Dead bees, and swarming?

I opened and harvested some honey a few days ago and all seemed fine except the bees started building comb between the flow frames.

Today I just found a pile of dead bees (a couple of hundred) dead, or dying under the hive. There were also a nother couple of hundred outside on a corner.

I’m in Perth, Western Australia and am very worried - what should I do?

Did you open the Flow frames in small sections, or the whole frame at once? Did you open more than one frame at once? Did you see any honey leakage from the bottom of the hive? Did you see a lot of bearding after you harvested?

One thing that has come up in the Forum many times is that the hive can get flooded with honey if you open the whole frame in one go. The problem is that the Flow tube develops an airlock, which pushes honey back into the hive. It then drips over the brood box, drowning bees if there is a lot of it. Most people now open frames in 20% sections or less, and wait 5 mins or so before opening the next section. That helps to avoid the airlock problem.

I would inspect the hive again in the next day or two, so that you can see if the queen is alive and if you still have plenty of bees. I hope everything is OK, but please let us know, and we will try to help more.

Thanks Dawn. I’m only harvested 1 frame and I opened it all at once but I insert and twist the key I small pieces.

Yes it did flood and never had that happen before. Honey dripped from the bottom but I still harvested 2.2kg so I guess not much was lost. No bearding was noticed after I harvested or since.

Since I noticed comb between the flow frames I assumed honey leaked from there somehow when I opened the frames. It is actually now a pain to take the flow frames out.

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OK, then I think that is your problem. Twisting the key just a little bit doesn’t really help. The frames are either open or closed. Once they are open, you can’t really control the flow from the channel. Next time just put the key in about 5-10cm, turn it, wait a few mins, look at the Flow tube. If the tube is less than half full, push the key in another 10 cm and try again. Here is video we made on how we harvested, trying to avoid flooding (successfully):

If you only drained one frame, I personally think your hive will be fine. Yes, a few hundred bees died, but you learned something, and next time will be smooth and easy for you and the bees. :blush:

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To add my 2 bobs worth, if you harvested 2.2 kilos, there is a possibility that nearly a kilo of honey flooded onto the brood. That’s a LOT of honey to flood onto the brood. I agree with Dawn, definitely do a brood inspection or engage professional help to do so…

PS, I see your location is near Perth. No SHB issues there I believe. It’s probably more important to inspect the brood if SHBs are in the area.


Thanks all.

I was totally unaware of this flooding problem. Never happened before and the videos on honey flow website seem to show the frames opened in one go.

It is such a shame I killed so many bees.

I will inspect the brood but i guess there won’t be much I can do, except let them re collect the honey.

OK, so this morning it seems to be like twice as much bees both dead under the hive, and swarming on the outside corner. (BTW, is that swarming, or bearding?)

Should I try to catch those in the corner and put them back in? If that’s the case what is the best way to do it? Should I put them on the brood frames (limited space), or in the roof space? Or just let them sort themselves out?


For starters that hill wallaby looks more like a maggie!
Being where you are I would imagine you have as much flowering as I have around my area, bugger all… We’re currently in a dearth and last thing I would be doing now is harvesting, more robbing at this time. Do they have many more stores? I see the stores in my colonies slowly diminishing at the mo.
As for the flooding issue, well it’s been discussed frequently on this site and cracking the whole frame at once as advertised often causes overflowing especially if lower cells aren’t capped. I have never had overflow issues as I have incrementally marked the keys and open 20% at a time and open each increment keeping an air gap in the tubes. I prefer using the term overflow as flooding is the result of this.
Robbing at this time of year is an issue as most of our bees are Italian decent and they are reknown for this. Are you seeing any robbing?
Fortunately we don’t have shb as Jeff says and I’m sure your colony will sort itself out.
But please keep us informed.

Yes you are right, flowering is pretty much zero. However, I planned for this single frame harvest in advance as I had my parents visiting from europe and wanted to show them how it works. They still have plenty of honey left as the previous harvest in spring was minimal.

I didn’t come across the flooding issue and I should be visiting the forum more often I guess as i always pick up something new.

So… what you do is insert the key 20%, drain, then repeat. Right?

So now having seen the Flow Hive hype you are hearing how it SHOULD be done from the engine room - the users of Flow hives.
Mark the length of the key into 20% lengths with a texta pen and insert the key to the 1st mark and turn it 90 degrees. Turning it less than the 90 degrees is a no-no. When the honey flow in the tube has almost stopped insert the key to the next mark and repeat, and so on till the whole of the frame is drained then close all of the cells once the honey has stopped draining.
Don’t assume a frame is all capped and ready for extracting, physically take the frame out of the super and SEE all the cells are capped. You can then extract the frame out of the hive or refit it to the hive to do it. Un-capped frames can cause flooding of the hive.
Leave the bees to clean up the mess and to remove the dead bees, your job is to do a bit of research and reading in the forum and know better about what you are wanting to do. Don’t feel too bad about your mistakes, only if you continue to make them. :thinking::grin: Use your forum to ask for how we manage our hives. Sorry if I have sounded harsh towards you, please consider it was all preventable.

I’m in WA too. I harvest the frame in 25% increments and wait AT LEAST 15mins between each increment, followed by a further 10-15mins after I’ve closed the frames before taking away the tubing.

To help with the opening of the frames I just put marks on the flow key. Insert, turn, remove. Wait. Repeat.

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Hi Peter, with respect. Your quote: “Don’t feel too bad about your mistakes”. I don’t think any mistakes were made by trying to harvest the honey by copying how it’s done on the flow website.


a few things- that’s not ‘swarming’; that’s bearding. has it been crazy hot there? Also it’s odd that the bees have bearded at the rear of the hive- normally they beard at the front above/below the entrance. does that side cop the full sun? I’m just wondering if something other than leaking honey is going on. We have had leaks- and never had any pile of dead bees afterwards. And we have harvest all 6 frames at once- whereas you only harvested the one. Whilst a flow frame can hold up to 3.5 KG’s we find an average of maybe 2.5- so chances are the amount of honey that leaked was not that great.

If you have easy access to your hive (it’s at home) harvest when you are going to be around for the day- insert the key 20% and turn- then set a timer for half an hour and go off and do other things while the frame drains- repeat over the day until it’s done. If possible harvest just 1 or 2 frames a day. Use a bucket with holes in the lid and clear tubing so you can leave the hive as the honey drains without worrying about bees getting interested and drowning in honey. If you follow this simple system leaks are reduced to a minimum. Having said that: as I mentioned we have harvest all 6 at once- in one go- and never had any signs that it hurt the colony.

Did the harvest and the leak happen during a heatwave?

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I understand the way it is done on the web site Jeff, but from personal experience I have changed my way of harvesting to what other Flow Hiver’s have modifying their way of harvesting to. I had mass leaking on my first harvest with flooding and went to the forum to find the cause of the problem. I also found valuable tips about checking each frame by eyesight as well instead of assuming the cells were capped from the window. Since following the tips I have had harvesting with no issues.

Maybe I should have said ‘There is a way of harvesting a flow frame other than how they show on the site so there is less risk of mistakes’. My first harvest doing it as per done on the Flow Site near brought me to stop using the Flow Hive, it broke my heart to see dead bees and honey running out of the hive. Flow know of the issues but last I looked at their videos it is still ‘just shove the key in and turn it and the honey flows out of the tube into your jars’ That is the impression the clips give and that is not as I have found it is best.

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Thanks Peter for your advice, though not sure what you mean by that. Flow hive hype? I don’t think so. BTW, I am a flow hive user too and been so for 2.5 years. Admittedly I am not an experienced beekeeper, but no one was born so I guess.

I do go to talks on beekeeping and borrow books from the library every now and then, but not an avid internet user unfortunately. I did however followed the instructions.


Hi Semaphore, I see bearding when it is very hot, and they congregate at the entrance. When this happened it was 28C so not bad at all. Today it is 35C. I thought they might be interested in swarming and leaving the hive as I never saw them group in the corner like that. My hive is in partial shade as it does get really hot in summer here.

Another curious thing is why the dead bees were under the hive. They can’t fall through…

I usually harvest 3 frames and open each in one go and never had a leak before. I also get around 2.5kg from each frame.

Yes… it happened about 5 days after I harvested. My first thought was if someone tried to spray them. My hive is visible and accessible from the road. It is a no-through road and I give honey to the lady next door and opposite…

I wonder if where your bees were congregating on the corner if it was on the shady side of the hive so they could be in the coolest place. Normally they hand about above or below the entrance.
The Flow Hive hype was how the clips simplify the harvesting of the honey and I haven’t seen any clips on what can go wrong, the cause, and how to adjust the harvesting to rectify an issue.
Cheers Magpie

Ahhh. that is so true Peter, and I cannot agree more. My first problem I had was that my bees simply refused to use the flow frames. Stubbornly refused… and I still think they are using them reluctantly.

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I read about bees not using the flow frames before I bought mine so when I was setting them up I decided to experiment with one with wax on the comb as advised on this forum and the 2nd just washed with water and dried. The results were so very obvious to me. I used melted wax and brushed it on with a daggy old paint brush.

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Hi Peter, your quote: " it broke my heart to see dead bees and honey running out of the hive". I don’t blame you. The “beekeeper’s dream” might just be a myth.

What I think the beekeeper’s dream is to see well earned beautiful straight frames of fully capped honey, alternatively beautiful straight frames of sealed worker brood. I have some of the former outside waiting for me to bring inside to extract.

Cheers Pete.