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Advice needed: Bees seem to reject Floframes


#1

Dear all,
in furtherance to my thread “Bees take out honey from flow frames”, I would like to describe a new problem:
My bees (Southern Germany, Black Forest, normally a region famed for its honey) do not accept the flowframes, now they even seem to reject them.
A short list of the actions taken during the last few weeks:

  • Doused flowframes with honey water
  • Hung one, later two honeyfilled classical frames into honey super
  • Rubbed flowframes with bees wax
  • Sandwiched honey super (we changed that back, bees were furious)
  • Reduced hive from two boxes plus honey super to one box plus honey super
  • Rolled flowframes with melted wax we took from the box we removed

All of this was to no avail. A week ago we rolled the flowframes with the melted wax from the brood box we took out. When I looked into the hive today, I discovered that the bees were building, but not into the flowframes. They are building superstructures ON the flowframes.
See these two pictures (taken after I took out one of the classical frames)

The other side of the same flowframes - as all other flowframes) remain completely untouched.

To me, it looks like the bees simply do not like the flowframes and refuse to build in them, instead they are building ON them, rendering the flowframe system useless. Both my mentor and I are at our wits ends because of this AND of the fact, that the other, classical hives standing in the same spot are brimfull with honey, whereas the bees in the flowhive are reluctant to put honey even into the classical frames in my honey super.

The hive still remains strong, with lots of eggs, larvae and pupae in several states. All honey there is is stored in the brood box, which is rather heavy by now.
Either we are making fundamental mistakes (which I doubt, my mentor runs about classical 200 hives) successfully) or I will have to conclude that the flowhive system only works in warmer areas as Australia and comparable countries with regular strong flow. If so, I will have to regretfully write off the investment in the Flow Hive system and change to classical wax combs. I am loathe to do that, so I am again very much in need of advice.

@Forum_Support


German Flow keepers
#2

Hello Bertram,
Almost everyone will tell you to have patience, but I am on my 3rd year of fussing with the Flow super and observing my bees response to it, (as well as comparing with my sister-who is in northern Minnesota and also frustrated with the bees avoiding the Flow frames) and I believe that you are correct. It appears that beekeepers in southern climes have a longer window, or perhaps it’s that the super can stay on the hive all year, and that allows them to have more time to fill the Flow with honey.

The Flow frames may not be a viable extraction method for us here in Seattle, and though we love the idea-and the company-for its awesomeness in general, my feedback will be honest at the end of this season.

Since everything else about our beekeeping is natural, and we use no plastic, I can’t help but think that contributes to the avoidance issue.


#3

Probably the plastic in the flow frames has been changed in the meantime, I have one of the early 2015 systems, maybe a team member can help here. From what I have read so far, I have the feeling that the “Flow” in “Flow Hive” does not so much allude to the honey flowing out of the frames, but rather to the system being meant for areas and climates with a regular, strong honey flow.

I must say, that I am a bit disappointed. I do not rue the money, it helped some people in starting a company and earning a living for their families and themselves, which is a good thing. But so far and having followed good advice given by experienced flow hive beekeepers such as @Faroe, @John_Yeager, @Dawn_SD and others (apologies to all I forgot to mention), the results are rather sobering.


#4

I don’t mean to troll you, but I’d like to show the performance of my bees with the flow frames. I live some 400km further north of Bertram, harvested 20kg on June 1st and this is what I found today





So I don’t think there’s a general problem with the plastic itself. My frames must be from around the same production date, I bought them in 2015 and 2016.
Have you tried putting the frames on another hive, one which is full of honey?
I’m still curious and would try putting one of your frames into my hive to see what happens… I guess that won’t happen before next year.


#5

Hi Angela,
That’s lovely! I am so hoping to see that in my hive soon. Yes, last year we moved the Flow super to the hive that was going gang-busters and we eventually were able to harvest two Flow frames. (Like I said, lots of fusing around, which I’d prefer not to be doing.)

Of course, I know that more than latitude is at work; it’s just that for us, running only a few hives each year, if we would like to harvest honey and have enough left for the bees to winter over, Flow frames may not be the right tool for us.

It would be helpful to get input from more northern climate people. When comparing what many of the Australian, Californian, and Texas beeks write about their experience, it is so different from ours.


#6

Well, I have 3 hives plus 2 this year’s splits, so I’m not a large-scale beekeeper myself. Didn’t get much honey the last two years, this year was the first real harvest. I don’t bother them very often and I have one hive with natural comb collect winter stores for the others and provide fresh new comb to exchange the old dark brood combs in the other hives. Will not harvest from that one.
Here’s my location (the red flag) with the route to Bertrams location, I guess I’m pretty northern-ish…


It’s been a very hot, dry spring with a sudden temperature drop beginning friday (30°C to 10°C overnight). No rain up to yesterday for several weeks, and even yesterday it was not enough to thoroughly wet my front yard soil, it’s still dry.


#7

We have the original Flow frames from our hybrid, and then have a new Ewer version Full Flow.

Michael Bush has this to say about Plastic foundation:
“People buy plastic foundation (and other plastic beekeeping equipment such as Honey Super Cell fully drawn comb) and sometimes are very disappointed. The bees typically will hesitate to draw the plastic (or use the Honey Super Cell) and this sets them back a bit. Sometimes the bees will draw a comb between two plastic foundations in order to avoid using it. Sometimes they will build “fins” out from the face of the foundation. None of these are unusual, but they also often draw it pretty well. How well they do depends on a combination of genetics and nectar flow. Many people seeing the hesitation decide never to use plastic again. But actually once the bees use it, comb on plastic foundation or even fully drawn plastic comb is used just like any other comb. The delay at first seems like a big setback, and for a package, perhaps it is, but once you get past it there is no problem getting it used after that.”

So, what we did this year was to populate our new full Flow with four of our original Flow frames, all were covered in wax and two had a bit of capped honey in them from last year. The first thing the bees did after we added the Flow super was to empty the honey from the frames.

They are now starting to fill them back up.
Fingers crossed.


#8

You must have too much space next to that Flow frame. Bees often build like that when the “bee space” is incorrect.

My observation is a little different. It looks to me as if they have sealed the gaps between the cells, unless you painted on so much wax that you sealed them (which would be tricky to do).

@AngoraAngy has had a successful Flow hive harvest in Germany (as she wrote just above), so I don’t think that is the correct conclusion. I wonder if you are using a hybrid super? If so the bees often prefer the traditional frames and ignore the Flow frames. :thinking:


#9

@wykradt

Hi Bertram,
When you remove the wood from the side viewing window, what do you see?


#10

I agree with @Dawn_SD 's observations. My first thought was why was there that much room to build bur comb.
You seem to have a hybrid so you must keep the flow frames tight with wooden frames. I get a little bur on the top of the frames but no where else.
And search this forum for “why are the bees not using my flow frames” or words like that and see the questions and answers there.
As I have said just recently in this forum, it took 18 months and two Springs/Summers to get my flow frames started but they now fill just like any other frame.


#11

I notice that the regular frame in your photo is largely empty- which suggests to me that perhaps that particular colony does not have a huge amount of surplus honey?

I have hives side by side: one will fill up- anther will not. It is due to the colonies- not all are the same- some are stronger. If you have other hives nearby that are full- maybe try swapping the flow super onto your absolute best hive to see if that makes a difference?


#13

Flowframes, with no bees on them


#14

Can’t do that. A) the other hives belong to my mentor, b) Langstroth is scarce in germany, so he’s working on German National and Zander, boxes won’t fit.


#15

I doubt that, we packed them as closely as possible to maintain Langstroth’s bee space.

Photo probably doesn’t show it right. No wax whatsoever inside cells.

I am using my Flowhive from 2015, but since I was told to hang a full honeycomb in there, I did so. Do you suggest I take it out again?

I have seen there’s a map of bee clubs associated with Flowhive. There’s one in Germany, a “Bienenzuchtanlage Texaswald” near Frankfurt. Can’t find them in phonebook or on the web - could you please put me in contact? Would be helpful to have someone nearby to ask. It would be a 2hrs drive from my place, so not too far. @AngoraAngy is helping me a lot with good advice, but she’s a bit further off. WIll ask if I can visit her, though, since I am in the region next but one weekend.

Again: thanks for all your advice, it is very helpful indeed. There’s loads of beekeepers in Germany who think it an absolute nonsense, if not an outright sin to put plastic into a beehive. I would very much like to prove them wrong.


#16

I am sure- whatever the issue ultimately is- it isn’t the plastic. Bees may prefer not to use it- but they do use it. We had 2015 frames and did nothing to them and the bees filled them. I hope yours start to soon.


#17

Yes ok…I suspected as much. This is evidence of not having a really strong hive. The bees probably fit very comfortably in the bottom boxes. The time when the bees fill the Flow frames is when the window is nice and full of bees, which is evidence of a nice big strong colony working away to prepare the frames and store their nectar.

To store nectar in the Flow frames you need (to quote Cedar the co-inventor), “a really strong colony with lots of bees and a good nectar flow”. I suspect you don’t have a really strong colony unfortunately.


#18

You absolutely can put a langstroth box on zander. Boxes should fit onto each other. If you do have a little gap, just close it with a strap of wood or something. Or swap boxes, Zander frames do fit in Langstroth boxes, but are a bit shorter and create a gap between the box wall and the frame side, you’ll get a bit of burr comb. I bought my first colony on Zander and just put the frames into my langstroth boxes. Took 2 years to get rid of the shorter frames, but nothing bad happened :wink:


#19

Not enough bees, too many mentors.


#20

Wise words, indeed! Will increase bees and reduce mentors. Or perhaps other way round?


#21

This was not an easy decision, but one that had to be made.
From now on and for the remaining 5 or so weeks of the season, we will run the hive on classical wax frames.
I discussed in deep with my mentor, but I have to agree to his reasoning:

As you can see from the pictures, the bees did not accept the fresh, yellow wax we had rolled onto the flowframes. They rather carried up old wax from the brood box and started coating the cells with that. My mentor is afraid that had we left the flowframes on - which the bees are reluctant to accept - they would start storing honey in the brood box, thus reducing egg-laying space for the queen and by that weakening the hive. In fact, there is an increasing amount of nectar in the brood box already, number of egg cells is decreasing - even if to a very small extent, but: decreasing nonetheless.

It is a risk I cannot and will not take, nor do I think I should. The hive - according to my mentor - is still a strong one with plenty of bees, so: sorry @Graham_Hutchinson, he says otherwise, and with his roughly 200 hives, I do believe he knows what he’s talking about. I need a strong hive when we treat it against varroa in August, I need a strong hive in September, when it can become lousily cold, I want a strong hive to go into and through winter. We will continue watching closely how the bees do, if they do not start building/storing on the wax frames, I will forego any possible honey harvest and remove the queen excluder. There is some change though, the weather forecast is looking good and there is enough honey to be had from lime, maple and fir.

For next year, we will concentrate on creating a very strong hive, even at the price of taking out brood from the second hive we started this year and putting it into the strong-to-be hive. This hive will then be - again - run with flow frames. The other hive will be run as a classical Langstroth.

This is not saying good-bye to Flow Hive, this is maintaining a good hive for the remainder of the year and having a fresh start in 2019.

I will - as ever - keep the forum posted and remain thankful for all your advice.