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Conflicting advice on when to add Flow Box


#1

I wonder if I can get clarification on the recommended time for adding the Flow Box. I live in Central CA and have finally (after 4 years of trying to be a beekeeper) over-wintered 3 hives, YAY! So, the girls are building up nicely and the nectar flow should be full on very shortly.

I had been advised in the past to configure my hives with 2 deep brood boxes and not to add the Flow Box until those deeps were about 80% full of bees. However, in reading through the recommendations from the Flow Hive Team, they recommend adding the Flow Box on top of ONE deep brood box and then adding a second deep brood box underneath the lowest one AFTER the bees have started filling the Flow Frames.

This latter procedure makes a lot of sense to me as it seems to encourage the bees to move up and start using the Flow Frames earlier than they would otherwise. I am interested to hear from West Coast beeks on what they think of that idea. Thank you.

Louise
California


#2

Hate it. :blush:

If you need 2 brood boxes, you should make sure your bees have that first. Then add the Flow super later. Just my 2 cents. :wink:


#3

Could you please expound on that a bit to help me understand why you hate it? I have never used two deeps before, but largely because I have never been lucky enough to have my bees overwinter successfully as I did this year. Therefore, I have had to start a new hive each year and it seems they take such a long time to get going that I never even harvest any honey until the October or November. I’m not contradicting your answer (that’s why I asked for help), just trying to understand why you answered as you did.


#4

I hate it because it puts harvest before bees. I think we should only harvest when the bees already have an excess and enough to last over winter. If you harvest early in California, and we get a drought with a prolonged nectar dearth, it will take a pretty experienced beekeeper to nurture the hive through the rest of the season. The advice might be just fine in a subtropical non-arrid climate, but it is horrible advice for most parts of the US in terms of the likelihood of the bee colony surviving in the hands of a new beekeeper.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the concept of the Flow super. I just hate the concept that we might be able to look after brood boxes differently in a Flow hive from a traditional hive. In many climates, that seems like a recipe for disaster. :blush:


#5

Thank you Dawn, that is understandable. I appreciate your expanded
explanation!!


#6

Agree so much
The concept of the Flow was “to be kinder to the bees” not to factory farm them.


#7

I thought you might be interested in the response I got from the Flow Team upon relaying your responses, Dawn and Dee to my original post:

__I’d like to confirm that yes, priority for the health of the hive surpasses the priority for harvesting. _

__We recommend that you run one Flow Super to start with after your Brood box is well established, this is to allow the bees to focus their energy on building the initial wax foundations on the cells, which demonstrates that they are well on their way to becoming familiar with the Flow Frames in order to trust and use them to store their honey. As soon as they have started to add wax and propolis to the frames you can add an additional brood box if this is needed for your climate. This will delay the bees from adding honey to the super, however, it is our hope that they shall continue to use the flow frames once the second brood box is full.

We understand that in some climates it is a necessity for the survival of the hive to run two full brood boxes, however, you need to consider that the steps of establishing a new hive should be taken in the warmer months when there is plenty of food available for the bees. Therefore, this step can easily be factored in the process.

Louise


#8

Hi Louise, thank you for the feedback. I see their argument, and maybe the experiment should be done. However, I will not be doing it that way, and neither will I recommend that method.

My remaining concerns are:

  1. These instructions are pretty complicated for a novice (which is the majority of Flow hive owners at the moment). The risk of misunderstanding or mis-timing is quite high, based on what I have seen from new beekeepers.
  2. I get the feeling that the advice is rooted in the customer concern about hive reluctance to use the Flow super. There are better ways to address that problem than this method (like painting or rubbing the plastic with wax)
  3. Adding a super, then adding another brood box before the super is full will triple the space that the bees have to defend and heat. I think this could be a major stress in SHB areas, and not helpful in areas prone to mid-season nectar dearths, when the bees can’t use the empty space.

Just my humble opinions. I know they are doing their best, but my opinion differs on how to focus on the well-being of my colonies.


#9

Agree with all Dawn’s and Louise’s points.
It’s all easy in subtropical, but once we deal with way below zero winters and major dearths, needing 2 brood boxes, beginners either need to be avid on line learners or need good mentoring.
In any case, experience can only be gained by doing and a desire to learn and understand.
I am seeing a few initial flow hive enthusiasts cropping up now, who don’t know how to even harvest and never ever checked their brood box.
Hoping to pick up a few used flow hives on special for my dream boutique apiary. There sure will be a lot of swarms around come spring.
All good, as all will be put to good use by those who did their studies.


#10

The concern is the bees don’t like the Flow frames. The idea is to overcrowd one brood box and force the bees through the excluder and leave them no choice but to work the Flow Frames. Once they’ve done some work up there, add the second brood box and once full, add the Flow super and the bees will be more likely to return to it since they’ve already placed wax in there.


#11

Yes, I think that is what caught my eye initially when searching through the Flow site. I’ve had problems in the past getting the bees to use the flow frames. I think I balked at the idea of having to fill up 2 deep brood boxes before I could add the flow super because, prior to this year, I had not been successful in getting my bees to overwinter and had to start over every year. Therefore, it took a long time to build up the population.

I appreciate Dawn’s comments about using caution not to provide too much hive space that the population cannot defend from hive beetles and bad weather. From personal experience I learned that lesson. I may try what you suggest and add the flow super on top of one deep to force use; then remove it and add another deep brood box. I guess I’ll never know if I don’t give it a try.


#12

please remember that I am only a first year beekeeper and nowhere near as experienced as others who have contributed here.

I am not familiar with your local climatic conditions- I come from Adelaide Australia and our weather is described as ‘Mediterranean’ it certainly isn’t subtropical. Also we do not have the same issues that face beekeepers in other countries or even other parts of Australia: we have no veroa, I have seen no SHB, and we don’t have CCD.

However I think in some ways and some areas the California weather is similar to ours?

Currently between my brother, mother and I - we have 5 hives running flow frames. None of them has a second brood box and none has more than 10 frames of brood (most of them are 8 frame hives). To date (touch wood) we have had great success- harvesting may kilos of honey over the season this year. All colonies seem well.

One of my hives has had a (hybrid) flow super on it for three months- and the bees have yet to fill a single cell frame. However it is the odd one out- every other hive the bees have taken to the flow frames at different speeds.

We never added a super until the brood boxes were quite full- every comb fully drawn- lots of bees, etc. .

As far as bees ignoring flow frames- it seems to me like this mostly occurs when they are not yet ready to store large amounts of excess honey for whatever reason. If the bees are ready- they do not have issues taking to flow frames (in my experience). By way of example I had one very strong swarm caught hive: when I placed the flow frames on it I was amazed to see that they had filled out all the cracks with wax within 24 hours- and were laying in nectar within a few days. 6 weeks later the super is nearly full. Another swarm took over two months before they did much work on the frames at all- then they abruptly started and had entirely filled them within a few weeks. I harvested and they filled them again within a few weeks.

If it is really true that in your area no one ever runs hives with a single brood box successfully- then perhaps what I am saying is not relevant to you.

However- if I was you- I would be tempted to see if I can run a hive with just a single brood. From reading on this forum it seems like there are quite a few cases where people try to build up two full brood boxes- then add the flow- only to see that the season comes to an end before the bees can do anything much at all in the flow box. If your plan is to remove the flow super overwinter- then you would have to harvest whatever unripe nectar was in it- and hope for better luck next year.

If I was you- and I had more than one flow colony- I think I would be tempted to see if I could get away with running a single brood box as a test for at least one colony.

whilst it is true the bees should always come first- if that means that they can never fill a single flow super over a season just once- then you may as well run a top bar hive or whatever and forget all about flow hives… I want my colonies to thrive and survive- but if I am honest the reason I have a flow super is I also want to be able to harvest excess honey! the two should not be mutually incompatible.

Still as I said- I am not the expert and I do not know what your conditions are.

good luck with whatever you decide.


#13

Thank you very much Michelle, for taking the time to answer. I can relate to so much of it. I live on the central coast of California where the temperatures are quite moderate. It is a Mediterranean climate, but quite a bit of coastal influence so we don’t have really cold winters or hot summers. We do have issues with varroa, and I had an issue one year with SHB (likely because I left too many supers on the hive for the bees to defend).

I am going into my 4th season of beekeeping, but this is the first season that my bees have overwintered. This was largely due to MY mismanagement, I will admit. I didn’t treat sufficiently for varroa. A year ago, I lost an entire hive due to pesticide (sudden death of the whole colony). Currently, I have 3 hives that over-wintered and are just now starting to get fairly active.

I bought my initial Flow equipment in the “fund me” campaign (3 frames) and my husband modified a box for me. Those frames in the hybrid flow box were pretty much ignored by my bees the first season and have never been drawn out. I was only using one deep and one standard honey super. I think, in that case, the hive population decreased due to varroa before they could use the Flow frames as they didn’t have enough nectar coming in.

Last season, I started again by buying 2 packages of bees and rescuing one swarm. Again, the hybrid flow box went onto one of the packaged hives on top of a single brood box/single honey super . But, by the time the Flow was added, just as you have pointed out, it was getting too late in the season and the bees never worked it.

I had better luck with the swarm that I put into my new Full Flow Hive last year. I added 2 honey supers on top of the single deep brood box and the Flow box on top of that. The bees drew out all 6 of the honey frames and sealed off about 3 of those before varroa struck again and the population started to decline. I finally harvested those flow frames in mid-October even though some of the cells were not capped. I had to remove the flow box immediately to treat for varroa, and almost lost this hive.

For the 2017 season, I will have 2 full flow hives (one brand new, never worked; one completely drawn out and 3 frames still with cappings after harvest) and 1 hybrid hive (cracks filled but never filled with nectar). I think I am going to follow your suggestion and try running a single brood box as a test on one of those 3 hives. Things are starting earlier here than they have in past years, and there should be a really good nectar flow due to all the rain we have been blessed with (after about 7 years of drought). I guess it is now or never. Again…thanks for your comments. I’ll report back!


#14

Oh what happened ?? I feel like i am reading a mystery and didn’t get the pages that the story moved to? Not ended of course!!


#15

Well, I suppose you are referring to my results, so here is my update. We had an extraordinary bee season here in 2017. As a result, it was all I could do to keep up with having enough space to avoid swarming. In fact, one of the 3 hives I had did swarm in spite of having 2 full brood boxes plus a honey super then the Flow Frames. I ended up with lots of honey, but still 2 of the three Flow boxes did not get used much as a result of placing a honey super below it. I only harvested from one Flow Box.

This year, my strategy will be to continue with 2 deeps and then the Flow Hive. One of my Flow boxes is a hybrid with only 3 flow Frames and 4 standard frames (2 on either side of the Flows). The bees continually want to fill up the standard frames and are reluctant to use the Flows. So, this year I am going to use “follower boards” instead of the standard frames. These are falso frames that occupy the space of the standard frames and force the bees to use the Flows.

I have one hive that has no problems using the Flow Frames. I’ve harvested from that hive over the last 2 seasons. The others just don’t seen to take to them, even though I have switched unused frames out with those used by the other hive, etc. I think I have just given them other options they prefer. This year I hope to manage that better.


#16

Darn It Dawn … being my Flow-forum acess got messed up n I was locked … I sure missed some active fun discussion!

Sure good to have that mess ironed out !

Ta Ta,

Gerald


#17

Louise,

I’m up here in Western Washington … not had my bees store much either in the Flow-Supers (a 6 n a 7 frame) but not the equipment or bees fault. 2017 … they did start the center three frames… but between mites n then summer ended being 6 weeks of very hot n dry weather (weird for us) everything shiveled up n die … so my girls rearranged n took it all down stairs…

Hmmm ! Like you … I’m crossing my finger that mites, weather, foraging n yellow jackets issues change some … Would be nice to experience a fair to nice harvest … not counting my chickens :rooster:/ honey before next fall.

Good luck down there in Cali,

Gerald


#18

Sounds good. It doesn’t take long to realise that simply adding space doesn’t stop bees swarming. At least you’re lucky that you get some honey. If our hives swarm here in uk it’s bye bye any sort of crop.