Many Q's After First Month (Preplanning For Winter)

Hey all! I have (2) flow hives and I rehomed (5) frame nucs into each on 5/13/22 here in North-Middle TN. I have done (2) brood box inspections so far. I am trying to be prepared and learn as much as I can about the upcoming winter so I have several questions I hope someone can help me with. I have signed up for a full 2-day seminar coming up later this month, but I need some answers about expanding before then.

Current Setup: (1) Deep flow brood box, inner cover, roof, (5) plastic frames from nuc, (5) foundationless frames nearly filled with comb.

My goal: Honey isn’t my reason. I’ll take some and the Flow hive was appealing due to the ease of extraction, but mainly, I have 200+ acres and I want to help the bee population. I want the bees happy and healthy and I don’t want to kill them by neglect. They can keep most of their honey, though I now realize that the flow super can’t be used overwintering as you have to remove the queen excluder to their food supply which means the queen may have access to the flow super for brood (correct me if I’m wrong). That being said, this hobby has gotten more expensive than I thought and I don’t want to expand and have the additional time requirement unless my wife and I really get more into this hobby. (2) hives are nice and is great to learn and provide my kids and friends with bee interaction and a little honey.

The bees are faster than I thought and they nearly have all the brood box frames filled. I am getting some cross comb (correct terminology?) between the frames; near the middle of the frame, not around the perimeter. It makes it difficult to remove the frames and I damaged some comb yesterday trying to remove the frame not knowing it was connected. Can I just damage the comb where they are connecting across frames and the bees will fix it? Maybe I don’t have to do anything and they will naturally fix it once the frames are completely filled with comb (like doing a little remodeling in their home) once they realize their space is reduced?

The hive is nearing capacity and I’ll have to add something soon for them to expand. I’m not ready for the flow super yet. My local beekeeper that I got the nucs from (and who I’m trying not to bug too much) said that he will overwinter with single and double brood boxes. So overwintering with single brood boxes is possible here. He said he supplements with fondant. I’d like to control the size of my hive, so I don’t really want to do double brood boxes but I also want to minimize artificial feeding. Can I put a regular, medium super with queen excluder on so that they can build winter food without brood, then (probably not this year) remove the medium super, store it in my garage, and put the flow super on to get harvestable honey? Then when winter approaches, remove the flow super, replace the medium regular super with their honey without queen excluder so that they have honey stores from brood and medium super? Perhaps this could be enough to overwinter without much supplemental syrup/fondant? Thoughts on storing the filled medium super in my garage until ready winter? Perhaps instead, just put the medium super above the flow super with the inner cover between them so the bees don’t have access to the medium?

I’m a new hobbyist and I don’t know that I will want more hives. What can I do to make sure I stay at 2 hives? I know this is a very general question, but I’d like suggestions. Obviously they will make queens eventually and I’ll need a new queen eventually. I just don’t want them swarming and I don’t want to have them keep expanding unless I decide I can give this more time and money. I have additional regular deep and medium boxes if I do have to expand.

My setup:


Hello and welcome to the Flow forum! :blush:

What a well-written and informative first post, lovely photo too.

It is correct. Also known as burr comb or bridge/bridging comb. Just about the same thing really, we get what you mean

The best thing to do is scrape it back to level with the wood of the top bar of the frame. Collect the comb in a ziplock baggie and freeze it, then you will have something to smear onto your Flow frames later when you come to add the Flow super. Freezing it kills off wax moth and small hive beetle eggs/larvae

They will naturally fix it, but not in a way that prevents future damage, unless you take it back to the top edge of the frame. If you want proper control, tidy it up as soon as you see it. All bees do this, it is not something that you have done wrong

I like your idea of a medium super above the queen excluder. You can just leave it on, even when full, and put the Flow super on top of that when they have almost filled it. If you gently smear your (defrosted) frozen comb in small chunks over the faces of the Flow frames, the bees will take to them much faster. When you take the Flow super off at the end of the season, just remove the queen excluder and leave the medium box on. No need to store it off the hive. Don’t separate it from the bees without freezing the frames, or you will have wax moths and hive beetles galore… :astonished:

Get some cheap extra equipment - I would suggest a full langstroth hive (bottom board, brood box, inner cover and roof) and a couple of complete nucleus boxes. When you need to split (probably next year), sell the splits. In TN you may need to buy a queen for the splits, I am not sure if you have africanized bees in your area. Worth looking into with your local beekeepers, and @Martha may have some thoughts too. You don’t need to keep the extra equipment full of bees, it just gives you what you need to prevent swarming, and make a little income from selling nuclei - they sell for $150 to $250 across the US, depending on whether you have purchased a quality queen for the nuc.

Nice to have you join us, and please ask any time with further questions. We will do our best not to confuse you… :wink:



Thanks for the quick reply! I feel better about my deep brood + medium super + flow super (next year) approach. I didn’t consider moths and beetles when contemplating storing, but it makes sense just to leave it on the hive and let them fill both supers when ready.

Best method for scraping? Should I get a saw of some sort or is the J-hook took sufficient. It seemed pretty pliable yesterday and I don’t think it will scrape, rather tear.

I have actually been collecting the burr comb and I was going to render it soon. I was going to put it in some pantyhose, and boil it in a small container so that the small mesh of the pantyhose will trap the debris. Then I was just going to have a puck of wax once it cools on top of the water. Is this sufficient for scraping on the flow super or should I stick to the unprocessed frozen wax you mentioned?

This is where my unforeseen expenses have crept into my new hobby. Yesterday I bought a 5-pack of deep boxes, 5-pack of medium boxes, and (50) frames of both deep and medium plus (20) plasticells for each size ($525). After the bees ($220 per nuc), and the (2) flow hives w/ stands, and the suits, and the … and the …; I’m well into some serious cash. I should probably get some bottom boards, inner covers, and roofs to have a couple complete hives on hand when (not if) needed.

Followup Q’s (which I can also ask at my seminar later this month)

Does the flow super need to be removed in the winter? Can I just leave it there with the queen excluder above the medium super? Perhaps when spring hits that will be too much “super” for the bees to handle and it (or both supers) should be gone anyway?

Should I wrap the bottom of the hive for winter so that wind can not blow below the hive since it is sitting on legs? Seems like this would provide some extra insulation for whatever heat would be blown away from the underneath side.

When should I put mite treatment on? When should I test for mites? If I’m not consuming the honey in their medium super, I can treat with that super on if needed, but the flow super should not be on? Again, it’s only been a month and I’m trying to disturb the bees too much, but I’m not sure when testing and treatment should be done on a new hive.

A little more information on my setup too. We put a plastic sheet down to prevent any organics from coming up in that area. Then we put down rubber mulch on top of that to keep decaying mulch from attracting organisms. Is there any ground treatment I need to do around the hives?

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I just use the flat blade of a standard hive tool. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just remove anything that the bees could use as a pattern to build more (hexagon remnants).

You can certainly do that, but rendering is a lot more work and messier than just using the peanut butter style smear. I render wax in a slow cooker (crockpot) you can see the method by using the magnifying glass search tool at the upper right.

Yes. Absolutely in your climate. If you don’t, the bees will put propolis all over it, which makes harvesting much harder or impossible. Also, if you remove the queen excluder, you may well get brood in it if your queen starts laying early = big mess for you to clean up. You already know about the possible queen abandonment problem if you leave the queen excluder in place. I take my Flow super off in July to September, depending on the weather (we have El Nino events, which can change the seasons quite a lot).

I would either invert the Flow tray cover, and/or invert the Flow tray. That will reduce air flow. You don’t need to wrap the legs

I test every month or two, and treat if the levels get above about 3%. I really like using oxalic acid sponges per Randy Oliver at Scientific Beekeeping (Google). I have not lost a hive over winter since I started doing this. If the counts are never high, I treat anyway between July and the beginning of September, once the harvest super is off.

I treat the surrounding soil with nematodes that eat SHB larvae. You may not need to do that, as your winters will probably have freezing temperatures, and mine don’t.

I would ask locally too at your seminar too. Just be aware that they may be hostile to Flow hives, and you might want to call your hives “Langstroth” instead… :wink:

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