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Free Bees! An Offer Too Good To Refuse

A flow beekeeper noticed his colony rapidly expanding in numbers over the last 10 days or so. He wanted to tap honey on the weekend, however with the buildup of bees at the entrance, he gave it a miss on account he didn’t want to get stung.

He invited me to take a split as payment for doing an inspection. I sold him the bees 6-8 months ago :slight_smile: I’ll do my best to avoid taking the queen, however like I’ll tell him I can’t guarantee I wont unless I actually see her.


I just got home from doing the split. There was a lot of bees bearding alright. I took the roof off to be greeted by thousands of drones that were trying to get out. The bloke did that the other day not realizing they were drones. He thought the roof was full of bees, time to ring Jeff. He just plonked it straight back down again. Anyway the queen must have found an opening on account of the buckled queen excluder, laid eggs in every available cell before finding another opening to go back down again to continue as usual. Almost every drone had emerged except for a spattering of unemerged drones on 3 of the frames. He would have been safe to tap 1, 4 & 6. How was he to know that without physically inspecting them before tapping. He wasn’t going to do that.

He’s going to get a metal QX & going by the size of the colony left behind he thinks I’ll have to split again in a few weeks time. I’ll fit the new QX then. His main concern this afternoon was remembering 1,4 & 6. Which he’ll tap in a couple of days time.

There’s a honey flow in the area because every cell was backfilled with honey, except for a few empty cells of very recent emergings.

Then there’s the issue of the leftover cocoons in the flow frames. I didn’t say a word about that.

Apart from the thousands of drones trying to get out of the roof, there was a large area of drones stuck in the QX.

This experience only reinforces my view that flow frames should be inspected before every harvest.


Thanks for the story Jeff. Looks like a stainless steel QE is on the cards for me… Seeing too many accounts of queen finding her way into the super…

I saw 2 drones running around my viewing window the other day, but I suspect they were from when I inspected last and must have found their way into the super prior to me reassembling the hive. My flow frames were free from eggs. However, just underneath the bur comb of the QE were capped brood. Old queeny was definitely looking for space to lay.

This story makes me a little sad. Beekeeping is a fascinating craft. People who keep bees should aspitre to be beekeepers, not just honey harvesters.


It won’t happen Jim.

The Flow Hive is a blessing and a curse.

I recently worked with a guy who was too scared to open his hive and do an inspection and had no idea if his FF’s were full or empty, he had had the hive for three years!

I offered to drive the 50 kilometres to his house and do an inspection and hive cleanup for free, but he refused.

The bees will eventually become honey bound and move out and then maybe he will decide that bees are not worth the effort.

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On previous inspections I tried to teach this bloke beekeeping so he can do it himself. This time I decided not to try to teach him, I’d just do the job & get out. I had to show him what I found & also explain what was making the loud racket. Also point out how lucky he was not to tap those frames while the drones were still emerging. The drones making a lot of noise with no punch. Because of all the noise the drones were making by flying around, he covered himself more than usual to avoid getting stung :slight_smile:

One of the major problems with the Flow system is people think you just put in bees and turn the tap. Jim’s comment is so sad and true for some.


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since I started selling bees this year I have come across a lot of folks that are getting started but know absolutely nothing about beekeeping- and seem surprised to hear that there is actually a fair bit to learn.

they call and say ‘I want to buy some bees’, I say, ‘Ok, do you have a bee suit, a smoker? a hivetool?’, the answer ‘no’. next question: ‘do you know anything about beekeeping?’ Answer, ‘no’. before I know it I have talked them right out of buying bees off me and instructed them to go and buy a basic beekeeping book or join the bee society…


Most of my bee customers come from our local bee society after doing a full day introductory course. They don’t learn anything about splitting because a bloke is picking up his third colony in 6 months from me this afternoon.

I don’t ask any questions to speak of Jack. If they want to bring a veil to watch & ask a few questions while I’m transferring the bees, that’s fine. I prefer them to at least see the queen.

It’s always nice to show a few emerging bees if possible, plus brood in various stages.


Just an update: I said on another thread that I took the back panel off. It was only the top narrow piece I removed. I should have removed the large piece. I’ll know better next time. Anyway the bloke tried to realign #4 by taking it out because he wanted to tap the honey without getting stung. The more he did, the crankier the bees got. He got quite a few stings on the face, then rang me to come straight down. Wilma told him I couldn’t come down today (yesterday). She told him to leave the frame out, shake the bees off, put the roof back on, then take the frame inside.

After I got home from robbing my bees, I phoned him to assure him it’ll be ok with the frame out until he gets a new QX. He’s going to get that, I think quicker rather than later. I’ll fix it all up after that arrives. He wants me to take about a third more bees.

He was counting on that little veil flow sent with the hive. I don’t think he owns a smoker. It was only less than 2 days since I left the bees a tad upset.

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Being a novice beekeeper myself, with obviously a lot that I need to learn as amply demonstrated in my first thread, I’m not sure where I stand on this.

I spent a fair bit of energy and time researching and reading and thought I was prepared, but when I came to crunch time I flopped. In the process, I was let down by a series of beekeepers. (it’s a long story, but never mind)

I’m in no way trying to defend anyone that buys a Flow Hive assuming you just plonk it there and honey comes straight on your toast with zero effort… but ridiculing them is not necessarily fair.

In a way, they are victims of marketing. Watch the Flow videos and website… with little girls tasting honey off the hive. Although it is stated that you have to maintain a hive just like a standard one, it all looks glamorous and relatively easy to own a Flow hive. It’s the new toy every hippie should have.

I think the Flow hive is a blessing and curse. The Flow people seem reasonable and understandably they want to sell to maximise profits, and smart marketing is their tool.

I bought two Flow Hives, off people that fell for the marketing, but never even opened the box.


Hi Stefan, I had some interaction with 2 other “flow hive” owners earlier today. They are buying colonies from me. We went out to the vehicle to grab their brood boxes (they are neighbors & came together), when I noticed a bamboo QX, actually 2 bamboo QX’s.

I know people on the forum have rubbished the bamboo QXs, however I wonder how they compare with the plastic ones that come with a genuine flow hive.

Yes Jeff, it is the large window. It took me a couple of years to realize the advantage of taking the rear window out, I automatically assumed that I should treat the Flow super like a normal Langstroth box and with the window open more bees will escape and more confusion. Excactly the opposit is the case, with Langstroth frames you have the bee space between endbar and box wall, with the Flow frames there is no space at all between the ‘endbar’ and the rear wall including the door, so heaps of squashed bees when lowering the frames back on. Another advantge when taking of the rear door is that the box is a lot easier to crab and lift off (eg for brood box check), a lot better grip than using the little hand hold.
Another thing I didn’t mention: I did away with those adjusting screws on the front end of the flow frames, with wood expanding or working or a bit to much propolis build-up on the frame rest it can become very difficult to slide the frames sideways or feed them back in when the screw catches on the top edge of the box. After lowering the frames down into the box I just gently pry them with the hive tool on the front side of the box to the back so that they sit flush against the ‘head board’ (that curved bit that is fixed in place above the rear door). All the frames then line up beautifully with no gaps and lastly I close the door.
Hey Jeff, just trying to make a good "Flowhiver’ out of you so that you can maybe stop with all your negativity about Flow :slight_smile: How are my chances?


Hi Georgina, I’ll take those screws out, like you suggest & I’ll definitely take the large piece out before removing frames. I forgot that I did that in the past.

Negativity about Flow? My comments are all about good beekeeping practices. Nothing else. I look at each question as if the same thing is happening to me or my bees. Then I think about what I’d do myself if I was in the same situation.

I tell people, & it’s true that anything that can possibly go wrong with bees has happened to me. I look at each event to try to avoid the same thing from happening again. Experience is always the best teacher.

Sometimes we can learn from other people’s misfortune. Other times we have to find out the hard way for ourselves.

Flow negativity? I didn’t start the threads on flooding issues, fermented honey in channels, larvae in honey, etc., etc.


I can’t see that you are negative about Flow Hives as anything you have said about them I have mostly experienced myself, especially when I began with my first Flow Hives by adding them to my Langstroth’s.
I think the issue is more about the lack of knowledge and false expectations of the people who buy them.
I sell complete Langstroth hives but only to those that will spend the time at my apiary so that they are at least not frighten to do inspections and able to do basic hive management. I had one guy who wanted 2 hives but too busy to spend a day learning the basics, which he readily admitted he didn’t know, and told me had never seen inside a bee hive.
It is sad that people can get involved in bee keeping so easily.

Hi Peter, thanks. Like I said a while back about a bloke who got into a flow hive because he thought he couldn’t be bothered extracting by hand. Or words to that effect.

This time a traditional beekeeper: Yesterday a bloke picked up his colony with the 6 frames needed to fill the gap. The foundation was not fitted to the wires properly, is an understatement. Then the top bars came out because of the puny nails he used to nail them to the side bars. While we waited for the bees to go into his box, just on dark I offered him to come & do the frames again, using my gear. I also showed him my video “Beekeeping: Wax Foundation Fail”. He’s a nice bloke & really interested. Time will tell whether he takes me up on my offer.

As we carried his box to his car, he commented how I secured the frames so they can’t wobble, to avoid killing bees. He said “I think that’s how I came to grief in the past, frames wobbling which resulted in killing bees during transport”. I replied that hive beetles love laying eggs in dead bees.

The flow owner: he’s good, he got his new queen excluder. I’m going down tomorrow afternoon to fix everything up. I have some beautiful fully drawn combs to use in his brood, if I think they’re needed. It’s too hot today.

Too hot to be in a bee suit. I’m going to make some new boxes for a native bee customer. She has a hive that she desperately wants to split. She looked at my radical split strategy & wants me to go down that route for her hive. Making two new boxes is part of the job. Now that I told you about it, I’d better do it.


More free bees today from a traditional beekeeper this time. One split that didn’t make a queen. Also a primary swarm the bloke caught yesterday afternoon. I went to his house to pick up the bees, but I was only able to bring the swarm home that was contained in his capture box. He told me he’d deliver the queenless nuc to my place later on because he had to go somewhere else to pick it up.

Anyway while transferring the bees from the queenless nuc to my box, it started to become obvious that they actually had made a queen & she is a ripper with a good laying pattern. He originally did 2 splits, one made a queen & he thought the other one didn’t. So yesterday he offered me the queenless split, which I accepted. Then just before dark, he caught a primary swarm.

He said all these bee events was affecting his mental health. Anyway I spent a lot of free time mentoring him, so it’s probably a reward for the time I spent with him over the phone in recent times & going forward.

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An update on the flow hive: Thanks to those tips from @Georgina as well as removing propolis & wax, the flow frames went back together beautifully.

I must have killed the queen because the brood frames contained emergency queen cells. I took one of those frames with the bees I removed. I’ll check his hive in 3 weeks to make sure his emergency queen is successful.

The owner was pleased with how everything went. The only thing was a few upset bees. His wife took the dog for a walk while we did the job. She carries her mobile phone with her. I suggested he ring her to tell her to walk past the bee area quickly on her return because we had a few angry bees trying to get to us while still suited up as we parted company out on the footpath.

Just an update on how the flow hive is going. Yesterday morning I checked to see if those emergency queen cells resulted in a queen-rite hive. Yes they did!!! A beautiful laying pattern.

I was counting on the honey super being easy to lift off. To the contrary, it… was… heavy. The owner said he would have tapped honey on the previous Sunday, but it was too hot. For you flow experts, can it be too hot to harvest honey from a flow hive?

I turned up with smoker in hand, the bloke said I’ll go & put my veil on. By the time he got back, I was ready to put the honey super back on again. I wasn’t lifting any flow frames out, which I think the owner was hoping for. It was getting hot at 7.30 am & I was hungry for breakfast.

The frame of brood I had in case I needed it went into a weak hive I’m building up at home.

I was assuming that it’s better if you harvest Flow frames when it is hot, as honey flows easier and takes less time. I must be wrong.

This is something that I am thinking about at the moment, before I put my supers on. I see a design flaw in the Flow supers

I think it would be easier if you lift the heavy boxes, grabbing them from the handles on the short sides - less strain on you back. The Flow super only have one handle recess on the short sides, as the other side they have the triangular timber to hold the doors in place.

I am about to modify mine - remove that triangular latch and screw in a piece of orizontal timber on that side to act as a handle. Then screw in for small pieces of timber similar to those on the side window, to hold the flow key door, and the other bigger door in place.

I’ll send a photo once done.