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Messy and untidy looking Flow Hive and frames?

Hi, new beekeeper here. Sorry for the long post. I have acquired two Flow Hives from my father in-law (recently passed away) He set these up in 2016/17 – original Flow Hives.

I have decided to take care of his bees as they were an important part of his life. I have been doing A LOT of research lately, bringing myself ‘up to speed’ with all things beekeeping and will be transporting the hives to my place in a month or so. I have seeked advice from my local bee club and also neighbourhood beekeepers that have Flow Hives. The hives are strong and have produced a good steady supply of honey for the past few years.

Now, onto my question…. Today was the first time I have actually had a very close look at the hives. What I noticed was the appearance of the flow frames, in particular around the flow trough/chamber was looking rather dirty and unsightly. Also the timber of the hive has swollen and gone dark in colour. (I am guessing he didn’t prepare the timber correctly when first setting them up, and the location they are in is probably not the most ventilated) The recent harvest of honey was done by a friend of his and I have noticed some of the collection troughs had honey in them. I have hopefully rectified this by properly closing the frames with the flow key – they weren’t fully closed properly. I unblocked any blockages in the leak back points too. I have also noticed what appears to be crystallised honey in one flow trough. That trough seems to have beetles in it. (I replaced the Apithor traps today) There is also lots of wax along the viewing section of the frames.

Generally the flow frames look very much in need of a good clean. Can I remove one or two frames at a time and leave that space empty in the hive, and take them away for cleaning? Then rotate them around until all the frames are clean. Or wait until Winter and take the whole Flow Hive off , just keep the two boxes below, and clean all the frames up at once. Maybe prep the timber a little better?

Does the condition of these flow frames appear ‘normal’ after being used for 3 – 4 yrs? They don’t look very appealing to extract honey from at the moment.

Any help is appreciated.

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I’m only going to comment on the condition of the boxes. My 4 year old original flow hive frames are not in that condition and can’t help you.

I think you have to at least buy a couple of brood boxes (they don’t have to be from Flow, standard full depth Langstroths from a beekeeping shop will do). Paint them properly, make sure they are watertight around the corners, then swap them with your Flow brood boxes.

Those brood boxes need some serious work. You have to sand them, kill the mould with bleach, wash, dry, fill any gaps in the joints to make it watertight, paint them with some quality exterior grade paint to manufacturer’s specifications.

Also consider dipping them in CuNap before painting, to protect from decay.

In winter you might be able to take the super off and do the same, and saves you buying another box.

You have to do the same with the roof and bottom board. You can buy some standard replacement as spares too.

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Hi @BradCo.
Yes. All this doesn’t look too good.
I agree with @Wandjina. This hive needs some work. Probably comb in brood boxes needs replacement too.
I think you may receive a better advise if you tell us a bit more. Do boxes themselves have sentimental value and must be restored? WIll you be willing to buy one or two usual hives (2 FD boxes plus cover and bottom for each) and 16-32 frames? On this depends what strategy may be applied.
Meanwhile, nothing stops you from removing super and cleaning/washing frames. Restoration of the box itself may wait till the time when it will be removed at the end of the harvesting season.

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Thanks @Wandjina and @ABB for your responses. There seems to be clear evidence of moisture in the hives. Perhaps the suggestions of purchasing new bottom boxes (and frames) and preparing them correctly is the right one - timber restoration is not my strong point.

I will attempt to remove and clean the flow frames over Winter and decide whether or not purchasing a couple of new flow supers, otherwise attempted restoration might be on the cards. For sentimental reasons we would like to retain some of the original setup, so some effort on my part will be worthwhile.

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Sorry Brad but I suspect the boxes were not treated very well before being used seeing so much mold on them. But all is not lost.
What I would do is hold off major work on the hives till it is Autumn and if you can get your hands on a spare box or two and a base board then I would switch the colony and frames over so that you can sand the boxes, treat the mold with a strong bleach or cleaning vinegar. Then I would paint the wood ware with Copper Napthenate, then a coat of primer paint and finally two good coats of quality paint. That job with drying time and time to fume-off could take a month. So by the time Winter sets in the bees should be back in the hive.
The grubby look about the Flow Frames is propolise which the bees use to seal up any gaps and air drafts. I use a small screw driver after extracting to make sure the bleed back slot is really free of and wax, if it is blocked the bees can’t clean up any honey in the chamber.
Don’t rush the extracting, open the frame in sections and when you have the whole frame open and don’t close the frame while honey is dripping.
I drain my Flow hives into plastic tubes into a pail with a bee proof lid and leave it to completely drain the frames overnight then close the frame in the morning.
Welcome to the forum, lots of keen and knowledgeable bee keepers happy to help with advice. I’m ex Richmond so I know your climate and conditions, your bees will do well there.
Cheers

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Just read you last reply and mold is a definite sign of moisture.
If you able to use sand paper and a paint brush you can restore the wood ware, you don’t have to be a Mick De Angelo. But if you opt for new wood ware then it too will need to be well painted. If you don’t want to use CoN then a product called Bondcrete will leave a plastic like film that can be easily painted.
Cheers

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Thanks Peter, good advice about treating timber and restoring what I have. I will give some thought into prepping in Autumn. Once the hives are moved to my property it will give me more time to decide exactly what to do.

Any idea what causes the situation re: third photo in my post? Perhaps once I gain more experience I will be able to manage things like this a little better. Does that look like crystallised honey to you? Is it unusual to have SHB in that part of the hive? Perhaps a blocked leak back slot was the catalyst for these issues? Thanks again.

My thoughts on the third photo down would be to make sure there is no beetle larvae in that stuff you’re digging out. In fact I would give each channel a sniff test before extracting any honey. I would also inspect every frame & harvest the honey away from the hive, seeing as hive beetles are in your area.

Because your hive is wrc, I would not bother with copper naphthenate treating. I would only treat it if it was hoop pine.

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I have looked at the pics again, I missed seeing the hive is made of Western Red Cedar which @JeffH noticed, so delete the Copper Naphthenate part of my advice.
When I extract my Flow Frames I fit a 25mm plastic tube to the extraction tube which goes into a pail with an air tight lid to make it bee proof, I then drain the frame overnight with the frame in the open position, close the frame in the morning and all of the honey has been drained to the last drop.
With the 3rd photo, yes, you can get SHB in the chamber while the bees are sealing the segments in the frame I guess, but I’m not sure I’m seeing SHB in the pics but it looks like a lot of wax capping and general ‘crud’. I use a ‘chux’ wrapped around my key tool to wipe out the chamber before I refit the plug after extracting, but that said I haven’t ever had that much ‘crud’, maybe a bit of rush with the last extraction?
Cheers

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with the channels at the bottom I do the following to keep them clean:

  1. a day before I harvest a frame I get a long bottle brush that fits the entire length of the channel and a bucket of hot water. I swish the brush in the water and then run it through the channel, dipping it in the bucket to clean it- quite a few times until it is nice and clean. Then I put a wad of tissue paper in the hole instead of the cap so it can air out and dry. Then when I go to harvest I also put a fine filter inline with the bucket and tubes so that any small particles are filtered out.

  2. a few days after harvesting I check to see if any honey residue is in the channels. If it is I turn the caps around so the little hole where the bees can lick up honey is kept clear of wax and propolis and the bees can lick up any honey residue.

  3. I might also slightly increase the tilt of the hive to the rear. This helps the bees keep the channel clear and also aids in harvesting quicker.

another thing:

To keep my flow frames clean- and avoid the risk of honey candying in the frames- we now remove our flow supers for the winter. We found leaving them on they became blackened by mold. We leave on an ideal box on instead for winter stores for the bees.

finally- those boxes do indeed look to be water damaged. perhaps when you relocate them you could find a drier spot. Then after some dry period- if the boxes have had a chance to dry out- you could work in a lot of Tung Oil. Or do as other suggest and swap out your boxes giving you an opportunity to fix up the flow hive. Perhaps you can exchange the brood boxes, base and lids first- then fix up the flow supers when they have been removed over winter.

If you can find someone who could hot wax dip the equipment for you that may be a very good solution.

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I don’t think I have a little hole on the round caps.

The hole isn’t on the cap- it is at the bottom of the channel. If you look at the tubes you insert to extract you can see the little part that sticks out that blocks the hole when you are harvesting. When you are done and replace the caps the bees can lick up honey- you can see them doing it. However sometimes the bees have put propolis on the plug to block the hole. Turning it usually clears it. Sometimes you might need to remove it and poke a small stick into the hole to clear it :wink:

Thanks Semaphore, I wasn’t aware of this, and I have to go and have look.

Thanks again, much appreciated.

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Thank you for all the useful information and recommendations that are being offered here. I will be taking everything on board and will do the best I can with what I have got.

Great forum. :+1:

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