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Old But New in Chattanooga, Tennessee USA

A big Southern “Howdy” to you all…

As a bit of background, my beekeeping journey started when I was 9 years old and continued on until my late 30’s when a lifting-related injury (related to beekeeping work) and the time & pressures of a full career, sidelined my beekeeping interests for many years. I’ve been fortunate in being president of our state beekeeping association twice in past years and enjoy learning from from the experiences of others.

At its peak, my beekeeping world encompassed over 120 colonies in various out-yards, lots of commercial honey sales, and conventional beekeeping methods with a high degree of success. Now fully-retired and never one to turn from new ideas, the Flow Hive concept has reawakened my love of beekeeping so another adventure is set to begin this Springtime…this time hopefully without the heavy lifting and on a strictly hobby basis!

As an amateur (ham) radio operator and more than just a little “geek”, we’ll be monitoring our apiary with webcams, remote scales, and a blog to share beekeeping with others. I look forward to forum discussions with you and learning more about using Flow Hives in our area.

Thank you.

Gary Ownsby AK4ZX (Amateur Radio Callsign)


Welcome Gary. We look forward to learning from you too!

Just curious, if you can’t lift, how are you going to inspect your brood box under the Flow super? Or will you just let them do whatever they want in terms of swarming etc?

One other thought. Some people on this forum have horizontal Langstroths with Flow frames in them. Of course they are not easy to buy, but the the plans are very readily available, and you can fairly easily modify the box to work with Flow frames. Would that be a possibility for you?

Thank you for joining us. I love the variety of experience that we have here, and it is great that you are willing to add to it.

Hello Dawn-SD,

Thank you for your welcome and reply.

Lifting per se is not so much an issue (many years after surgical intervention) so inspecting brood boxes won’t be a problem.

Meaning no disrespect to anyone’s personal beekeeping practices…while I respect the concept of beekeeping methods that are more “natural” in their approach, I don’t view horizontal hives as being a better design for bees but perhaps more for the convenience, fabrication simplicity, and material economy of/for the beekeeper. So for me horizontal hives are not of interest but I thank you for the consideration.

I do find hive design an interesting and fascinating design topic though beekeeping as in ham radio produces various “results”. At least with radio design, we’re bound by the laws of physics and electricity whereas bees are often are content with just having a roof over their heads though I wonder if those little creatures often say “now what were they thinking??”

Thanks again for the reply…it’s gonna be a long winter waiting to get outside and in the bees!


No argument from me on that. :blush: I think bees will work with whatever they find. I defer to Tom Seeley for the real research on their preferences.

I know what my individual colonies tolerate and prefer, and although they are only a mile apart, they do actually differ. It is a matter of observing, being sensitive to the signals, and responding to persuade them that they have a good home. :wink: You know all of that, I am just writing some prose for our newer members… :smile:

I agree fully. What I’ve observed and somewhat validated from “master” beekeepers with lifelong experience is that bees tend to prefer vertical orientations which tends to go along with their need to control/manage colony heat (heat rises) & ventilation (also related to heat management).

I also find it noteworthy, interesting, and helpful that vertical orientations permit bees to move with the heat and follow the food storage during wintertime. While a beehive is a very dynamic space, I do think a well-designed hive should follow the logical behavior of its occupants. So for me everything says “up” is correct.

Of course there are other factors that come into play such as crowding, cubic space available, optimum size vs. bee mass, the spherical (“ball”) nature of clustering bees, heat distribution/generation and bee rotation/movement in cold clusters, and the interaction of each of those individually or as a whole (multi-variant effects).

But as with most creatures including humans, if one or a few factors gets out of kilter, the “for sale” sign can go up quickly and they starting looking for a new place to call home at the first occasion that arises…swarming may not only be about continuation of the species but also about addressing things on their “do not like” list. :slight_smile:



I have had a hive abscond courtesy of Argentine ants. We have a mega-colony of them in California. I had installed pretty good ant moats, but between dead ants and brave guard bees, the oil in the moats was bridged. I fixed the problem, but they had already decided to move out, and did so 2 days later - observed by a neighbor. Very sad. Now I have a new moat design, and I am changing to solid bottom boards, as the ants love the screened ones to access the hive… :cry: :cold_sweat:

Hello Gary and Happy New Year to you!

Nice to connect with another flow owner so near to me—I’m in Cookeville. I am relatively new to bee keeping and have found the local club and most beeks here are not familiar with the flow hive. Most are into many, many hives and honey production. I just want three nice colonies for my back field without investing in a honey house, extractor, sieves, etc. If my little girls make it through the winter and don’t abscond in the spring, I should be able to finally harvest this year.

Welcome to the flow family! This is a knowledgable group who freely share their expertise.


Hi Pam,

Thanks for the welcome and your reply.

I find that to be the case around here as well so a lot of on-line reading and research seems to be the order of the day. I have several preconceived ideas about what I will find with the flow hives but none of those would be detrimental to using them…just doing beekeeping a different way.

Setting aside use or non-use of flow hives, the locale and microclimates often have a significant effect upon how bees behave and how we mould our management practices to support and encourage a surplus production of honey. As you know, Tennessee has a wide variety of microclimates (mountains, valleys, river bottoms, and a growing suburbia). I used to have a large beeyard near Pikeville which required very different approaches to managing bees vs. other locations. So I’m anxious and curious to see how we tweak our beekeeping practices to accommodate the flow hive design.

Thanks again for your reply…always nice to hear from a “neighbor”.


Hello gsownsby! I also live in the Chattanooga area. McDonald to be exact. But unlike you, I have no experience and I am 27. I wanted to comment on here to see if you were still active, and ask how your flow hives are doing here? I am wondering what the locals do when it gets all cold and rainy here. I am also curious as to the best way to set up my new flow hive.

Good Morning Xaver,

Thank you for your email.

My wife & I live in the East Brainerd area. We’ve not had any issues with the flow hives per se other than painting them is a bit of a must in our rainy climate…57 inches of rain at our house this past year. We have the cedar flow hives and treated them with tung oil but that just isn’t working. So we plan to paint them. Cedar also tends to be a bit brittle and cracks/splits easy. I’m not too keen on the screen bottom boards and the first year the Hive Beetles were absolutely terrible. We did find out a very good method of getting rid of them this year…no hive beetles at all this year.

At this point, East Brainerd seems to be a “bee desert”…very little foraging after mid-June. In two years we have made ZERO honey and in fact, have not even made it to winter with any live bee hives here…100 percent loss. Again I don’t think this is a flow hive issue but simply the local area where we are is not good yearlong foraging.

I think you would do well in McDonald but the proof is actually trying it.

As a side note, I’m on my way today to pick up two American AZ Hives to play with them.

Feel free to contact me if you have any additional questions. Best of luck!


You may have made some rookie mistakes which you may not make with the AZ hive.
@VinoFarm probably made lots of rookie mistakes at the start, the result being that he’s not using the flow frames. He now seems to be successful with traditional hives, which makes me think that he’d also be successful with flow frames now that he’s more experienced.

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Hi JeffH,

Thank you for your reply. While I certainly don’t rule out making mistakes or such, I’ve kept bees since I was about 9-years old so most of the basic stuff I understand pretty well but I’ve never kept bees here at our “new” home until the last two years. I have electronic hive scales on every hive and the weight peaks and starts dropping in mid-June…so the bee dessert idea comes into mind. I plan to restart this spring with Flow Hives and the AZ hives then perhaps move them to our mountain cabin in late June as it is at about 2,500 feet and the season is a bit later starting there.

I also plan to tweak the AZ Hive design (top) to mate up with a Flow Super. This would produce the best of both worlds…access to EVERY part of the interior of the bee hive and easy honey removal with VERY minimal lifting. So the learning and experimentation continues…


Well done Gary & merry Christmas. We had a few really hot days recently. I found myself watching some of @VinoFarm’s videos. It was fresh on my mind. In one of his videos, he had to put another honey super on, they were filling up so fast. I thought “he could have put the flow super on”. At the end of one video he showed the golden rod that started to bloom. You probably get that where you are. He makes entertaining videos & certainly likes to learn from experience. His biggest problem is the Youtube responses. He gets lots of different ideas to try, which from his point of view would be confusing & hard to work out which one suits him.

And a Merry Christmas to you as well. At one time in my younger days, I had about 120 colonies of bees here in East Tennessee and enjoyed the honey production and a bit of fun but it was a hobby run amuck. Now I do it for pure fun but a dab of honey and keeping my bees alive is my primary motivation…the latter really. My 8-year old is another motive for helping her understand the natural world. Oh well, keeping my optimism up for Spring 2018.

Thank you again.