I had one partial download of that file but with my second try I got the whole of it. I think there was so much traffic that the link dropped out, but it was well worth persevering to get it.