I rewatched a few YouTube video’s on the flow frames and read the comments in the forums about less mess (leakage) each harvest.
In the video’s during the close-up shots, there are visible gaps between some segments on new frames which are obvious leak points, the wire is designed to hold the segments together in compression but the seal is minimal and it is here where there is potential for improvement. There is also a video in which during a flexing exercise the segments fall apart.
A redesign of the lower segments using a longer lip seal would reduce or eliminate the potential for leaking and would improve the rigidity of the structure which would then allow for tighter tolerances between the movable cell segments. I haven’t looked at the top of the frame but there is potential for increased rigidity being applied there as well which would potentially eliminate the need for compression wires.
A benefit of tighter tolerances on the movable cells would be the decreased amount of wax required by the bees to seal the cells which would then potentially encourage a quicker uptake by the bees to use the flow frames.
I had not really taken into consideration how well the segments seal until now, but having experienced flooding in the brood box and revisiting the potential causes it is very obvious that the potential for leakage is high in the current design and to be expected.
I don’t think that the bees initially see the segment gaps in the flow tube as an issue as there is no air flow due to the caps on the end and therefore it is uninteresting dead space until the flow starts and then it is too late and it suddenly becomes a clean-up exercise that could have been avoided.
If the frames leak less each harvest then it must be due to the bees patching up the gaps with propolis.
An alternate solution to redesign is to apply a coating of wax on the outside of the lower collection frame to seal the segments before installation.
A notice or recommendation should be included in the instructions to wax the bottom section of the flow frame before installation? May as well recommend waxing the whole frame as the debate to or not to will continue anyway, but at least it shows proactivity.
Wax coating the outside of the collection segments would not interfere with the operation of the mechanism and even if the bees take off most of the wax for use elsewhere inside the hive the chances of them removing the wax actually sealing the segments in the current design would be low.
My view is that it is better to place a fence at the top of a hill than an ambulance at the bottom!