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Commercial Beekeepers - How would Flow Hive best suit your needs


#1

Commercial use of the Flow Hive is something we are looking at currently as the Flow Hive has been shown to reduce labour costs dramatically.

We would love to hear what commercial beekeepers would consider the most useful features for the commercial adoption of Flow Frames in their Apiary, and this Forum is the best place to start to exchange ideas. Please feel free to respond below on how you think as a commercial beekeeper you envision this product or a commercial specific version helping your business.

thanks!
Martin


Big farm of hive
#2

Lots of reasons. Flow Hives can do away with the need to manage pest infestations in supers of honey or stickies while they are away from the hives. You won’t be caught with certain honeys granulating in combs before you could extract them. After draining the honey the super will be light to lift and remove while you work the brood box. Bulk containers can be filled at the apiary; instant room in the hives to store more honey & a lot less time running back & forth with supers. Restricting hives to one super enables them to be ready for shifting to the next honeyflow at any time, or you can get them off pollination servicing quickly if sprays are going to be used which are detrimental to bee health. Honey produced and sold can readily be traced back to the apiary and even the hive where it came from which has biosecurity and marketing implications. It is the ultimate in disease barrier systems.
Overall I think there is a lot more to gain than lose.


#3

Great Feedback Mal! We are thinking along the same lines on this. We have been talking about exactly similar ideas and exploring what creative ways we can work on to make extraction in the apiary to bulk containers less manual, and better suiting the needs of commercial users, along with other ideas specifically geared to the needs of commercial beekeepers.

In your opinion, do you ever anticipate wanting to remove the super for extraction ever? Maybe to set on top of a bulk container? Or is it best to to leave it on top of the Brood box for extraction. Would a more automated system suit your needs, or as a migratory beekeeper, do you still expect harvest to be manual?

Do you spread hives out or leave on single stacked pallets? Would hives or hive bases screwed to a pallet help in in your situation if it made extraction easier?

If you would like to discuss these ideas on general feel please free to send me a private message as possibly we can talk on the telephone if that is useful.

Martin


#4

Hello again Martin, if I didn’t have to lift a full box of honey again in my life I’d be a very happy bloke. I keep hives four to a pallet, all facing the same direction. I would drain the honey from the rear on the back hives and from the front on the front hives; I don’t envisage this as a problem if I level the pallet. As I’ve seen on a FlowHive video I would connect the Flow Frames in a box together with a manifold and drain them into a 15l bucket. (An incidental benefit of this is that the output from each hive can be weighed and recorded for comparison of queen lines). I don’t think I would want to set up plumbing between pallets because there would be too many opportunities for mishaps to occur and besides that it will all need regular cleaning. I would collect the buckets of honey on pallets and move them to bulk containers which could be located in a screened shelter or else the buckets could be taken home. Even if it took me all day working by myself to rob one of my apiaries of 96 hives I would consider myself way ahead because the honey is already extracted and I don’t have to return with empty supers. $9000 in the bank on current prices and I can do it again with another apiary the next day! I am pretty sure I wouldn’t trust anything automatic or remotely controlled. I am going to invest in scales for remote monitoring, though.
I’ll wait and see what other feedback comes up & then I’d love to discuss it with you one day on the phone.


#5

What Mal says makes sense. But this is all based on the flowhive frames being full.

What happens after that? ie, the honey is drained, then if it’s near seasons end the bees will maybe put a little honey in the box before shutting down for winter. What to do with it? I’m assuming leaving it there and it granulating would be a major problem?


#6

In my 35 years of beekeeping I’ve never seen honey granulate in my hives, no matter how long I keep it there. In neglected or abandoned hives I’ve examined, I’ve never seen granulated honey in them. Depending on the floral source, I’ve seen it granulate within days of robbing plenty of times, but that occurs outside the hive. Where I operate, bees may slow down for winter, they rarely shut down. Perhaps in areas with cold winters the honey may chill & granulate when the bees cluster; hopefully someone can enlighten me.


#7

We have been keeping bees here in Hawaii since 2004, and this is also a concern of ours. We produce single floral kiawe honey. If we don’t get to extracting it within three weeks of capping, it will crystallize in the frame. We lost so much of our honey in the first few years due to crystallization. Then we figured out a way to capitalize on the crystallized honey as comb honey. It’s just a bear to harvest. We have been anxiously waiting for our flow boxes to come so we can see how it works with kiawe honey (known to crystallize quickly).

We do see that this will allow us to get to our honey for extraction more readily, allowing us to sell more bottled honey (what we do best) and less comb honey (what we’re not set up for). We are thinking that we would open all the flow boxes every three weeks on a regular rotational basis. If you have to overwinter, I’d open the flow valve before winter and remove it, assuming you have enough space in the brood boxes to allow the bees enough of their own honey to eat over the winter. We don’t overwinter here as our blossoms continue around the calendar depending on the rain, but if we did, I’d remove the flow boxes first.

To answer the question of how this would help our commercial honey operation, I would have to say that being able to harvest with so little manpower output will be huge for us. We end up losing a lot of liquid honey just because we couldn’t get to all the hives within the three week period.

Since the introduction of small hive beetle to our island in 2011, we have to extract within 24-48 hours of harvest or the beetles will take over and slime it out. So we’ve had to harvest one day, extract the next, bottle the next, and so we only take what we can do in one day. Now, we look forward to the possibility of doing the harvesting and extracting at the same time–in the apiary! I agree, if I never have to lift another 60#+ full super again in my life, I will be happy. This ol’ gray mare ain’t what she used to bee. :slight_smile:


#8

Now that I’ve had a couple of months to think this over in anticipation of the arrival of our FlowHive equipment, I have a great deal of confidence that my small investment will pay huge dividends even in the first year.

Here’s what I see: Harvesting and extracting honey will be completed at the same time, same location, and in one simple step–that is HUGE! When we are able to bottle our product in the field (here in the US), it makes the regulatory process so much easier. There are fewer inspection stations and lower fees for certifications. That’s a savings in itself.

I can see myself using a system that allows me to harvest many frames at once. I anticipate about 30 minutes drain time for each frame, so it would make sense for me to turn on a bunch at the same time. What I’m thinking I will do is modify a lid to one of my honey buckets so it will have holes for the tubes to enter, then I’ll place a bucket at the back of each hive and let it flow. I can see myself setting up a hive with a bucket and tubes, opening the valves, then going on to the next. I may have to invest in longer tubing so I can position my bucket to the side of the hive for those that have a back-to-back set up. I generally have the hives on a stack of 3 pallets, four to a pallet. They are most often back to back.

When we started this operation back in 2004, we had a family of six with lots of momentum, manpower, and motivation. Now we’re down to our last two daughters as the others have flown the hive. :slight_smile: It’s been the most wonderful way to raise our children to see the value of work and have such rewarding work. They knew they were doing something special for the bees as we got every one of our 100+ hives from feral bee removals. We were saving the bees even before it became a popular thing to do. We were also able to produce a honey that has been labeled the best honey in the world from our customers all over the world. That’s a blessing we hadn’t counted on. Our single varietal kiawe honey come out clear, and crystallizes rapidly into a white semi-solid smooth textured delicacy.

That brings me to a concern with this set up. Right now when the honey isn’t extracted within three weeks of the bees capping it, it will crystallize right in the hive. We then cut it out and sell it to local chefs as comb honey. It’s a labor intensive job. With these Flow Frames, we won’t be able to cut it out. I’m planning to open the valves every three weeks just to make sure no honey is crystallizing in the frame. If I want to take a break from harvesting or go on vacation, I’ll have to remove the Flow Frames, I’m guessing.

Another benefit I’m expecting is that there won’t be any place for small hive beetles to hide. I’m hoping we can still fit our BeetleBlasters between two of the frames to keep the population down. If not, we will have to reposition them. Occasionally we will have pollen or bee bread in the honey supers, so I’m not sure what will happen with that. I’m guessing it would block the channel for the honey flow when the valve is opened.

Right now we use queen excluders above our brood boxes, so I’m assuming that would be the norm with FlowHive as well.

My biggest concern is the crystallizing of our honey. If we can work around that by opening the valves regularly, then I am hoping to replace all my honey supers with FlowBoxes. That will be a huge outlay of funds, but it should pay off in a short time with the saving of time. I’m guessing I’ll just need one per hive since it will be easy to just empty it when it gets full rather than put another super on top. I’m not sure if that will be the same since there are usually enough bees to fill up the added supers. I can see this will be a trial and error just like the rest of beekeeping. :wink:

If anyone has been able to figure out answers to any of my questions, I would appreciate hearing about them. I am set to receive my first FlowBox in December. I only ordered one box to see how it will work with my honey. If anyone gets theirs first, I’d love to hear your experiences of doing this on a larger scale.


#9

Hi @MalA Mal, I’ve never had honey crystallize hard in the frames, however I’ve had lots of sugar crystals left behind in the frames. The honey I extracted this week has lots of sugar crystals in it, so it wont take long for that lot to crystallize. I strain mine through Termimesh at room temp & there’s plenty of crystals sitting on top after each bucket. Apparently honey does crystallize in the hives & all the bees have to do is use a bit of water to reliquify it again. I wonder if the bees can convert snow just outside the hive into water for that purpose.


#10

This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.


#11

As one who keeps bees on pallets, with four colomies to a pallet, I cannot figure any sensible way to arrange the boxes so honey could be extracted using flow frames. In theory it all sounds good and the proponents makes it seem it’s less labor intensive, but when you are working with 1600 colonies stacked 3 deep, there is going to be far more labor to really make it work. For instance, using the pallets we do, we would need to reduce the colonies to two sets per pallet so the backs of frames are well exposed so we could efficiently remove honey using the flowframes, This means having to get a couple semi loads of more pallets and double up space for all to do this. From a commercial POV; besides cost associated, I’ve yet to see or hear the cost for commercial keepers. As far as labor saving I don’t see it at all not as long as you look at all labor involved. Not to mention that bigger beekeepers usually sell by products from beekepping too. Propolis, pollen etc. These by products will be greatly reduced if a large commercial operator would switch to all flow frames. There is also the trips bees make to California each season to pollinate the Almonds and other warm climate produce. If I had to spend the large amount of money on flow frames, I don’t think I’d be sending them anywhere near California nor would it be feasible. I have a very hard time envisioning this flow frame for being anything more than the very small bee farmer or backyard hobbyist. So far just to save labor on extracting honey isn’t very convincing, not when you factor in all aspects of being a commercial keeper.


#12

Hi @tony, I agree that using the flow hive commercially would require some serious changes in the approach that people use, and for some the costs and time involved in changing systems may make it not so viable. But I do think once you figured out a good way to set up the hives. Perhaps using wider palates and leaving a gap between the hives or using different shaped palates and fitting 3 or 4 across rather than 4 in a square shape. Then you would have a set up that can be easily moved with a forklift.

There are a number of other ways you could run large apiaries such as placing hives on a large trailer or semi trailer with access to the backs of the hive down the middle of the trailer. This way you could move all the hives without a forklift. The hives could be opened using a pneumatic system and piped straight into a tank. It would still require the usual inspections to check for ripe honey and which frames to extract.

As far as getting propolis and pollen, I guess this invention can’t be everything to every one.

I see you are giving the idea of using the flow hive commercially some serious thought. If you come up with methods of managing your beehives that you think would work we would love to hear from you. We are working on pricing for commercial operators as well as various systems that will save time for commercial beekeepers.

Please contact us click on the commercial button. http://www.honeyflow.com/contact/p/3 and we will keep you updated or see what price we can offer for larger orders.


#13

hello Tony, I can’t see that it matters whether you drain flow frames from the front or back of hives, or pallets; ie the exposed sides, as long as the pallet is fairly level. The potential in achieving a premium price for the honey would influence my decision on using the frames commercially. If I was a bit younger I reckon I’d give them a go; at my age I need to think long & hard at the pros & cons of outlaying a fair bit of money.


#14

I’d like to add my two cents worth. We hear a lot in Australia about beekeepers being an ageing group with the average age close to sixty. There is a lot of talk about encouraging more younger people to start commercial beekeeping. I would say while I’m no teenager but at 45yr old i’m not ready for the nursing home just yet. Trouble is beekeeping on even a smallish scale isn’t that cheap to get into. Once you get above being a hobbyist the outlay for plant is considerable. So, since the introduction of Flow hive I have thought seriously about changing from hobby beekeeper to a being small commercial operator. I have spent a fair bit of time musing over the cost of an extraction plant plus a new shed to house it and all the odds and ends that go along with it. Then spare supers, hot rooms, cool rooms and somewhere to put them and on it goes. You all know what I am on about. Then I think about what it would cost me to set up using Flow hives and while it is still a considerable outlay, when you look at the big picture it doesn’t seem to bad. I am not talking about thousands of hives just something I can manage by myself. For someone thinking about starting from scratch the Flow hive is very appealing. Because basically the Flow hive is my plant. I am not some dill who thinks that Flow will give my a life on easy street and realise that bees are livestock and to be profitable they take looking after and hard work. Thanks for reading.


#15

Hi everyone,

It’s been a few months now since any lines were dropped on the commercial possiblties board.
Has anyone got any info/experience with the Flow Hive in a commercial environment yet?

We are still waiting for our first Flow Hive to arrive, and being in the Highveld in South Africa, we still need to see if our African bee is going to accept the larger cell. If it does, we are very keen to move forward with the flow hive system on a commercial level.
So any any input will be well received.

Flanjet


#16

Late reply here, but I mostly know commercial keepers and am myself working toward that end. My state has me listed as a commercial operator because I have more than 5 colonies and sell honey and my yards have to be registered. That being said most of the commercial guys I know wouldn’t buy flow hives unless the cost were dropped dramatically. When you have $100,000.00 or more tied up in extraction equipment, bottling equipment and such, the current cost of the flow hive does not out-weigh the labor involved with current extraction processes. Flow Hive Team and it followers have poo-pooed my comments several times on this but if you look at the actual buyer ratio of hobbyist vs commercial keepers on here, it’s my opinion that most every buyer here is new or an older hobbyist and once this phenomena wears off I do believe Flow sales will drop dramatically. For my own self I will not buy another one until the prices are slashed way down but I did buy one to try it and have yet to see how it will work, but it is sitting on a hive under a medium super and we are waiting to see if the bees will take to it.


#17

hi;

has anyone big farm of hive ?
how much tones are you doing per year ?


#18

Hi flanjet, i see you are from the Highveld in SA, well I would like to know more about your experience with the flow hives, if you please as we are very keen to start flow hiving… we are situated in Middelburg … God Bless!!


#19

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#20

Simply due to having a business entity for my beekeeping, I’m technically a commercial beekeeper. However, it’s rather low scale, just a backyard apiary - essentially a hobby growing into a micro-mini-kinda-sorta business.

I intend to setup my Flow Hive frames this year. It’ll be just experimental at this point. Perhaps the Flow Hive might be viable for small scale operations. I’m anxious to see how it goes for me anyway.