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My experience of using Flow frames without an excluder

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Thanks for letting us know, and as Dexter has stated this is important for users to be aware of. If you still plan to go ahead without a queen excluder then why not have an additional super (medium size) in between the brood and flow, this will act as a barrier to the queen and she may lay in the medium super but the Flow hive which will be the 3rd box up will be too far to travel. Just another option, but may not be viable if the nectar flow in your area is not strong.


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Aloha, that’s great info & advice. What weight would you consider the 2.5 cups of honey to be. Apparently the Flow frames yield 3 kgs. of honey each. I hope your not taking the honey too soon, before the bees have had a chance to ripen it & put caps on it.

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Thanks for sharing your experience. Yes it is safer to use an excluder. I see you said each frame contained 2 to 2.5 cups. That seems like they weren’t completely filled or all the honey hasn’t drained out… or perhaps you have very large cups. Did you weigh the honey or do you know how many Milliliters or pints you collected.

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In my experience, having drone comb in the brood nest makes a big difference to whether the queen lays in the supers. C.P. Dadant mentions this although he puts it kind of the other way around. That if you don’t allow drone comb in the brood nest you have to make an effort to keep it out of the supers…


Thanks for sharing that… bad news. I have had this happen. Have you taken out the frames to have a look? I imagine that there isn’t enough room for drone brood in the brood nest and the bees are using a patch in the middle and lower part of the Flow frames for drones.

Are you using worker size foundation in the brood nest? Or naturally drawn? What size is your brood box/s? Is it a Flow Light or Full?

If you still have time left in your season you could experiment with giving them more room for brood, especially drone brood and check to see if she is still using the flow comb for brood.

Here is the previous post that you mentioned for future readers:

We recommend the use of a queen excluder as this ensures no bee eggs or larvae end up in the Flow™ frames.
Having said this, most of our experimental Flow™ hives did not use an excluder and we never found worker brood in them and very rarely found drone brood. We have designed Flow™ comb to have deep cells of a size that suits neither worker or drone brood. Bees don’t necessarily do what you want though…

Another factor that we believe helps ensure brood stays in the brood box is giving the bees flexibility in making the brood comb by providing them with the opportunity to build natural frames (wedge frame) rather than foundation to build on. They will then build drone or worker size brood cells as they see fit, leaving the Flow™ frames for the honey storage.
If you want to experiment with no excluder you will need to pull out a Centre Flow frame from time to time, especially in spring, to make sure there are no drone cells.


A situation where she wants to put some, somewhere, and if you don’t allow it where she wants it she will put it where you don’t want it?

Exactly. They will raise drones somewhere. They will decide what they think is the least work to accomplish it. If there is drone comb in the brood nest, this is always the easiest. If not, brood comb is very difficult for them to tear down and rebuild, so they go where they think it’s the least work. Nice soft wax comb with no cocoons is easier. But overlarge cells that are a bit too deep might be their next compromise… especially if there is no soft drawn comb to rebuild in the brood nest or the supers…

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I love my drones and encourage the bees to make lots. That way my queens have decent suitors.

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I collected 2 cups in a jar with cup markings on the side. I never actually weighed the honey to find out how much it weighed. We waited until we saw that the sides of the frames were fully capped before harvesting. We made the assumption that if the edges were capped, most likely the center was capped also. Never actually opened up the hive to see if the middle of the frames were capped.

Thanks for the reply Cedar! I am using worker sized foundation in the brood nest. The boxes are 10 frame Langstroth boxes. I am using a flow light with three frames. I have normal frames in with the flow frames. I am going to open the hive this weekend and take a look at what is going on in there. Any other suggestions?

Maybe give the bees more room in the brood nest such as a deep and a medium or 2 deeps and then do your Flow super on top of that.

As a matter of interest Cedar, I presume with your general philosophy you favour foundationless natural comb throughout your own brood boxes? And if so, have you noticed any discernible difference in the way the colony populate brood frames below a flow super as opposed to a traditional super?

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Hi everyone. Because of the way the Flow Hive works, it is necessary to put a queen excluder so no brood is developed on the Flow Hive frames, otherwise you are going to squash the bees when extracting. BUT, in winter, you should remove the queen excluder to allow for the queen to keep within the mass of bees, otherwise she will freeze to death in winter when all the bees ball up and follow the honey upwards. The Queen will not be able to pass the excluder and will either freeze or starve to death. Of course, the trick is knowing when the queen will stop laying. Also remember that you should always leave from 30% to 50% of the honey in the frames for the bees to have something to feed on in winter.

These recommendations vary widely with your local weather. I don;t think Hawaii is too cold in winter, so your bees are probably able to forage all year round. For the rest of us, we also need to remember to install the Queen exlcuder in Spring after driving the bees down, just before the Queen starts lying.

Bees don’t fly under 10 Celsius, so when it get around that temperature is a good time to remove the excluder. Likewise in spring, when temperatures start rising above 10 C is time to put the excluder back…

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Hi Dexter, i agree that we need to think differently with the Flow Hive, but removing capped honey frames and putting it back in winter seem too risky and too much work. The purpose of the Flow Hive is to save work in the first place. Let’s hear some other people’s suggestions,

I have one concern with removing the flow hive super for the winter what if it’s not ready for harvesting or some flow frames are not fully capped? Then what? I know I’m missing something here but from everything I have read in some climates and areas if the flow frames are not full in the late fall before the snow season starts how would keepers deal with semi or partially filled flow frames?

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In that case Mally, just leave the Flow Super on the hive for the bees to feed on over winter and as to make use of the super to its full potential, remove any empty Flow frames and replace with fully capped honey frames if you have them. If you don’t then make sure you don’t extract from the Flow in autumn so they will have enough stores to get them through winter.

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Any place that has a winter season (50f and below) will have extra management duties when using Flow frames. After that initial harvest it now becomes a crap shoot as to whether or not the bees will fully fill and cap the frames again. Some years they might and some years they can’t. If they do that’s great but now will there be enough forage after that harvest to stock the brood nest for winter survival. If they don’t you’re left with a bunch of partially filled frames of open nectar/honey. A decision must be made to either drain the frames and hope it was dry enough not to spoil, or drain the frames and feed it back to the colony so they have enough food to survive winter.
After my initial harvest I put the wet frames (mediums) back on the hives and let the bees attempt to refill them. After the fall flow I check each hive and make sure they have at least 60 lbs. of honey stored for winter. Any hive that has extra goes to nucs or hives that didn’t put enough away. Only after that is done do I take some fall honey for me.
I wouldn’t let the bees winter on the Flow frames because late winter/early Spring the cluster will be at the top of the hive and that’s where they will start their brood nest. They will gradually move down as the season progresses backfilling the places where brood hatches above.
That’s how hives work in my neck of the woods. (NJ)