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African/Africanised bees/agressive bees and harvesting with Flow Frames


Hi :slight_smile:

Does anyone out there have any experience harvesting with aggressive bees, Africanised bees?
Bees trying to get there honey back? Thousands of bees all over the jars where you collect the honey, etc?
I have an enquirer in Florida who works with African bees and he does not believe the Flow Frames will be able to be harvested without a “war” being started.
I think our bees look too gentle on the harvest videos at the Flow office…

If anyone has any photos or videos of their bees around the Flow Hive before, during, or after harvesting, I would love if you could share them on this post :honeybee: (preferably thousands of bees in a shot :wink: )

On another note, does anyone have a Flow Hive up and running in Florida where he could get a first-hand look at how the Flow Frames work?

Thanks :slight_smile: :sunny:


He might have a point, but I think it would work. Our first Flow harvest was from a hive which used to be gentle, but they superseded the queen. As San Diego is definitely a region of africanized honey bees (AHB), her offspring were likely at least partly africanized. Some people commented on the number of bees around us on the video we made. Fortunately we chose to harvest with a completely enclosed system. Here is the video:

One of the issues we noticed was that the bees were very interested in the Flow key channel - you can get an idea of that very briefly in the video. It was quite tough to get them out before replacing the cap. I think if we had aggressive bees during a harvest again, I would take a piece of kitchen towel and push it into the slot around the 2 Flow keys we use for harvesting to block the access for bees.

The next issue was they got very interested in the drainage channel access point. We managed to get the cap back on before any bees got inside. We were also ready when we removed the Flow tube from the channel. I had bought some corks which exactly fit inside the tube, so when we pulled it out, one of us put the cap back on the frame, and the other corked the tube. No bees got into the honey, but they tried! :blush:

Finally, replacing the arched wood cover was very tricky. Bees were clustering below the drain cap, even when it was tightly in place. There may have been a few drops of honey on the metal strip from removing the tube and they kept investigating. Eventually we just decided to wait until the evening to replace it, as the day was warm and we didn’t think the hive would get significantly chilled.

We requeened after that experience, and our bees are much less excitable now. I think with some planning, it could work well even with difficult bees. I think that it could be easier than trying to remove a super for traditional extraction from an aggressive hive, but the disadvantage would be the length of time exposure to the aggressive bees. Our harvest took over 3 hours, and while we didn’t stand there the whole time, we did have to suit up again every time we came back to check on progress.

Hope that helps.


@Dawn_SD and @Faroe, my experience with Italian’s (no Africanisation here in West Oz) is similar to what @Dawn_SD described. I’m on my second year with the flow hive so I’ll be interested to see how the time of season for extraction impacts behaviour but last year I noticed:

  • First small harvest early spring was fine. Bees left everything alone
  • Second harvest late spring the bees were all over the key channel, extraction opening, drain pipe and bucket lid. I use an enclosed system similar to what you see in @Dawn_SD’s video except I extract into a larger bucket and extract 2-3 frames at once. To move them along at the end of an extraction I applied smoke and used a brush
  • Last harvest in autumn the bees were back to how they were early spring
  • First two harvests early and mid spring this year have been fine. Bees left everything alone

This year to help reduce the number of bees I have to try and get out of the key channel I’ve been resting the plastic insert back in the opening. It won’t fully push in because of the fact the frames are “open” but it helps block the bees out.

As for helping block the extraction tube, I didn’t get all fancy pants with cork…I just use some aluminium foil and an elastic band. Based on last year I double fold it and it keeps it shape and lasts all season or until I crush it…oops.


Interesting, thanks for the feedback. You can really hear those bees smacking into the camera @Dawn_SD
Also interesting to hear @SnowflakeHoney that you had a similar experience with Italians and no Africanised bees. And also how they changed their behaviour at a different time of the year. :thinking:
Do you have any photos or videos or your harvest/s Alan @SnowflakeHoney ? (I don’t think I remember seeing one before. Please forgive me if I have just forgotten/ can’t find).

That is something to note I think for future development:

  • Something to block the key access point (for those bees that are very interested/aggressive)
    In the meantime, what about a bit of gaffer tape over the gap while you are harvesting?

  • Something to block the end of the Flow tube until it has drained into the bucket
    But don’t you wait until all the honey has drained into the bucket before you remove the tube?
    Or they are just so aggressive - they will go in the tube after the harvest, and you don’t want them in there?

Thanks :honeybee: Faroe


You could do that, but we like to open the frame in sections of about 20% at a time. That would mean that the tape may stick to the keys and possibly get pulled into the Flow key slot. I would rather use a piece of kitchen paper towel.

Yes, and yes. I am sure they would crawl down the tube given half a chance. We couldn’t video that part, because there were only 2 of us there, and we needed both brains and all 4 hands to keep the bees where we wanted them.

I would rather get immediate control of the situation and walk away with a sealed container to a bee-free area before dismantling it. The cork enabled us to do that. Foil might have done it, but I wanted something secure, so I went with a cork. :blush:


Thanks dawn, I was more referring to Alan who used the cap placed on the outside because he harvests all at once. But, I did think if you pulled the Flow Key out, and then used some tape it might make the bees less curious because they couldn’t smell the honey so much.
But, looks like a bit paper towel works well enough for you.


@Faroe, I actually only harvest about 20% of a frame at any one time (like @Dawn_SD and many others here) to minimise spillage…it’s a drawn out process but it keeps me out of other trouble for a couple of hours. I’d be unlikely to use gaffe tape as it would likely stick to my gloves and drive me insane.

I haven’t got any photos of a harvest as I’m usually doing it alone but I might have a few photos of relevance (usually I just photograph the frames). I’ll have a look through over the course of the next few days and see what I can find, as I seem to recall at least a few photos of the bees all over the extraction tube.

And yes, I do wait for all of the honey to drain out of the tube and into the bucket but there is always a small residual amount left in the collection chamber that ever so slightly seeps out as I pull out the extraction tube and replace the cap.

Just to be clear, I’m not meaning to imply the bees are generally aggressive; more inquisitive. A couple of times I’ve had a small number of bees that I’d consider more aggressive than inquisitive (based on the fact they seem to actively want to sting me) but all in all they seem more interested in trying to reclaim or guard their honey. Make sense?


Yes, it certainly makes sense Alan :slight_smile: