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Flow frames not in the first year in areas with a real winter?



After talking to local beekeepers (since I don’t have the first clue), I don’t think I will use my flow frames in the first year. I live in Portland, Oregon, and am waiting for two nucs with locally bred bees. They aren’t the top honey producers, but on the plus side, they are said to be pretty hardy. I’m also told not to expect to harvest any honey in the first year. That’s fine with me, but it also means I’m not going to even use the flow frames until 2017.

I’m curious to hear opinions from others in this area.

Also, there is some interest from those other beekeepers to try out the flow frames. I’d loan them out, but does it make sense for them to put a single, or maybe two, flow frames into their hive? Or would you not want to mix flow frames with traditional? Also, if I loan them out, how do I clean and disinfect them upon return?




I can’t tell you about Portland, as I am in SoCal, but our local beekeepers rarely harvest in the first year of a new colony here. It is very important to get a strong colony in double deep brood boxes first. You may be able to harvest, but I wouldn’t rely on it.

It is very generous of you to consider loaning out the frames. I would suggest loaning out the whole super, otherwise they are going to be hard to harvest. But I would loan them out for a fee, just like your club may do with a honey extractor centrifuge. That would cover wear and tear and clean up. I am not going to be loaning mine out, but maybe I am just mean… :imp:

Cedar (founder and co-inventor of Flow) says you can clean up the frames with just hot water. If you are really worried, I don’t see why you couldn’t add a very small amount of bleach to the hot water, then rinse well afterwards.


Loan out your virgin flow frames? Shock horror! No mine all mine unless they don’t work in the uk then my local BKA can have them…


I let my nucs build up to three 8 frame deeps Usually 1-1/2 years and then add honey supers. I’m in southern New Jersey. Winters are typically 20’s at night and 40’s during the day.

I wouldn’t loan out my frames unless I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the user didn’t have AFB or was treating to suppress AFB.


Thanks for the responses. It’s good to know this is standard practice elsewhere, too. Three deeps - wow, then again, you have a colder winter in NJ than we have here in the PNW. Is there a queen excluder in there somewhere during the first year to year-and-a-half?



There is never a queen excluder in any of the years lol. The queen lays where she pleases and with the correct amount of brood nest has no desire to move up into the honey supers. I believe excluders place undo stress on the bees and queen and shorten the life of the bees through stress and having to squeeze through the excluder. Drones can’t get through the queen excluder either therefore creating more congestion in the brood nest.


Interesting, I like your thinking. Thanks!



Go with the flow (literally and figuratively). If the bees have filled enough to get through the winter then go ahead and add the flow frames.



@holger, I’ve heard the same advice about waiting on putting the flow frames in, so the bees have enough supply for Northern Va winters. One member of our club recommended that we let the bees fill a full deep super with the early spring (sugar syrup) honey, then take those frames out, freeze them, and bring them back after the harvest season. If I get just 1 flow frame into my super this year, I’ll be happy.

My bee mentor is pretty interested in the flow frames, so I may loan the super out to him during the early harvest…but I haven’t completely sold myself on that idea yet.


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I can see no reason why you couldn’t get a honey flow in the first year. The trick would be to start off with a strong colony.

Put out some swarm traps, put your name down with the council for swarm removals. Advertise on Gumtree “free bee removals” etc. etc.


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Prime Swarm followed by a Cast Swarm ( or 2 or 3)


Yeah well, if they can prevent that from happening, they should get a honey crop in that season.


Absolutely. A lot of new beekeepers do not realise how keeping your colony productive is affected by swarming or indeed splitting them to make nucs…forget your crop in that case, especially living in the UK where the season is not so long as maybe the west coast of the USA and Australia. Caught swarms, especially if they are afterswarms are useful for bolstering a weaker colony. After AS I try to re-unite the colonies keeping the new queen but you have to be careful as in a good year they will try to swarm again. There is nothing wrong with swarming. It is the bees’ way of reproducing but if you want a honey crop you have to control it.

It is a fascinating phenomenon and Thomas Seeley’s account of his research into swarming behaviour is an absolute gem that everybody should read. It is important to understand why and how afterswarms happen and how the bees deal with their newly emerging queens. Fascinating.


Nice little video with some of the communication visible here:


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