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How to reconfigure hive/add flow frames?


I have a 3-deep hive with the configuration as shown in the attached image. The first year I used regular frames with foundation instead of the flow frames. Now I want to transition to the flow frames for the coming year but I’m not sure how to go about it.

Obviously I have to take out eight frames from the existing configuration to make room for the all the flow frames. How much honey do I need to keep in the hive so that I don’t have to feed the bees going into spring? I suppose I could add the flow frames in stages keeping some existing honey frames (although I find the standard frames don’t rest flatly in the flow hive deep box).

I want to reduce the hive to two deeps but I’m not sure the hive population is small enough for that.

Let me know your thoughts. Thanks!


Hi, I love your drawings! However, all does not add up. The left image shows one frame of “rogue comb”, the far right shows 2 frames. OK, I am not an engineer, but I can pick nits as well as the next person… :blush:

So, here is what I would do.

  1. Put an inner cover with a bee escape below the box with the frames of capped honey. Let the bees move down into 2 boxes on a nice warm day.
  2. Take off that box of capped frames completely once the bees have moved down and store in the freezer if I had space, or extract some of it later if not.
  3. Take out the rogue comb frame, move the capped honey frame outwards and put a new empty frame by the hive wall.
  4. Consider removing one or two frames of pollen - that is an awful lot of pollen if those frames are full. They probably only need 2 full frames, and they will be brining in more very soon in your area. Replace the pollen frames with empty frames or capped honey, depending on your prediction for nectar flow in your area. Not sure if you have almonds near you, but they will be flowering soon with decent nectar.
  5. Wax the Flow frames with a “burr comb rub” and add the Flow super above the QX (as depicted) when the lower two boxes are covered with bees on every frame and at least 80% full of brood, honey or pollen.

Just my 2 cents’ worth. :wink:


I would be leaving the brood box how they have set it up. That is how they like it. Just take off the honey and put your flow frames in.


Agreed, great diagram.

Dawn has some really great advice, and provides a nice path to follow.


Thanks everyone for your replies!

Dawn_SD, yes the diagram doesn’t have a balanced number of frames as you noticed. I should have added that extra rogue frame on the initial side as it’s something I had extracted from an earlier inspection. Come to think of it, I should have had the flow frames depicted initially as well!

Your advice seems totally reasonable. Some clarifications …

… Here you are saying that you would place the empty frame in position 2 of 8, not directly against the hive wall, correct? Would you advise I use one of those rogue combs as the empty frame? They’ve built comb with a larger cell structure than what comes with the foundation. Does that matter? Also, in order to add that frame I may have to replace one of the brood frames in that middle box in order to get the eighth frame to fit inside. One of them has a double comb and is extra wide. This is the reason I have 7 frames in that box instead of 8 – I get worried about squishing the queen and upsetting the general hive grooviness when I consider pressing all my frames together to encourage them “fix it themselves”. I’m not confident they will fix the wonky frames correctly at this point. I may just leave it 7 frames if I can’t figure out an elegant solution to this.

The diagram is rather approximate. Some of the frames are half this and half that and some aren’t totally full, like some of the pollen frames I imagine. I’ll find out tomorrow when I do an inspection. It’s good to know how much pollen is enough. I don’t think we have many almonds around. It’s semi-urban here and there is always something to forage on it seems.

One follow up question - I hear it may reduce a colony’s tendency to swarm if you flip the orientation of the hive boxes in spring. Is that something you would advise I incorporate into this reconfiguration operation?

Thanks again!


Correct. The reason is that bees seem to find it hard to draw nice comb when the frame is up against the wall. If you put the new frame between 2 existing good frames, they are less likely to build crazy comb.

It suggests to me that they were building for drones. They may still use it for honey or pollen, but if the queen finds it, she will be putting drones in it. Early in the season, I would rather have brood or workers, which means that it would probably be better to give them fresh frames.

You need to fix that frame too. You really can’t let them do that - you can’t inspect it properly. I know it may mean killing larvae, but it is far better to fix it early in the season, when they have time to recover. If one of the double combs is centered in the frame, just try to cut the other comb away from it. If they are both off center, I would cut out both combs, separate them, then rubber band the comb as a single layer back into a frame or two.

Some people do that, I don’t do it routinely. If I see a very crowded brood box, or beginnings of swarm preparations, I will make a split into a nucleus, and put some empty frames in place of the 2-4 frames or so that I have removed (placing them in positions 2 and 7 preferentially, as you noted above). If you have more than one hive, you can also use the removed brood to boost any hives which are off to a slow start. Some good advice on swarm prevention here:


Thanks again Dawn_SD!

After today’s inspection i’m now a bit concerned about swarming and the documents you linked here have been instructive. The primary reason I suspect swarming may be on its way is because of the sheer volume of bees in the hive and not because of any observed queen cells. The bees were piled between the inner cover and the frames of the third deep and every box was nearly overflowing with bees. It was getting cold and windy and I wasn’t brave enough to pull many frames to really see what was going on so i’m feeling a bit defeated. In my next inspection I’ll ensure I have ample warm weather and lots of time so I can go in and repair the messy frames.

In terms of a potential swarm and my original question - would it be advisable to incorporate a split into the reconfiguration of my hive?


With the caveat that I haven’t actually seen your hive for myself, I feel it is a bit early in the season to be making a split. I would wait for queen cells to start appearing - I would rather have one very strong, productive hive, than 2 weak struggling hives and not every hive needs splitting. Of course the downside is that you have to commit to regular inspections.

If you wax the Flow frames and put them on top of your hive, the bees will have lots more space and that may help suppress any swarming urge. You will still need to inspect them regularly though.



I wasn’t even considering adding a fourth deep to the hive out of concern for structural stability. If I had 10-frame boxes I’d feel a bit better but I suppose I could brace it in case there is wind. Adding a box would definitely be easy to do. Thanks for the suggestion!

I still have to swap out the frames in the flow box to a new deep in order to do this. So much to do!

Thanks again!



I would not like a hive of 4 deeps either - I am not tall enough to handle that height with my hive stand. I would not be worried about stability, unless you have a big earthquake, but it is not a very convenient structure to work with.

If you look back at my original answer, I actually suggested that you remove the top box of “capped honey” and use it for extracting honey. Then put the Flow super on top of your existing two brood boxes. I still think that is the best move, and would give them enough new empty space to expand into for helping to dissuade swarming. The bee escape would help get the bees off the capped honey frames, and encourage them to “cozy up” in the lower two boxes. They would only be compressed for a day or two, and then you could position your QX and put the Flow super on top.

Hope that clarifies.



Yes, thank you for the clarification. I think I must have been mixing this conversation with one I was having with my local bee supply store people who said that it is a bit early to remove the honey box (they also said they didn’t have any 8-frame bee escapes). That and the fact that I’ve been in an “I gotta do something now” mode must have inspired my 4-deep idea. Thinking about lifting a zillion-pound deep box full of honey off of three other deep boxes gives me chills down my already injured spine. In fact I think I tweaked my back hoisting my third deep full of honey on Monday. I need a taller healthier inspection assistant.

Thanks again for all your advice! I’ll report back with an update to my diagram once I’ve done my reconfiguration.


If you still want one, I really like this one:

I will be interested to hear what you decide to do. :blush:


I’ve updated my plan diagram to include the input I’ve gotten from this thread and some more detail. It’s nice to know what I’m shooting for going into my next inspections. Thanks everyone!


Looks like you have it all laid out! :smile: Adobe Illustrator for making the diagram? :blush:

Good luck and please let know how it goes when you get in there. I know you guys are getting rain right now - it missed us by 50 miles… :wink:


I used Google Drawings for this one. It’s simpler and free-er than Illustrator.

Yes, the rain has been pretty relentless for the past week. The bees were bearding tonight in a light drizzle. I plan on executing “step one” on sunday if I can get ahold of a bee escape by then. There is supposed to be a few days of sun coming before another storm.


… the bees swarmed this morning! Didn’t get a chance to get started on my
plan. I suppose they solved their own overcrowding problem.


Awww, so sorry :cry:


OK … so here’s what’s happened so far.

As I said the colony threw off a swarm on sunday. Sadly I didn’t get them back. I executed step one of my plan on Sunday which went OK. There seemed to be many bees and brood remaining in the hive which gives me hope for their survival.

Today, my local bee people advised me to give the bees more space ASAP to ward off more swarms so I tried to execute step 2 of the plan. While removing what I thought were 100% honey frames I found out today that three of the frames of the top box have the beginnings of brood in them and a few queen cups. So I changed the plan thinking that I shouldn’t reduce the colony’s chances of re-queening by removing brood and queen cups. Instead of removing all but one of the honey frames as I had planned, I put the three frames with brood in the flow box between three flow frames and one empty frame with foundation. The bee space in the box seems good. I’m just wondering how I’m going to get to my goal configuration where the flow frames are isolated in the flow box.

Here’s my revised diagram:

I’m not really sure what’s in the lowest box (besides plenty of bees) since I haven’t touched it yet. I was advised to leave the brood chamber alone as much as possible so the chances of re-queening are highest.

Anyway - let me know what you think of what I’ve done here. I’m a bit concerned that the flow frames will be used for brood but I wanted to give the bees as much space to grow as I could with the equipment I had on hand.