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Brood in the Flow Frames - what to do?


Hi All,

I’m a pretty new beek, and have a flow hive I started March 19, with no queen excluder per the advice from the experienced guy I got my bees from.

Progress has been good, and last week I tried to harvest honey from a flow frame (#3) that I thought was pretty full. Looking in the rear window, the cells in back appeared almost full. When harvesting, though, the flow key was really hard to turn, and only about one pound of honey came out. On close inspection, there were larvae in the honey :frowning:

I did a hive inspection, and sure enough, there was brood comb in at least frames #3 and 4. The others looked clean but I may have missed some under the bees. So, what do I do? From sifting through these forums, I think the procedure needs to be something like this:

1. Remove the Super
2. Ensure the queen is not in the Super by taking all of the frames out and shaking/brushing all the bees on each frame into the brood box
3. Put on the queen excluder
4. Replace the Super
5. Wait "X" days until all the brood hatches -- they are likely to be drones
6. Harvest the frames that the brood was in
7. ??

Does this look about right? I am sure step #2 will be a lot of fun …
Questions –
- Since the comb in the flow frames is likely to be drones, can the drones get through the queen excluder?
- Will the bees clean the frames that the comb was in, or do I have to take any extra cleaning steps (ie, step 7)

Thanks much for any help!!


Looks pretty good, yes.

Good question, and the answer is, no they can’t. You have a couple of options in that case. One is to go out to hive every day at about noon, and lift the inner cover with a shim for an hour or two to let the drones out. My preferred option is to use a shim or an inner cover with a notch cut in it to create an upper entrance. With the gabled roof of the Flow hive, you may need to slide the roof forwards a bit to uncover the notch. Here is an example of what I mean:

You can remove the shim after 3 weeks or so, when all of the drones have hatched. There may be some burr comb to deal with because of the increased space, but it is better than cleaning up piles of dead and rotting drones stuck in the queen excluder. :wink:

Unfortunately you are not going to like this step. You really should clean the frames by dismantling and washing them in hand hot soapy water. The reason is cocoons. The bees will tidy the cells and fill them with honey, but they won’t remove the cocoons. As the cocoon effectively seals the cell, it disrupts the Flow mechanism, and you are very likely to get honey leaking from the frame face into the hive - not good for the bees if the leak is big. Some people have pulled the cocoons out with tweezers, but that is a big job too, and it doesn’t necessarily remove the larval poop which is trapped on the outside of the cocoon (and may go into your honey).

Cedar has made a nice video of how to disassemble and reassemble the frames in a couple of minutes, so it is not actually as big a job as it sounds. :blush:



Some good advice there from Dawn and Tracey, unfortunately there is no simple solution but to remove those cocoons as they are quite strong, try the tweezer method first and hopefully they will come out clean, this will save you the effort in dis-assembly/re-assembly.

Never ceases to amaze me how many ‘so called’ experienced beekeepers offer this advice. Sometimes I think they are purposely setting up Flow hives to fail. Whether you have one brood box or two, a queen excluder is crucial… not your fault Rich. I realise that some beekeepers think that the queen excluder slows down the flow of bees between the brood and super but considering that you are waiting weeks and sometimes months for the honey super to fill, what does it matter? If concerned about the damage to the worker bees wings then buy a good quality excluder with the round bars.


Cedar advises removing the QX as a means of getting the bees to start on the flow frames quicker. In that video that @Dan2 put a link to. I forget whether he issued a caution or not. He probably did.

On the subject of cocoons being tough: I agree that a buildup of cocoons maybe tough, but how tough is a single cocoon? Has anyone harvested honey from a flow frame after one generation of drones has emerged? Was it any more challenging?


Hi Jeff
I haven’t tried what you suggest but it is easy to snap a small twig with your bare hands but a bunch of them all together is not so easy.


I’ll have to incorporate that with my flow frames in the coming months. I’ll see what happens.


I think @FrederickDunn has done quite a lot of work on this question. :wink: Let’s see if I can rattle his cage/yank his chain. Love ya, Mr Dunn! :blush:


The following response from Fred might be helpful.


Thanks for all the replies! From spending some time reading this forum, it looks like most people get away with not having a QX in place … but I didn’t.

I think I will try my procedure outlined above, but can’t do it for a couple of weeks for reasons. I’ll inspect first, of course!


I think if you were going to do away with the QX, it would be a great idea to inspect any frame before harvest. It’s a great idea to inspect even with a QX in place, for other reasons. For example: some people have found SHB larvae in their honey. An inspection would not only tell you the % of caps, but also if there is anything else going on.


Actually, a lot of people have this issue and don’t mention it. But I have personally seen it half a dozen times now in my city. I think most of us eventually will find the queen somehow got into the honey super, it happened to me too… fortunately it was’nt the Flow hive, I found her and moved her back down into the brood and then replaced the queen excluder with a better quality one. Took a few weeks to sort the drones and release them from their honey super prison cell… :rofl:


Some may get away with it not having a QX in place, but some don’t. With a QX you are not gambling on having brood in the Flow Hive frames. To my thinking it is a ‘no brainer’.

Not many would admit to a fairly fundamental mistake when it isn’t caught on ‘hidden camera’:grin:


Yes, I left all of my Flow-Supers on through winter without Queen Excluders on.
The purpose was to see how they used or didn’t use the flow-frames.
Only one hive had a Queen that put her eggs in the flow-frames.
Most beekeepers assume that due to the size of the plastic Flow-Frame cells, the brood produced would be drones. In my case, they were all workers and the size of the plastic cells had no impact on the size of the workers which hatched out. (common question I receive is regarding large bees from large cells)… cell size does not impact/alter genetics.
The workers hatched, the Queen did descend to the lower brood frames as the weather warmed up. The workers cleaned out all of the cells just as they do with wax comb and repurposed the cells, returning them to honey storage.
I’ve used those frames for two subsequent honey harvests since with no problems. The first cycling was a little stiff, but aside from that, they appear to be working just fine.
I do remove all flow-supers from the hives after the fall harvest. I’m satisfied with the experiment and have no further need to see Queens laying in their plastic flow-frames :slight_smile:
During the honey producing season, I still don’t use Queen Excluders, BUT, I do have a Qeen excluder on my FlowHive 2. It’s too pretty to take a chance on :slight_smile: :wink:
My hive configuration is to have the bottom deep brood box, then another medium or deep box on top of that, then, after there is a honey barrier established above the brood, the Flow-Super goes on. I don’t have any hives where I have a single deep with a flow-super directly on top of that. All of my hives also have upper entrances which speed the delivery of nectar to the Flow-Frames as foraging bees return without tracking through the nursery. IF a colony doesn’t produce a solid honey store above the brood box, then that hive doesn’t receive a Flow-Super and what they produce is simply left on for winter.


Super helpful, thank you very much for taking the time to share all of that. :blush: :heart_eyes:


You’re very welcome :slight_smile: