My next experiment

During our long winters in northern Canada, I have adequate time to formulate new hive configurations…and this year I will be modifying my 10 frame Langstroth honey supers to accomodate 6 Flowframes instead of 7.

The photo shows new frames but that is more for measurement purposes…I’ll always use previously built out Flowframes to prevent burr comb build-out…the space between the frames works out to about 9mm. and spacers will be installed on the super wall to provide alignment.

When the supers are full, I’ll remove them (bees and all) and tip the supers on their sides for the bees to fly back to their home.

Then I’ll take the supers inside and do a thorough inspection on capping extent and frame leakage.

Any thoughts on what I could expect?

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Hi @Doug1.
Interesting question :slightly_smiling_face:
Comb build-out to 6mm gaps possibly? But will it leak outside of the frame after opening?

Not sure if you use spacers at the bottom as well. But even if you do - misalignment between fame and wall holes caused by wood swell/shrinkage?

Practice will tell :slightly_smiling_face:

Hi Doug, I just have to ask for the reason for reducing from 7 to 6 frames??
My concern and I’m sure you have thought of it to, is that the bees will build out the depth of the cells and so I would think extracting will be a bit messy even done with the frames removed from the box.
It seems to me a big deviation from your usual way which I admire and would like to know your thinking about this?

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Seems like a worthwhile experiment for your setup, with a lot of hives running so if you have any disappointments they won’t tank your whole season…my concern with leaving full supers of any kind out in the open for too long would be robbing though.

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Good question ABB…and as you say “Practice will tell”.
In the photo below is shown an important standard piece of super equipment…the metal 9 frame spacer… which is installed in every 10 frame Langstroth brood box and honey super I have. It appears as if the separation distance between frames is 10mm+ so if you divide that by 2, that is very close to your 6mm figure. Traditionally, some commercial beeks in my area used 8 frame metal frame spacers in their honey supers and swore they got more honey/super and with less frame handling…8 vs 9 frames/super. So I’ll have to just see how the bees react to a larger space between the Flowframes…

As a side note, I will not be using these metal frame spacers for the Flowframes…metal frame spacers are just shown to illustrate the options a beekeeper may use with traditional equipment in varying the bee working area between adjacent comb surfaces. The Flowframe spacers will be wood slats that are installed on the inside super end walls that separate the Flowframes from the top to the bottom of the Flowframe.

Well I guess you can blame the Flow forum and your countryman JeffH for planting this idea in my mind :smiley:! JeffH’s theory of frame leakage was a result of “wet capping” of the Flowframe being a cause/source of this issue. My experience has shown that traditional frames that have the comb built out deeper seldom show this “wet capping” syndrome so that’s why I’m setting the stage for the bees to build comb in this wider fashion. Honey bees are capable of building comb 3" (75mm) thick as no doubt you have observed.

I will not be removing individual frames from the Flowhive honey supers…just a normal keying in place.

Good point…and I know this may be difficult to visualize…but my beekeeping area is defined by a condensed timeframe (short) honeyflow…but it is prolific and in good years is continuous from spring to fall. That doesn’t mean that the hive weight increases uniformally throughout that time but it ebbs and flows. The important thing (with regards to robbing) is that there is a near constant supply of native and farmed flower sources during our honey season…so the robbing tendency is suppressed…the bees are focused on foraging. That doesn’t mean that in the fall season the bees won’t rob if the beekeeper gets careless…or if the commercial guy uses this robbing instinct to fall feed in preparation for winter…i.e. bees emptying 45 gal barrels of sugar/corn syrup placed near the apiary sites. I don’t use this robbing method for fall feeding for several reasons.

The “abandonment method” …works well here…no robbing…no bees damaged. Meanwhile, the beehouse hives that these honey supers came from have been “supered up” with wet supers…stimulates them to get in high gear bringing in more nectar as soon as they get back to their hive…but most importantly, the aggressive instinct isn’t triggered…mean bees take the fun out of beekeeping. I’m fully suited up but it’s more so I can just relax while I’m working. The whole process (from removing the honey to the bees back in their original home) takes about three hours…that allows a couple of hours for the bees to abandon the full supers.

Here they are back in the beehouse…bees in every beehouse orifice.


What I meant was occasions when bees reduce total gap between combs to 5-6mm in honey storage areas. I don’t say it is necessary going to happen, but just hypothetically, what if bees decide to extend plastic cells with wax? How it is going to affect harvesting?
Here is an illustration of the idea (left side mainly).

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We are having the same thoughts and thanks for your wording and diagram. Maybe my wording got a case of the fumbles. :face_with_raised_eyebrow: :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

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Yes that is what I’m hoping will happen…

That’s the 1000 dollar question…I’m hoping that after draining the frame, the capping will remain intact. When the keying of the frame is done, the honey drains out of the cell via the ruptured, downward sloped cell side walls…internally so to speak. This will continue to happen in the new scenario…to me the leakage occurs when there are fractures along the comb surface. For all I know, perhaps the leakage will be worse…but I’ll find out. Here is an exquisite video of the process I’m trying to describe and design around. This exquisite video was taken by a novice Flow forum poster and all credit goes to him…I bet I have watched this video a dozen times. I’ll try to find the post but here is the video:


That is clearly what happens with wet caps. A classic example of wet caps to start with, then an excellent video showing what happens as soon as you turn the key. The surface tension of the wax cap on the honey doesn’t allow the honey to flow away from the cap without moving it & fracturing it.

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For me JeffH this video also dispels a few other myths…at least in my setting.

  1. Opening the frame by inserting the key at 1/4 or 1/3 frame depth increments is unrelated to leakage that runs down on top of the capping surface. The far right quarter of the frame has been keyed and drained previous to the video being taken…it has no leakage effect on the next 1/4 increment. But incremental keying may help prevent honey back-up in the main drain gallery at the bottom of the frame.

  2. From a leakage standpoint, uncapped cells are likely insignificant when a frame such as the above (left-half of frame is uncapped) is keyed. So Flowframes don’t need to be capped before extraction…unless of course if there is a honey moisture issue.

The video is invaluable…and so was your “wet capping” theory…but it does give one a sore head and keeps me awake at night.

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Thanks for the video Doug, it definately visual proof of what you and @JeffH are discussing. The honey running down the outside of the wet cells has to end up on the brood. Incremental opening of a frame won’t stop that happening but it does stop the draining chamber flooding and honey flooding out thru the bottom cells of the frame in my opinion. So flooding can happen two ways, honey leaking thru wet cappings as in the video or because of a build up of honey in the chamber that can’t drain fast enough.


I think going back to a previous query you made regarding my motives…I’m ultimately motivated by the labor saving feature of Flowhives…it hopefully will extend my beekeeping years…huge fan of FH technology…keep me out of the “home” :wink:


Hi Doug, I’m sorry to hear of your sore head & unable to sleep on account of the “wet capping theory”.

I also like the FH technology, however I find extracting honey by hand spinning to be more efficient. I don’t think that my beekeeping years are limited on account of hand spinning the honey.

It keeps me IN the “home” because that’s where I hand spin. As well as where I make up frames etc.


just to keep your head from resting- have you considered the possible affects of honey viscosity and temperature on leaking? I ask because I have had very varied experiences with leaking honey. I have a flow hive with very large windows on either side of the super- and windows in the brood boxes below. I have harvested the frames and watched carefully- and I have not seen any honey drip out of the faces as in your video- and none at all going down into the brood below. Some honey did bead at the surface- but it didn’t run out and down. But in that case the honey was very thick only coming in at 14.5% moisture. Also it was a cold day. BUT- the flow was SUPER slow- it took half a day to drain the frames dripping out ever so slowly.

In your video the honey appears to flow easily- relatively high moisture content?

If you are able to clear bees from your flow supers through your abandonment method- and then harvest them over a trough to catch the leaks- perhaps you can have your cake and eat it too. Of course that would remove one of the big advantages of the flow frames- harvesting on the hive. But it would still be easier than spinning frames I should think? Also (I believe) there IS an advantage in honey clarity and aroma in flow honey over traditionally extracted. I truly believe more flavor is preserved using flow frames, though it is subtle.

We have run flow frames in the hybrid supers- and in that configuration the outermost face of the outermost two flow frames does have more bee-space and the bees do cap it out further. In your video above you can see a few lines of the plastic cells poking out through the wax cappings showing that the frames is capped just at the surface. I have wondered if more leaking occurs when they are capped at or just below that surface? Your tests may confirm that. However in that hybrid set up we also did get more bridging from the flow frames to the adjacent regular frames- and maybe that could cause ruptures?

Ah- so many variables!

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But jeff- you are a force of nature!

We are not all superhuman like you. Nowadays most of my hives are traditional and I have done a fair amount of hand spinning this year, and yes I agree it can be done efficiently with experience. However I also had the pleasure of harvesting my flow frames- and I tell you- IT WAS AN ABSOLUTE treat! It was so easy I had to laugh. There was literally nothing to it. I harvested one hive using the bucket method- with a filter in line. The honey went into the bucket and then directly into jars. No cappings, no steam knife, no spinner, no stickies: virtually no work. I also did not see any leaking this year- and no ill affects on my bees.

You are very efficient in how you work- and very experienced. And I also think that spinning a large number of frames in a single go is much more efficient than just spinning one or two boxes. The clean up is similar if you do 20 boxes or one.

I don’t live in beetle country- and after 5 years I am still very happy to recommend flow hives to any back yard beek who only has one or 3 hives. In our locale it makes a lot of sense. Especially so if you are short on storage space for your spinning equipment.


Hi Jack, I’m definitely not a force of nature or superhuman :slight_smile:

You are spot-on about hive beetles. They certainly add another layer of complexity to the discussion. I hope they never make it to the Adelaide Hills.

One day I relished the thought of how it would be without hive beetles. It would be wonderful to not have to consider hive beetles with everything I do with my bees. However in the long run, I think I’m better off because I’m keeping my colonies strong. Keeping my brood frames at a very high percentage of worker comb, which is all good. A stronger colony means more honey & quicker splits to sell.


Hi Jack…yes and both of those parameters would influence the rate of leakage…also remember we have 5 Flowhive supers stacked on one brood box which amplifies the situation. And so far we haven’t lost a queen and the brooding area is OK but that I feel is a result of having a bunch of uncapped cells above the queen excluder that don’t leak in the first place or catch honey droplets from above as they work their way down.

It’s a video from an Aussie beekeeper that posted on this forum some time ago…and if I recall correctly, he sped up the video so it likely is a slower leakage rate in reality.

Normally we leave the Flowhive supers on the hive for honey removal…but we did a closer evaluation only once using the trough system where we were able to weigh the actual amount of leakage.

Great news!

My thoughts exactly.

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