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Flow hive performance over time in cold climate - am I alone?


#1

I got my fist flow three frame set-up as a founder contributor. Since then I added another 7 frame setup. last year was my full harvest - which was wonderful. After each harvest, I noted that the harvested cells on the flow frames remain uncapped. Bees remove some of the caps, but others remain capped and not used up for refilling. That also had led to leaking into the hive, as excess honey slowly drains in as the uncapped cells have not been sealed/repaired after harvest.

This year, I harvested again, and noted the same problem. Yesterday, three weeks after my harvest, I inspected the whole hive and found the three flow frames in the hive looking full and fully capped (see photo). But the frame was not that heavy. Once it was removed and tried to drain the honey after twisting it to break the cells, the caps remained intact and the flow was very slow. I then resorted to place the frames in my extractor and removed about 3 litres of honey. To do that, I had to dcap, which was quite easy with my decapping knife. From the normal combs besides the flow frames in the 3 flow frame setup, I got nearly 8 litres of honey.

I have placed all three frames and the harvested combs and the bees have cleaned them up now and ready to fill.

It looks like, this presents us a problem.

Any hints from your experience, please.


#2

I have had that in one frame that I left in at the end of the season. My guess is that the bees never felt the stimulus to make more storage space, so they conserved their energy. :blush: Now when I take the Flow frames off for winter, I scratch open any capped, empty cells. They soon get the message and remove the damaged cappings in the new season. It is harder for you if you have several good months of nectar flow. Then it may be worth inspecting the frames a couple of days after harvesting, and scratching the cappings which remain intact before putting the frames back in for refilling.

Good move and it sounds like it worked. Some people have had very slow flow from the frames for the following reasons that I recall from the Forum:

  1. Very low water content, viscous honey. When the water content gets below 16%, honey does flow very slowly. You can speed things up by harvesting late morning, when the hive is as warm as it gets, then leaving the frames to drain for up to 4 hours through the afternoon
  2. Crystallized honey. That usually happens with certain crops, such as oilseed rape and one or two others. The only solution is to harvest very quickly. I haven’t read much experience of what to do when it sets in the frames, except for soaking in warm water. Rescuing the honey seems to be much more problematic when this happens.
  3. Jellybush or other thixotropic honey. Again, not much info, but it is hard to extract from traditional frames too. That is why it is so expensive. :wink:

The other thing is that your frames look pretty dark. If you have propolis accumulated in there (quite common), you may need to clear that out to ease up the opening mechanism on the frames. The easiest way to do that is put the frames in the freezer for 48 hours, then get them out and open/close repeatedly while still very cold. The propolis should fracture, and you will be able to shake a lot of it out of the frame. This generally happens to frames left on the hive over winter, as cooler weather stimulates the bees to seal up gaps with propolis.

Hope that helps a bit. :blush:


#3

I can’t speak to a lot of your questions- but I will say I tried to use hybrid flow super and did not get good results. The bees would fill the standard frames but were very very slow to ever fill the flow frames- and never completed them. In the end I converted to all flow frame super. I think that given a choice the bees so much prefer standard frames that having the two side-by side did not work well for me.

having said that I know it has worked well for others in different locations. I also can say I have had very good results using complete flow supers.

lastly: another thing I have noted is that the bees can be very slow to uncap flow frames after a harvest if there isn’t a nectar flow on. It can take 6 weeks or more. Conversely- if there is a flow on they can uncap the frames in just a few days and start refilling them immediately.


#4

@Semaphore were you extracting the traditional frames or leaving them alone? A number of people here on different threads have commented they haven’t had good results with the hybrid super. However, I do have good results with the hybrid and have trouble believing I’m the only one that does…


#5

Thanks Dawn. Much appreciated.

I did cleanup these frames after the last harvest in the previous season. Looks like bees do not want us to make it too easy!

I have a few frames in the other hive with the same problem. I will scratch them and get the bees to work!


#6

the idea was to leave all frames until they were ready- but the standard frames were full and ready t0 go and after months the flow one were not filled. So I harvested the outer ones (several times). As I said- that was just my experience with one flow hybrid- and I am sure others have had great success. I think in a strong flow there would be no issue.


#7

Maybe that’s the difference. I rarely touch the outer traditional frames, unless I’m cycling frames. I tend to leave them as stores for the bees in times of a dearth, basically leaving them half a box of honey for however they see fit.


#8

Not really in my case- I am pretty much 100% sure that had I not harvested the outer frames the inner ones never would have filled. It could have been down to that colony under-performing compared to other flow hives i had adjacent. Or perhaps for some reason that colony was more averse to flow frames. Don’t know. For myself I now prefer to use a mix of flow box- and add on an ideal in spring for more space and some cut-comb.


#9

I do the same and have no probs with the hybrid. As Jack says it may be a climate thing although I don’t see much difference. I’m sure if I kept replacing the traditional frames when full they wouldn’t bother with the Fframes either. If only I could get a harvest from my full Flow…


#10

yes- well- it is all seasonal- I have 13 hives and virtually no honey. This year all my supers- flow and standard- are pretty much empty with hives at 5 different locations. It seems there is not enough pollen around for them to build up sufficient populations. Inspected three hives yesterday with no real sign of much honey coming in.


#11

And @skeggley It has been a long and dry Spring here then the sky fell in with too much rain over most of the state. This past month has been hot and humid which has reduced the honey being stored.

I agree that the bees would much prefer to use bees wax frames in preference to the Flow Frames, I give the bees no option than using the flow frames and that works for me. I am thinking that with the weather changing we will have some adjusting to do with our hive managements.
In that vane I have just received a solar powered hive lid that has a fan that is activated when it gets too hot in the top of the hive. Maybe it is a good thing for the colony if it help in temperature control and allows bees to be out foraging rather than cooling the hive — well that is the theory.
Cheers


#12

Peter: I looked into making something like that- did you buy one ‘off the shelf’? In the end I decided it was maybe not a brilliant idea- as it would come on and off suddenly changing the conditions perhaps faster than the bees can react? And on really hot days like we had here- it seems like it could end up pushing hotter air into the (hopefully) cooler hive? Say it was a 40C day- and the bees are struggling to cool the hive to 34+/- C then wouldn’t a fan make it actually harder for them? I was also concerned about a fan sucking in lots of dust.

When I looked into it all I found this:

http://www.beecoolventilators.com/need.htm

they claim 33 to 50% more honey… You’d think if that was really true they would have absolutely taken off in beekeeping?

In the end I decided not to pursue the idea- but thought winter heating would be of more obvious benefit- I can see any help the bees can get to increase the internal temp when it is below 34C outside the hive would be appreciated by bees and save them the effort. In that lien I considered trying to make a small solar powered 12v heater- either with a battery- or just to supply a little extra heat during the day when the sun is shining. You can get some very cheap 12 volt heating pads off ebay and small solar panels.


#13

@JeffH and @skeggley It was made as a side-line by a bee keeper in NSW and is fitted to its own lid. A thermostat controls the fan so it only works when the internal temperature of the hive is too hot for the bees to feel comfortable. The power for the fan is solar powered and with no battery back up power. The fan pushing the hot air out of the hive and therefore replacing it with cooler air should release bees from fan cooling the hive to be able to go foraging, a 50% increase of honey is very suspect but I am thinking an increase of 20% is achievable.

The internal temperature of a hive has to be hotter than the ambient temperature so sucking in the air at ambient temperature must be cooler than the hives internal heat and so a benefit for the bees.
As for the dust issue I have seen the dust storms ‘out west’ and the way to stop the fan working in those conditions would be to put something over the solar panel to stop it working in those conditions.

My climate here in Winter is very short and mild and the hive doesn’t reduce in numbers of bees so for me heating the hive may have little effect. I have bought it as an experiment to answer my thoughts. If it works for my location then I will make enough for my hives.
I will do an update once I have had it on a hive for some time.
Cheers


#14

So what is the thermostat set to? Is there an ideal temp for the super to be?
More houses should have this set up to regulate temperatures, free cooling. But we also know what temp WE want. :wink:
Im also sceptical of non peer reviewed work.


#15

I will answer that when I have it in a working situation on a hive. It is adjustable via a potentiometer’?’ for fine tuning.

An interesting question and I don’t know the right answer but I am thinking along the lines as the same as the cluster brood temperature. The fan would then discharge the heat to atmosphere and so suck in some cooler fresh air.

I am not saying some peer reviewed research is not worth considering and reading but also some has proven to be incorrect over time. If something I hear seems to have value I am inclined to think it through and try it as an experiment with it. The exchange of ideas on the forum can be very valid, with or without peer reviews. But that is just my opinion. We have all had flow frame flooding by following Flow Hives instructions to open the whole of the frame at once, and we have by word of mouth and on the forum found the right way around that issue by opening the frame in increments, but I doubt that has ever been peer reviewed. But we all apply that practice.
Cheers mate


#16

I am not sure what the maximum temps are where you are- but here in adelaide where we’ve had 47c just recently- my assumption would be that the external temp is greater than the internal temp- so forcing air through the hive from the outside would have the affect of heating the hive- and working against the bees ability to cool through evaporation. I feel like it would dehydrate them too. It seems a system like this would be of benefit as long as the external temp was less than =/- 34c- but would have the opposite affect as soon as the temp goes over that threshold? Perhaps it would be good in areas of high humidity- helping the bees to cure honey and clear moisture from the hive.


#17

We don’t often reach 38c, common in summer is 32 to 35 as a common max temp.
One of the claims is that it increases the speed of honey curing but to me that is a bit ambiguous, With dryer air it should take surface water away but in high humidity it may well have the opposite result.
I’m glad that the subject is creating thought and input and I am looking forward to putting it on a hive and noting the results for here. Being so close to the beach I guess my humidity is higher than even a couple of klm,s from the beach, especially with a sea breeze.
Cheers