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Flow Hive in Bangkok - experience so far


#1

After about 2 years in storage I was finally able to set up my Flow Hive. I live in the outskirts of Bangkok in Thailand, mostly urban area with a lot of gardens. My garden is also nicely developing, there seems to be enough flowers around.
I received my European bees from a Thai bee farm, where they normally collect a lot of sunflower honey. When the original hive was brought I placed it in my garden for 2 weeks, so the bees were used to the new environment.
Then I transferred the frames to the new Flow brood box. The bees were not at all disturbed by their new home.
One think I saw quickly is that they started to close the gaps in the flow-frames and they have been doing this now for about 2 months. I did not prepare the Flow frames with wax or anything.

Last inspection looked good, a lot of new brood, drones, a queen and a LOT of bees. I see the bees flying in with a fair amount of pollen. No signs of any disease, luckily.
However, despite the activity in the Flow part, not one cell up there has yet been filled with honey… seems that the honey flow is not high yet, here in this area.

I guess I have to be patient.

Is there anyone else with experience in this area (Thailand) , with hardly any season, just non stop warm and at times wet, but still flowers all year around?

Rob van Gelder
Bangkok


#2

I have similar experience, bees fill the box below the flow hive full with honey, there were a lot of them in the flow hive, but no honey in any cells.
Nest year I might experiment with putting the flow frames in the middle of the hive…


#3

My last check 2 weeks ago showed a healthy colony, a queen, an empty queen cell and in general no problems.
The only thing is that while the bees have filled almost all the gaps between the flow-frame segments, not one drop of honey is stored there.

Patience… patience…


#4

hi there RobThai, I am in the Phillipines. been here three years now.
I am an experienced beekeeper/breeder from the uk. I just obtained my two hives last July.
But i am perplexed by the seasons here, there does not seem to be any.
When does the queen begin laying lots of eggs, do you know?
Info here is very hard to find, the Filipino beekeeper keeps himself to himself i am finding, thats a shame because there is a lot of interest in beekeeping here in Southern Leyte.
my local forage for my bees is the Coconut tree. They bring in lots of pollen every day when it stops raining, otherwise surrounded by rice fields, not many flowers at all.
Regards Bob.


#5

Hi Bob,
You are absolutely right, there is no real season change as we Europeans know, it is just hotter than a few months earlier, or a bit more rain, but it is in fact very constant. The average temperature change here in Bangkok is from 22-24 in the winter (December) to 35-42 in the summer.
Flowers are there all months, its always green and there is never any moment of severe cold that would resemble a real winter. This year we had a few days in Bangkok of 16-17 degrees and that threw the bees off for a bit.
They shivered in their hive, didn’t come out much and threw some disposable drone larvae out, so to me as a first time and first year beekeeper, that looked quite alarming.
Now it is back to normal temperatures of 28-33 degrees and everything starts buzzing again.
So there is not a real season here when you can harvest honey and that is the reason why beekeepers in Thailand just harvest regularly, without waiting for capped honey storage.
The normal hives here are a single box with 10 frames and they just take them out, put them in the centrifuge and put them back into the hive again.
I suspect there might be some damage to some brood now and then but it seems to work…
For my Flow Hive, I have not seen any honey being stored in the flow-frames. The lower box is full of life, the bees are filling with honey but so far nothing higher up… Now it have put one frame with honey storage together with the flow-frames, to test if that can bring them on track.
Regarding help from local beekeepers: There is not much in Bangkok. Its mostly residential. I got my hive from a honey and related bee products shop nearby, but their farm is in Lopbury, in the countryside. There are no real beekeepers clubs nearby and only a few in the north of Thailand, I have heard.

So I am finding out how it works on my own… its interesting!

Best wishes,
Rob


#6

New update on the Flow Hive in my garden!

It has been more than a year now, since I placed the Flow Hive in my garden and while the bees still seem happy to buzz around, they have not used the flow-frames, until now.
All cells are completely repaired, no cracks and openings anymore, but there has been no storage what so ever!
At one time I noticed 2 cells with honey, on the opposite side of the looking glass, but they were emptied a few days later!
Today I did a short inspection because I do not see much activity (rainy season?) and it has been a long time since the last inspection…

Again in the Flow Frame box there were some bees, but no storage at all.
Then I looked at the queen divider, it was firmly glued to the frames under and above it.
A look in the brood box showed many bees everywhere, but also that they are building in every nook and cranny to make place for their honey! There are at least 3 full frames capped and complete and they are making bridges between every frame.
I only took out 1 side frame (honey frame) to check but decided not to go further for now because I will destroy a lot of cells and structure in the process.

So my question is , how should I continue? Should I just let the bees do their thing? I’m not in this for the honey, just the experience. They seem to do well in their congested brood box and since they did not use the Flow Frames, I think I should leave the lower honey frames for them.

On the other hand, I would love to know a way to get them using the full box. Is a complete re-arrangement of frames a solution?

Or should I try to get another colony of bees? But will they accept these already prepared Flow Frames?

Rob, Bangkok.


#7

The reason you have so much bridging comb is that the frames are too far apart. You should fix that up and that will make life easier both for you and the bees.
Use a sharp knife or your hive tool, remove a frame and cut all the bridging comb off including the top and bottom, then put that frame aside, then remove the next frame and do the same but put it back in the hive. Now you will have a gap to remove each frame and do the same with it. Work over the brood box so that the queen is not going to accidentally get lost. When you have done all the eight frames put the one that is outside the hive back in place, Now close up the frames till the wooden sides are touching the frame next to it, that is the correct ‘bee gap’. You should set up all the frames so that there is a gap between the outside frames and the box wall about equal on both sides.
This will make it much easier when you need to work in the brood box. Sure you will damage some of the cells and get some honey spill but it will be much less now than if you delay doing it. The bees will clean up the comb.
Put the cut off pieces of comb in a container to render it down to bees wax.
Regards


#8

Don’t extract honey that is not capped for at least 80% of the frame, The bees have not capped the cells because the water content is too high in the honey, if you extract that honey it will ferment into mead, an alcoholic drink that has as much kick as wine.:open_mouth: Capped honey is called ‘ripe honey’ and the bees will reduce the water content in unripe honey.
Do you have a refractometer? It is used to measure the water content of honey.
Regards


#9

It’s a good sign your bees have started to work on the flow frames.
But on your pics I can see you have not pushed the frames in the broodbox close together.
The frames are designed to give the bees just as much space as they need to fill out those frames if pushed closely together. Any extra space will entice them to become too creative.
Having no experienced beekeeper nearby, you may just have to get in and do it yourself, even if frame by frame every couple of days. It needs to get done.
If you have no help, you will just learn very fast doing it.
Try to google your problem, how to fix brood frames too far apart in your broodbox.
Hopefully your bees only have a bit of bridging comb at this stage and you used foundation.
In that case you just have to cut the bridges off, scrape off the edges of the frames and put them back in pushed together. It doesn’t look too bad actually.
Having no extra space between combs, your bees will hopefully get back to deposit into the flow frames.
Good luck to you, and speedy learning.


#10

Thank you, all, for the advice.
I will indeed try to scrape/cut off the bridged comb and push the frames together.
its in interesting learning process!

Rob


#11

OK, today was the big clean-up… while that went well, the discovery of a basically dying hive was not a good thing!
There is no brood anymore, no eggs, no larvae, just young bees that don’t know what to do.
Also no guard bees I think, because I went through all the frames, scraping and damaging several cells and no bees attacked me anytime.
A few half build queen cells on 1 frame…
All empty cells seem untouched and dark coloured.

I am not sure what to do now, leave this hive as it is, hoping they will re-queen/re-populate themselves?

![IMG_1266|666x500]

After all was done many bees are at the front entrance with their hind legs pushed up:

So that is a sad situation. It is not easy to get any re-queening or nuc here in Bangkok, because there are no beekeepers that I know of in this area.

I also don’t know what to do with this hive. should I start with a new hive to avoid any possible contamination?
There is no evidence of any disease on this bees, as far as I can see.

Sad day…

Rob


#12

Looks like a post-swarm hive to me. Seems that quite a few of those bees in the last photo are showing their Nasonov glands too, but it may just be the light.


#13

Could be a post-swarm hive… but I haven’t seen any swarm nearby the last week.

About the Nasonov glands, yes I guess, they were fanning vigorously.


#14

I just talked to the person who supplied the colony a year ago. He blames it on not enough nectar around. While this is a residential area with lots of low buildings and gardens and quite green here, the amount of flowers seem to be low.
There are no orchards of any fruit nearby. I also noticed that these bees do not visit any banana flowers, or other local flowers, while these are buzzing with small wild bees at the same time. They do seem to visit mango trees because the honey has that taste, but there are probably not many around…


#15

Hi @RobThai, yes it does look like your bees left without saying goodbye :worried:

You got good advice about frame spacing & some insight about seasonal nectar flow for your region that will surely help you improve your beekeeping skills, so I hope you keep trying!

I just wanted to add that I had a closer look at your pic of a Flow frame, that you had mentioned before as having been sealed up well by the bees when you first posted last month. To me it looks like propolis, not wax, on your Flow frames. Bees will propolize any empty space they consider unusable or unwanted, to close gaps to control temps & prevent pests from invading. People have found that Flow frames fall into this category, when they place them on colonies that are too small, too weak, too late in the season or there is inadequate nectar flow in general.

So, take a look at your Flow frames up close and scrape off some of the substance the bees sealed the cells up with - if it’s orange or brownish and sticky like resin/tree sap, it’s propolis, and a good soapy wash is in order so you don’t have problems with operating the system next time around.


#16

Hi Eva, thank you for your comments. You might be right, it could be propolis or at least a mix of wax and propolis at several places.
In the beginning when the hive was just installed the bees were bearding at the entrance every night en masse, the person I got the bees from said it might be because it was so warm on the day and also at night (around 26-28 degrees at night). I made a ventilation hole at the back, with some fine mesh in it. But I noticed the bees closed most of that during the year. The bearding became less anyway.

Right from the start the bees have been working actively on closing all the gaps in the flow-frames, basically they are all done and ready to go… but except for a few cells at one time, nothing has been filled ever and the few that were filled were only so for a day or 2.

And then they were suddenly almost gone. There are still bees in the hive, which surprises me because there were 25 days ago no eggs and larvae anywhere to be found. I will check this weekend again to see if they are restarting with a new queen…


#17

Rob, maybe I missed some info in another post, did you see any viable queen cells in this hive? I recall the queen cup that you said was empty some time ago…I’m asking because without eggs or young larvae they have no hope of making a new queen.

Last year I had a hive that absconded after their numbers dwindled enough to be unable to defend against a wax moth infestation. At least, that was my best guess after the fact…there was no queen among the few bees left and no eggs or any brood at all. What I did was combine them with my other hive, so they could at least live in a functioning colony for their remaining days.


#18

Hi Eva, I didn’t see a queen last time and also today she did not show herself to me, but I did see some brood, some larvae, quite spotty.
The colony doesn’t seem to get smaller right now, so I guess there is still a chance they will survive.

I checked on the new queen excluder that I 3D printed. Although it was made it according to info on Wikipedia the holes seem to be a fraction too small for the bees. I will make a new one with slightly bigger holes

This was the first time I used my bare hands to check on the frames! That was scary at first, but soon I found myself in more control while working more gentle. I just have to suppress my initial reaction when a bee flies against my skin, almost always without any intention to sting.

In the flow frames I found 4 small cockroaches, not really a problem I think.
The frames were more pushed together but still the bees make bridges and other structures outside the frame.

I saw some bees with some powdery back, it seems, could that be fungus? It is rainy season here, so quite wet, but I did not see this powder on many bees.

Here are pictures of today’s checkup.

![42|314x500]


#19

Looking at the pictures again, did I photograph the queen on the 15th picture, just crossing the wooden frame?


#20

The queen was in one of the photos but to be honest you could have shown just a couple as they are all so very similar.
The bridging comb between frames is fairly normal and nothing to worry about.
Cheers