A Tale Of Two Flow Hives

I know this topic has been described ad nauseam, but I need a fresh perspective. I have two Flow Hives (the second all of a sudden). Last week, my first hive split and swarmed. Fortunately, I was able to capture the swarm and, after three moves (I hadn’t completed construction on hive two yet) I have them settled in a single brood box. I put drawn comb from another hive inside as well as a few empty frames. Plus one frame of honey from the first hive. Now that that’s out of the way, to the meat of my question.

Last year when I got into bees I got my nuk late in the Spring season. So I got my flow supers on late. But they didn’t touch them at all. I yanked them and coated them with melted beeswax as other had sugested. Nada. I eventually pulled them to let them concentrate on the Fall ride to winter. Obvioulsy, the did remarkably well over winter.

This year, I did everything I could think of, by the book. I got my honey flow supers on at around the same time others in Western Kentucky put theirs on. At first, there were tones of bees in the box. Then the population waned. Then they kind of came back and it actually looked like they were working them. Now I think maybe there are a dozen workers up there. They are set properly. I don’t know what else to do at this point.

Now, on to the second hive. Should I go ahead and place the honey supers upstairs? See if this swarm is any different? And, should I first add a second brood box (like I did on my first hive) or just leave one brood box and then the honey super? I’m in this for the bees, but I’d like to get at least one jar of honey for my money!


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Hi CG, you mean ‘split’ like ‘left’ or ‘took off’ right? Or did you actually split your colony and then they also swarmed? Good job catching them, by the way.

In any case, you have two weakened colonies with inadequate workforces to handle brood rearing, defense AND the loads of foraging required to start preparing and filling those awesome Flow supers. Not to mention that your original colony is minus a laying queen right now, and will be for at least 2 more weeks (give or take a few days). So in that hive, there won’t be any new bees to join in the effort for another 3 weeks or so after that. Throw in some bad weather and you might still be the one laying out the provisions this year.

The captured swarm colony will have your original laying queen in it. Those workers will prioritize building new comb for the queen to lay in, and for feeding larvae before starting on honey storage. Judging by the bare branches in your woodsy backdrop, pickings might still be a bit slim.


Eva, thanks. Yes, when I said split, I mean they split the scene! I did not split them. I was advised by local beekepers to do a hive inspection in a few weeks inside the original hive for a new Queen. I was able to see the old Queen in the new hive.

They are definitely bringing in a lot of pollen, so there’s that. And yes, it has been a long winter and we are still having cool nights. Should I be supplemental feeding? Chris

Sure thing! That’s good advice from the locals, and yes feeding them 1:1 syrup now will help. Just remove the supers while feeding, and stop when they stop taking it. If there’s a good nectar flow at that point plus strong colonies you might be able to put the supers back on.

OK. I’ll start feeding both hives until they stop taking it. And remove the supers. This is all a learning experience for me, but I guess the only way to get honey is to make sure they don’t swarm, yes? So I guess two weak hives won’t fill the flow supers… C

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Your bees have swarmed because they are optimistic about being able to rebuild, independently of what you provide. There must be a lot of nectar & pollen available for the bees, in order for them to issue such a large swarm. With that in mind, feeding shouldn’t be necessary, unless the colony swarmed on account of prior supplemental feeding. If that was the case, you probably need to continue feeding until you start to see plenty of pollen & nectar coming in.

Unbelievable (to me) the same hive swarmed a second time a week later! Thank you all. C

Hi Chris, it must be a caste swarm. Did you catch it? I wouldn’t be feeding at this stage. The bees are “glass half full” on being able to rebuild without any assistance.

You do need to make sure that the parent hive doesn’t succumb to hive beetles on account of the massive drop in population, relative to existing brood & pollen stores.

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A third swarm?!? I just looked out at my hives, the usual activity. But on a tree 15 feet behind them, a swarm! And within 30 seconds it was gone, up up and away! We watched it cross the road and disappear. Have no idea if it came from my original hive (that swarmed twice apparently) or from the first original swarm I put into a new Flow hive. As I said, bee activity looks normal at both landing boards. Wild swarm or did the second hive not take I wonder. Gah! CG

Bummer, Chris. The only way to tell is to inspect all hives. A colony that remains after a swarm will be approx halved in numbers with each swarm, and you can usually find any manner of queen cell stages from cups to emerged and being torn down. And lots of drones.

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I wanted to post a follow-up and a few novice questions. As in my OP, my first hive swarmed…twice. Almost positive the two swarms (I caught one and deposited it into a fresh Flow hive; the second a friend came and took home) were from my sole hive. April 12th and 21st, respectively.

I did my first hive inspection (late, I know) today. The new hive is bustling! Already full of honey (I did feed them 1:1 for about a week after getting them settled), and I saw lots of larvae. No eggs but didn’t look too hard. No sign of any pests, save for some ants in the bottom tray. I added a Flow super to the hive (I’ve never had any luck with them). I coated these with melted beeswax and sprayed them with sugar water. We’ll see.

Nearing the point of exhaustion (from an early heat wave) I opened the second hive. Still very little activity in level three, where the Flow supers are, but they are digging around up there. The middle box weighed about 60 pounds. Loaded with honey and a surprising amount of bees. In fact, If I hadn’t seen them swarm, I’d have never been aware based on the population. Lots of honey and pollen but no sign of capped cells or larvae or eggs. I wrestled the middle box off (they hated that) and inspected three frames in the lowest brood box. About the same. Not as much honey but no eggs and definitely no larvae. I actually forgot to pay attention to any Queen cells. It was so busy in there it was nuts.

But it’s been well past 21 days, which if I recall is the magic number. I am going back in this weekend with a better plan for dealing with that second box. I fear I may be Queenless. This has happened before, but one miraculously showed up and all was well. so maybe more time? There really wasn’t anything amiss during this inspection. Pretty much as I remembered. They were not aggressive in the least (not one sting) and seemed pretty calm given their circumstance.

Thoughts for this rookie? CG

Hi Chris, my only advice would be to use single brood hives. It makes brood inspections so much easier. It’s your statement, “I wrestled the middle box off (they hated that)”, that prompts me to give that advice.

I only use single brood - single honey, which works really well. I don’t allow the populations to blow out, so therefore my colonies will only reach the lower level as a “strong hive”.

Each colony still produces large amounts of honey, above the national average. Plus I’m able to sell the splits I’m producing.

I just now checked our national avg. It’s between 50-70kg. My avg, would be at least 70kg.