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Advice needed on inspecting flow frames when they are very stuck



Just wanting some advice around removing the flow frames for inspection in the super.

My bees are doing very well through our mild Qld winter (on outskirts of Brisbane). All the frames are looking pretty full from the end window, and we’ve harvested 2 frames across the last month, and they quickly fill them again.

However, we are finding it difficult to remove the honey filled frames (in order to check they are fully capped) without flexing them to some degree and as a result causing some slow leaks.

Last inspection my husband could not get two frames out at all. The bees were pretty cranky at the disturbance and it was his first time suited up and in charge (I recently shattered my elbow in a fall and can’t get into a suit at the moment, nor would I be much help one-armed!!).

The end view is clearly not a good indicator of what is ready to be harvested. One of the frames we thought ready to harvest was only 2/3 capped.

Any tips on how to get frames out that are well affixed at the bottom? (We do have a QE in place).

I also read a post (elsewhere) from a relatively local experienced beek who said this time of year bees should not be disturbed. Inspecting super frames I imagine breaches this suggestion? Curious what others with flow hives in the Brisbane - northern NSW area think?


Bees honey storage pattern

Slowly slowly.
I think it a matter for everyone to eventually work out for them selves as to what suits them or works best.
I take an end frame completely out first. Hive tool…fingers…hive tool…fingers. Then move the other frames side ways. If you can get them to move an inch or so side ways it is just a matter of …hive tool…fingers…hive tool… fingers just slowly working the frame up.
I do agree with most that the flow frames are much more difficult to remove than the ordinary frames.


Hi Rae, I refrain from harvesting in winter. One never knows if there is another cold snap or rain event when a large colony really tucks into their stores. An exception would be when there is a flow on and I know all the frames are full.
The frames come out easier if you take them out more often.
I found at the entrance end of the frame the hive tool fits really well and for the other end I use my fingers. You may have to scrape away propolis and wax, and cut in especially at the ends where the frames meet. Once you get a bit of sidewards movement, the frame will come out.
If you think the frames are stuck to the QX, just lift the box off a bit and pry the QX loose.
I think it’s quite ok to inspect the flow box in winter, as long as it’s above 20C and there’s no wind.
I have AFB in the neighbourhood and keep checking even the brood frames currently on a regular basis to prevent anything spreading in our apiary. It seems quite ok on a warm day and the bees don’t seem distressed.
Do it around lunch time, not after 2pm.


There is a Flow video where they use two tools. One tool is used to hook under the top of the frame at the entrance end (using the J end of an Australian style tool - keeping the frame elevated at that end - sort of hardish to do because of the thickness of the top bar) whilst at the other end of the frame and at the same time, the other tool is used to slide under the top end of the frame in a prising motion against the wood. Hopefully you will be able to find the video on the Flow site.


I take off the wood Flow key door first. Then insert a J-hook hive tool under the opposite side of the frame and lift until the frame starts to move. Then I put 2 fingers into the recesses in the plastic Flow key slot cover and slowly lift the whole frame up.

My bees like to build a lot of comb under the Flow frames too, so I completely understand your problem. :blush:


I’ve found one Flow video touching on the topic, after much searching. I must say considering how important it is to remove the Flow frames, the instructions or videos on how to remove a Flow super frame could be much more prominent. I can’t find the video I saw initially but it was of a member of the Flow team - but not Cedar. He showed the use of two hive tools. The video I found today was on the Flow facebook page. The video is called “Flow Hive super check” and you need to get to around the 8 minute mark. It shows Cedar using one hive tool at one end and a helper using another tool at the other end - this is the method I describe in my previous post. This is twice now I have seen a video from Flow showing the use of two hive tools for the procedure. The issue is that there is often so much propolis around the frames, particularly if you have had them on for ages and if they are tightly fitting, that their method may be the best in such situations.

Edit: Here is a link to this video…go to 8 minute mark. Also - it is not Cedar in the video.


I found it!

I hope this helps Rae, if the other methods described don’t.


Thanks for all the replies. Will use two tools far more effectively now I’ve seen that video and with all of your advice. Much appreciated.

We have been very cautious about our winter harvests. However they seem to be on a good flow at the moment and I am working off advice from a mentor at my local club too.

Thanks Jeff particularly for the comments about brood inspection. We’ve been having some lovely warm and still days but as I’ve injured myself good and proper and am presently one-armed I’m reliant on my other half being willing to stop what he’s doing and help me out with the bees. Timing is everything! Lol.


Hi Rae we are in Brisbane Southside and we also had some difficulties getting the frames out. We are still harvesting but usually only take 1 frame and then wait a few weeks. We last opened the hive about 6weeks ago and will wait now til it gets warmer. What we have been doing to make it easier to get frames out is during brood inspections is to swap queen excluders or clean it off to stop some of the build up between the frames and excluder.
We also make sure the frames are all tight together so that the bees don’t build between them.
We like others have found sections in the frame not filled that has been left for the queen to lay but obviously she can’t get there with the excluder not on all but certainly some. We also put small plastic wedges under each corner as we crack the super off the brood box. We find it easier to twist seperate and lift the super off in order to do inspections and we don’t crush as many bees in the process.


We have to mindful of where we live. Most of us don’t live in Eden alar Buderim. Not having a go at you here Jeff but life on the sunshine coast of Queensland is not what you would call Winter :upside_down_face: anywhere else in the world. For the last three weeks our daytime temp hasn’t gone above 18deg C with nights between 4 and 9 deg C. Rain most days maybe 8 -10 hrs not heavy but wet. Long range forecast does not see much change for the next 30 days. While else where in the world says " that is not cold " I appreciate that too.
BUT don’t open your hive in Winter unless it is above 20deg C or you will have death.(notice the full stop)


Well, the OP mentioned being on the outskirts of Brisbane, so I reckon Jeff’s advice was aimed at our local situation. I agree brood shouldn’t be opened below 22C and only if there’s no wind.
A neighbour of ours had advanced AFB, so I am checking my brood whenever it’s warm enough, above 22C, to detect infection in any of my hives to prevent it spreading to the others. Needs to be done, and so far the colonies are coping well. Had to sit out a week when temps were lower.
Also, the bees here are firing up rearing brood, swarm season is looming. Not a time to sit on your hands and guessing what’s going on. Over here, swarm management and observation have started. We had 25C yesterday without wind.
In any case, Jeff knows what he is doing and I trust his local advice. I still may do things differently.
Amazing how cold it is over in WA still.


My Flow frames were well and truely stuck to the qx when I removed the supers so I’d imagine this is why the frames won’t come out. Removing the super, prying the qx off and scraping off the wax on the bottom of the frames and the qx would be best I’d imagine.
Which brings me to my question. Is it normal for the bees to build wax between frames and the qx? Or, is it a bee space issue? If the gap between them is widened or narrowed would it make a difference?


I hate to say this Jeff, but where I am the average December (summer) minimum is less than 10 deg C and I’m basically at sea level. It is all relative, and you get used to the conditions where you are, so I’m sure it feels chilly to you and other Queenslanders. Just imagine that the temperature that you feel tonight is what my bees experience on an average first month of summer night here.


I am thinking of you guys while I run the air-conditioning… About 28 to 30C here. Hard to look after bees in 75-80% humidity. At least we have solar panels to offset the cost of cooling. :blush:


Yes Jeff, there are usually around 4 weeks here when the home fires are not going - well at least not every day. Normally it starts January 1. Tasmania has had over 42 deg C a few years back and the place gets pretty flammable then unfortunately.


Our fire goes mostly 24/7 during Winter.
The worst problem at the moment is rain. Not torrents but misty cold rain. Maybe 2-5 mm per day.
Currently there are huge quantities of blossom about from multiple species but the bees can only work it spasmodically in between showers. Occasionally there is a frantic scramble when the sun comes out briefly Those that do get out seem to be concentrating on pollen. Not the huge sacks of pollen you see in spring but pollen non the less.

I have felt it too cold to look inside but I have the feeling (from what I can observe) the hive is strong. The old tap on the brood box’s at night I think is a good indicator.


So you’d be running around in shorts and thongs too.:sunglasses:

Edit: I mean the Aussie thongs


New bee keeper here. Do I have to pull out the frames at all with a flow hive even if they are gluing the lower frames together? Frankly I bought this system so I wouldn’t have to disturb hardly at all. I planned on leaving them the honey in the lower boxes & just harvesting the top. Thanks!


Sorry to break this to you, but US regulations say that if you deliberately keep bees in hives, you have to inspect them for disease etc.


For the health of your bees, you should inspect at least once a month, except in very cold or rainy/windy weather. For the peace of mind of your neighbors, you should inspect weekly during a nectar flow, which I guess is March to July in your region, so that you can detect swarming intentions.

Responsible beekeeping is not just about taking the honey. You have livestock in a created home, and now you have indirectly agreed to make sure that they are healthy and not problematic to anyone else.

Sorry if it sounds like a lecture. I am glad that you came here and asked the question. I would suggest that you join a local bee club and get someone to help you inspect, or do inspections for you, and you just get the honey. You may need to pay them for their work, but you are still supporting honey bees with your investment. :blush:


Another reason to inspect the flow frames is to check capping. You can get an idea through the windows of how the frames are filling or filled but as Flowhivers are finding sometimes there is a lot of uncapped immature honey not visible unless pull the frame and look. Would be a shame to harvest a whole lot of honey which is unripe.
I can assure you pulling the frames not an arduous task once you develop your skills in doing it.