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After the Harvest Care


I am getting ready to harvest the Flow Hive even though it is not full. I have plenty of honey below in supers for the bees to survive the winter. Everything I have read so far seems to point to removing the Flow Hive super for the winter. If there is a thread that answers a lot of my questions please just direct me to it.

My questions:

  1. Is leaving the hive on an option? (I live in Virginia) Why?
  2. What about all the wax used to cap the cells? Can the hive be left on for a week or so to allow the bees to harvest this wax?
  3. It seemed like it took the bees 3 months to fill the cracks and get ready to start filling the cells. Is there any way to let them start from where they left off in the spring instead of starting all over? (see question 1)
  4. What happens to the nectar that is in cells not yet capped? Does it flow out too? and separate? I am happy to feed it back to the bees if it can be isolated.


Wow, what a great set of questions! :blush:

It is, but… First, if it isn’t full, I would put it under the brood box(es), because otherwise it is dead space for bees to heat. My understanding is that Virginia can freeze in the winter, and having all that open space costs the bees a lot of energy. Plus they will propolize the heck out of it, if it creates a draft.

Bees really don’t harvest and reuse wax efficiently. That is not a good reason to leave it on. They will reuse completed comb, but if you put wax cappings in the hive, for example, they will throw them out eventually.

Well, even if you harvest, you will leave some wax and a lot of pheromones on the Flow frame. I believe that bees’ reluctance to use Flow frames is because they don’t smell of the hive. If you leave wax and other residue on the frames, they should use the frames much faster next year, even if you harvest.

Yes it does, but it may flow down the face of the frame into the hive and make a mess, as the Flow design relies somewhat on cappings holding the honey behind a sheet of sheared off wax. If you are going to harvest a partially capped frame, I would clear it of bees and harvest it over a drip tray to catch some of the uncapped honey. However, you should know that it will also mix with the capped honey coming out of the Flow tube, so make sure you have a refractometer if you are going to store or sell the honey. Any honey that is more than 18% water should be refrigerated or frozen, and should not be sold as honey. It could be fed back to the bees though, as you suggest.


Thank you Dawn.

From your answers I conclude that I can:

  1. Harvest (perhaps over a tray to catch uncapped nectar)
  2. Take the Flow Hive super off for the winter (it represents a big unheated space)
  3. Store it without cleaning off the cappings in a place where no wax moths can corrupt
  4. Put it back on next year more ready to go than it was last time

Most of what I have read says to clean it up and then store. I like not cleaning it up better (except for any crystalized honey that is clogging things up).
It should be more attractive in the spring and lead to it being used more readily.



I’m confused I thought the bees had shown no interest in your Flow super?


Yes to all of the above, with the addition that I would freeze the frames for 48 hours and wrap tightly in plastic before storing. The freezing will kill off any wax moth and SHB eggs/larvae, and wrapping the frames will stop them from finding a meal over winter. Keep the frames in the dark, as UV light makes the plastic brittle.


One more question for now:
Why doesn’t the nectar in the Flow Hive mix in with the honey and dilute it?


I don’t understand the question. Bees are always bringing in nectar when it’s available, but they don’t mix it with the honey. They are processing the nectar into honey. So they put new nectar in cells with nectar that they are processing, not with honey they are done processing. If you mean that some of it is capped and some is not, then it’s a matter of water content. If 90% of it is capped, in my climate, then the water content of the results will be low enough to be “honey” not “nectar”. If only half of it is capped, it will probably be too wet.


I put the Flow Hive on in late March and there was no nectar or honey by late July when I received the advice that the Flow Hive is no different from plastic foundation in that a light coat of wax will encourage them to build on plastic. In the last week of July I literally smeared some wax on one side of one frame (I was leaving town for 10 days and had no time for more).

Upon my return I found that I was getting some nectar and then some capped honey ( 20% full?) and that I was hoping to reach 50%. That is now doubtful but we’ll see.

My suggestion has been that Flow Hive could put a single line in their setup instructions that goes like this: “The Flow Hive, like any other plastic foundation, might benefit from a coating of wax on each surface in order to encourage the bees to build.”

It is not really helpful to say that if you read FAQ from stem to stern, watch every video published, or just assume that because it is plastic of course you need to coat it with wax, you would know. A single line in the assembly instructions would be appropriate.

Lectures on “car companies don’t teach people how to drive,” or “it’s up to you to learn how to keep bees,” were condescending and not to the point. It is also not just about flow. My other hives are producing just fine. And the bees are making honey above the regular supers.

My plan is to harvest tomorrow. I will happily report.


I do not know how much uncapped nectar there is. My question is whatever the amount, will it flow out with the honey? I take it from your reply that it will. If it is not much it will not dilute significantly. If there is a lot of nectar then the honey will not be dense enough to consider it storable honey. Ideally the frames would be all capped but not possible this year.

Can I harvest regular frames and then move the Flow Hive frames down and let it be part of their winter store? Or should I just refrigerate the “honey” I get?


Why not get a $40 refractometer and if it is less than 18% water, you don’t have to refrigerate?
Like this one:

Very simple to use, takes about 10 seconds.


A hive is the wood boxes, plus the frames, plus bees etc. A Flow hive is the same concept. I think you mean a frame, but I might be wrong.

So do you mean mixing in the Flow frames? And do you mean when you open the frame with the Flow key? If so, it absolutely will mix. But any uncapped “almost honey” will also leak down the outside of the frame, as the wax cappings are not there to direct it into the collection channel at the bottom of the frame.


Well that’s good news, isn’t it? It would have been great if you’d included that in updating the thread? Even if it hadn’t worked out, it’s nice to hear progress reports, and all contributes to greater knowledge & experience.
I think your suggestion of [quote=“Fusion, post:8, topic:8551”]
a single line in their setup instructions

is a good idea. I think perhaps you received the replies that you did, initially, was the tone of your posts. Plus there had already been quite a lot of discussion about it on the forum already & sometimes there are complaints/queries from people when it’s obvious they haven’t really done a lot themselves towards working on a solution, or finding information.
If information is provided & you haven’t [quote=“Fusion, post:8, topic:8551”]
read FAQ from stem to stern

All that aside, I hope you find they are closer to 50% than you think, or more & that you have a great harvest. Looking forward to seeing results.


So nectar needs to be refrigerated to keep for food for the bees? How long can it be on a shelf, not refrigerated? Also, will it be good to feed as early spring food? I live in central MN and had a significant amount of nectar and honey when I removed and cleaned out my Flow frame to store for winter. I kept the nectar thinking it would be good to feed them. 1st year beekeeper :slight_smile:


This should be an interesting discussion! :smiling_imp: OK, let me tell you, I am a bit of a purist. Nectar is only nectar when it is in the plant for me, and hasn’t passed through any other organism. If you extracted something from a hive, it is either honey, or unripe honey, not really nectar. Others may disagree, but bees do so much complex stuff to nectar after they harvest it (adding enzymes, drying it out etc), that I really can’t bring myself to call it nectar any more.

OK, now we have that out of the way, phew! Any honey that you take from the hive with a moisture content above 18.5% water is at risk of fermenting from yeasts which are naturally present in the honey and the hive. It is impossible to give a shelf life. It depends on how wet the honey is, how much yeast is there, and how warm your “shelf” is. That time could be weeks to months, and if you have jarred it, you can expect some lids to be under pressure from inside!

I really think that a honey refractometer is absolutely worth purchasing. That way you can be sure whether your honey is shelf-stable or needs refrigerating or even freezing. You can buy one for under $40 from Amazon - just bug the seller for the calibration block and oil if they forget to ship it (ignore the Robot Check message and just click on the blue text):
I actually have this one, thanks to @Bobby_Thanepohn, and I really like it. Easy to use, and seems accurate so far.

So the short answer to your question is, if you are not sure about how dry your honey is, you must refrigerate or freeze it. Yes, you can feed it back to the bees any time the temperature is above 50F outside. Honey from your own hive is just about the best thing you can feed your bees, even if it isn’t fully ripe.

Sorry if it seemed like a lecture, I am really pretty friendly! Please ask more if anything isn’t clear. :blush:

One more thought, if it does begin to ferment, don’t give it back to the bees, they won’t want it.


:slight_smile: So if I refrigerate or freeze it, do you happen to know what the shelf life is then? And then to thaw or warm it up to feed it to the bees, do you have any tips? aka let set out for a day, stir, feed right from the fridge after it thaws from the freezer, etc.
Thank you for the helpful non-unfriendly answer :slight_smile:


Just about indefinite, but I would say fridge six months, and freezer several years.

Don’t feed it right from the fridge. Let it warm up to room temperature - from the fridge about 8 hours, from the freezer a day or two depending on volume. Then only feed it when outside temperature is above 50F. You could stir it, in the fridge it may crystallize, in the freezer it shouldn’t. It won’t separate otherwise though, so stirring is probably not needed :wink:


Unripe honey being refrigerated will keep at least as well as refrigerated fruit juice. Frozen, of course, it will keep indefinitely.


Guilty as charged. I’ve pulled frames out of the freezer and plopped them in the hives lol. The bees did ok with them…I guess lol


Hi- I also live in Virginia ( RVA) and was too late trying the flow last summer ( look forward to trying again this spring ) When I did put it on for a short while I had a lot ( I saw 20-25 at one time) of SHB invade. The bees were busy dealing with them and not doing much else in there so I removed the flow and killed the beetles. Did you experience any trouble with SHB in your flow? What area in Virginia do you live ? Thanks !


I live in Churchville Va, just northwest from Staunton tucked up against the George Washington National Forest.

I did not notice any beetles although I am not sure what they look like.

Where do you live?