Honeyflow.com | FAQ's | Community |

Foreign particles in Flow Frames


#1

With apologies to Richard & Robert Sherman’s song lyrics of “It’s a Small World”…

In a perfect beekeeping world there would be no brood in Flow Frames, no beetles in cells, no wax moth larvae crawling around supers or in frames, no ants, no hive beetles, no leaking Flow Frames (honey in trough before unlocking it with the key), Flow Frames would perfectly align, the bees would take to them without forced crowding, and bees wouldn’t sting us.

So now we fall from that perfect world to reality where frames are always likely to contain some “foreign objects”. Inspecting EACH frame prior to turning the key, seems to go against the very idea of Flow Frames though I recognize that the bees do not always fill that last row of cells that we see from the door at the end of the Flow Frame super nor the outside frames unless frames are rotated (then they’re not outside frames then!) or crowding is severely forced. Cells are not always fully capped though the majority on the same frame may be. So even a thorough visual check through the observation window on the side combined with viewing from the end of the super, does not, by any means, provide for 100 percent certainty that the honey is ready for removal…much less that undesirable foreign objects may be present elsewhere in unseen areas.

Flow Frames seem to offer many more points to squeeze, kill, or damage bees so a full, frame-by-frame removal & inspection prior to removing honey would not be something I wish to do often.

While only some of these issues/problems are Flow Frame-specific and dealing with some of them may be the same whether Flow Frames are used or not, I’d be interested in how other Flow Frame beekeepers address such things…particularly foreign objects in the combs.

For instance, if one assumes that hive beetles may almost always be present somewhere in the frame, are they likely to end up in my honey jar? Straining honey is effective with solid objects but to a much lesser degree with smooshed wax moth larvae, etc. I’ve read from the Flow Hive people that ADULT worker bees will not be harmed if they are in the Flow Frame cells when the key is turned, does that apply to other softer stages of bees?

Yeah, I know the the queen shouldn’t have laid in the Flow Frames but the queen excluder was really hampering the bees actually working in the Flow Frame initially…waited almost 10 days before they came into the Flow Frame even with a nectar flow on. So I removed it temporarily to encourage the bees to come on up. Once removed, the bees came up instantly…of course the queen did too and laid some eggs which are now hatching.

So from the standpoint of producing “clean” honey that comes directly from the hive to the jar, what have you found to be practical approaches to removing & handling it? In most health codes for food products, honey usually escapes rigorous measures such as pasteurization, etc.; however, a high measure of cleanliness is assumed (and expected by the consumer). So many beekeepers take that to mean “a best effort” to keep it clean by whatever methods they so choose. With the now huge interest in “raw” products, we don’t want to forget cleanliness is still a good thing. So how do you address undesirable things in the Flow Frames making it into your honey (seen or unseen)?

Please don’t read this as a criticism of Flow Frames…I’m still fully on-board with the design but no design is perfect and I want to make sure I recognize what is a “best practice” for using Flow Frames with my bees.

Thank you for your comments and thoughts.

Gary


#2

^^^Beekeeping level upgraded to…“Enlightened” lol


#3

“Stuff” will be in the honey, regardless of harvest method. I haven’t heard of anyone getting sick from a little wax worm or hive beetle juice.

I remember once my son eating an apple and found a worm inside: I told him, “do you know what’s worse than finding a worm in your apple?” He replied, “No Dad, what’s worse?” “Finding half a worm” lol


#4

I rely on my built-in processing and purification systems :wink:


#5

Thank you for your reply.

I get it but I want to be as clean as we can on something I or others will eat.

I know that every food has undesirable stuff in it, like chocolate which has a maximum allowable amount of rodent fur in each batch or bar. Yuk but we all still eat it.

Gary


#6

I hear you. :wink: Don’t know if my built-in processing and purification systems are that good. Thank you.

Gary


#7

We always inspect the frames before harvesting, and I haven’t seen any “foreign objects” yet, even with my glasses on. Fortunately, we don’t have small hive beetles yet, but they are on their way. I used a queen excluder, so there were no larvae, cocoons or larval poop in the Flow frames. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: The honey that drained from our hive was so clean that we didn’t even need to strain it. No extraneous bee legs or wax moth larvae. I bought a double strainer, just in case, but I didn’t need it at all.

I washed my Flow tubes and BPA-free food grade drainage tubing in hot soapy water, rinsed well and thoroughly dried them, before using for extraction. I ran my collection mason jars through the dishwasher and washed the lids by hand. All hexagonal honey jars for selling honey were also run through the dishwasher, and lids washed by hand.

There just wasn’t anything “seen”. I think wax moth larvae would come out whole, not smushed, but I didn’t see any. I didn’t even see any stringy bits which could be larval mush. Not even any wax particles, which very much surprised me. I did look very carefully too, because like you, I was very curious about my first Flow harvest. I was truly astounded at how clean the honey was, and disappointed at having wasted money on an unnecessary double strainer! :smile:

As far as the “unseen” goes, all I can say is that I inspected the frames before extracting the honey, and didn’t see any mould, dirt, cocoons etc. Any honey is going to have microorganisms in it, whether Flow or traditional. I bet a lot of traditional honey also has wax particles (from cappings), wax moth larvae and poop etc. If you want to eat honey, that is part of the hazard.

There are risks from everything we eat, and some of them are just unavoidable. Of course you know this, but I am just saying that any reasonable consumer must know this at least subliminally. If you buy farm eggs, there are often feathers and chicken “goop” stuck to the outside. Farmers market fruit and veg may have dust, dirt and even manure on it. Consumers accept that, because they know it was grown locally and they are buying as directly as they can from the farmer. I believe that my honey customers assume the same kind of thing. I handle my honey as hygienically as I can, and it is then labeled as Raw, Unprocessed and Unfiltered. I even warn buyers not to feed it to infants under one year old (botulism risk), but most people seem to know this and accept it as part of the nature of honey.

OK, I will stop rambling on now. :blush:


#8

I completely agree @Dawn_SD
I desist from telling my customers that I often find my bees drinking from cow pats and pools of farmyard wee though… :blush:


#9

Hi Dawn_SD,

Thanks for your thorough reply. I do appreciate it.

As you may recall, I operated in a near commercial environment with about 150 colonies for many years and we tended to pay attention to things that might come back and “sting” us via legal problems with cleanliness, jar content, etc., and so straining, filtration, and occasionally warming the honey to get the moisture content right, etc., often was the practice. Going directly from the super to the jar is just a different mindset for me.

Thank you again.

Gary


#10

I forgot to mention, I did also test all of my honey with a refractometer too. Moisture content was 16.5% to 17.5%. I did it for my own peace of mind, it was all fully capped or better than 90% capped, so I wasn’t really worried. But knowing the moisture content from this new method of extraction, meant that I could happily label and sell it as “Honey”. :wink:


#11

Hi Gary,
Flow recommend using a queen excluder because, as I understand it, brood (particularly drone) can end up in the Flow super without the excluder. I can imagine that in the softer, immobile larval stage, a bee would be squashed and killed when you turn the key to harvest. I understand your motivation to remove the excluder but bees will definitely fill a Flow super with an excluder in place. As to the “cells are not always capped” observation you make, in the Australian Beekeeping Guide by Goodman and Kaczynski the point is made that in parts of Australia (not where I am), if your honey is from something like the dense honey of yellow box or red box Eucalypt and conditions are hot and dry, the honey is considered ripe when 1/3 to 1/2 of the comb is sealed. Perhaps not that relevant to where you are and your nectar but anyhow, I find that really interesting.

If you use an excluder with Flow frames, and then filter your honey as you usually would, from what I understand (I stand to be corrected of course) your honey would surely be as clean as that from the standard extraction method wouldn’t it?


#12

I have thought about the same points that you are raising, and came to the conclusion never to eat commercial honey again. I apply exactly the same tediousness as Dawn concerning jars and checking frames.
Knowing beekeepers move brood frames into the super for comb spinning strength, I know there will be bee poop and residue in that honey. It doesn’t seem to matter, it’s all bee product and it has all been handled in this way for a long time. I don’t like the idea though and I’m very happy the flow frames have no such residues. Even if I kept bees without flow frames I would only extract new comb. A commercial beekeeper can’t afford to be that choosy.
Unless you have a number of brood boxes you can’t operate without queen excluder. The queen will go up there. If you want the bees to store honey, you need to keep the brood box tightly filled.
I never found SHB larvae or wax moth in the flow frames, the conditions in the brood box are far more favorable for them.
To be honest, I am much more concerned about the things that cannot be seen, such as AFB spores and pesticides.


#13

Hi Gary, you just need to be a bit more patient & USE THE QUEEN EXCLUDER. Not meaning to shout, merely emphasizing the point. Also check the frames before harvest.

Your end result will be the purest food anyone can produce.

PS. it wont be the end of the world if you harvest without checking the frames first. You can do a simple test to see if the honey is ripe or not, or purchase a refractometer. Even if you find that the honey is unripe, it’s still usable. Just store it in the freezer & take out smaller amounts as you use it. Here is my video of that simple test.


cheers


#14

This season I ran four hives- using flow frames and traditional frames. I can say without any doubt that the cleanest honey I produced was from the flow frames. I was able to jar it without straining it at all- and it is incredibly clear and free from foreign particles. You really HAVE to use a queen excluder if you want to avoid bee larvae in the flow frames. And I haven’t found it to be any barrier to the bees using the frames: you mention you waited 10 days- even if you think there is a flow on 10 days may not be enough- the bees may be building up rapidly and consuming the nectar as it comes in- or filling the brood box. I have had hives that took to the flow frames within 24 hours- and others that ignored them for months. The same thing happens with traditional supers- our bee society hives this year never filled their supers after the entire season- the flow just wasn’t strong enough where those hives were located.

I can also attest that when the frame mechanism is operated bees in cells are not harmed- and if you jiggle the key before turning it- the bees get out of the cells. Generally this is a non-issue as the cells will be capped before harvest- but the cells in the end wndow collumns may not be capped- and you can watch the bees wriggle out of them when you jiggle the key- basically you turn it around 45 degrees- a few times- and they get the picture and wriggle out.

As to having to inspect each frame- this is not entirely true: using my unpatented technique you only have to remove every second frame to check them all:

Lets say you have a 6 frame flow box- we will call the frames 1 to 6 starting at the side opposite the window:

Step one: remove frame 1 inspect it - look down into the box to see the now exposed face of frame 2. Replace the frame

Step two: remove frame 3- inspect- and look down at the now exposed faces of frames 2 and 4. Replace the frame

Step three. Remove and inspect frame 5- look down at the exposed faces of frames 4 and 6. Replace the frame

Step four- inspect the last remaining face of frame 6 through the window.

You have now seen every face of every comb- and only removed 3 of them!

If you’re worried about disturbing bees whilst you do this- you could use an escape board to clear the super first. With care I don’t feel the need to do that- and my bee deaths are minimal if I take care. One point here: be sure you remove any burr comb from the bottoms of the frames so that when you replace them bees don’t get squashed underneath.

here is a jar of flow honey I extracted over 6 months ago- it went into the jar unstrained- and despite the cold weather it still hasn’t candied- when all of the honey I extracted the traditional way by spinning candied within a month. To date I have eaten over 5kgs of this stuff with no ill affects- I am not worried:

Lastly I will address your question about cleanliness: I purchased a bottle brush cleaner so that I can clean out the extraction tubes before harvest. Other than this I don’t think there is much that needs doing- the bees keep the frames clean if they are in use- and honey itself is hygroscopic and anti-bacterial:


#15

You inspected every frame you just didn’t lift every frame out of the box.


#16

I guess… if I was nitpicking… yes :thinking:


#17

A Flow super owner can inspect each frame every time they open the rear window cover. Not a thorough inspection however of course. For me, I found this to be one of the great things about the Flow super.


#18

Of the roughly 6000 cells per frame, how many would you estimate you can see through the rear window?- Thanks


#19

the percentage is low- but the utility is high… all cells are not created equal- and the ones at the rear give you a fairly good indication of how things are progressing in the hive. If they are all empty- it’s likely you don’t have much honey… if they look like this:

well then- happy days!


#20

In regards to having eggs/larvae in the Flow Frames, you can freeze your Flow Frames to kill them, and then put them back in the super for the bees to clean up.

I would encourage you to read the thread here about how long it can take for the Flow Frames to be utilized, and different techniques to encourage the bees to use the Flow Frames without removing the queen excluder:

Inspecting the Flow Frames doesn’t take too long… the main point about the Flow Frames is the ease of harvesting, and no processing required.
The windows can be used to gauge how your super is going, but especially when your hive is new, and you are getting used to the Flow Frames/Flow Hive, we encourage people to inspect the Flow Frames so they can check their honey is capped, and therefore ripe.

If you are worried about foreign particles, just run the honey through a filter as others have mentioned on the forum, e.g. @Dawn_SD using (unused) stockings over her container.
If you are worried about raw honey - then heat your honey.

The Flow Frames have been designed so that if there is a bee in the cell, they shouldn’t get anything caught, e.g. legs or wings, because of the little gaps between the cells. But if you just check your Flow Frames are capped, then you won’t have any bees in your cells.