Overwintering with a Flowhive for Stores

Continuing the discussion from Using the flow hive in cold climate or freezing conditions:

I have had this very topic on my mind!

Avoiding the use of the flow for anything other than honey stores is the general goal. Any ideas on how to manage using the flow super as the overwinter extra super of stores? Without winding up with activity in the spring that results in brood in the flow?

I have a bunch of thought floating thru my brain, but they have not sorted themselves out coherently yet. In no particular order;

  • The brood box will be foundationless, so the bees will (hopefully)
    use the frames there for their bee business because the cell size
    will suit them better.

  • The queen excluder could be removed for the winter to avoid the ‘lost
    queen’ syndrome. Replace it in the spring.

  • Going without an excluder at all and seeing what the bees choose to

  • Leaving the flowframes in might just be a bad all round idea,
    resulting in springtime issues surrounding pollen, brood and a
    resident queen in the flow super.

Arrgh. Only time will tell to some extent.

Bear in mind that bees will move up…for instance if your brood is in double brood boxes…in the spring …they will be in the top one. It does depend somewhat on your climate…in some places bees can forage all year round and don’t have to huddle in winter conditions…so a Flow could stay on…here in the UK…you couldn’t do that. If you did…by the time the weather improved sufficiently to be able to open the hive and inspect it…the brood would be up in the Flow. If you used a queen excluder…she could be left behind and die.

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The flow hive is designed for a Langstroth…yes?
Surely a Lang is big enough to contain enough stores in the brood box?
I run 14x12s or Deep Nationals and never leave supers of stores. Too much food and you have to take brood frames away in the spring and you’re in bother if you don’t have drawn empty brood frames.

I guess if you reach the end of the nectar season…and are left with unripe nectar in the Flows…then you have a problem. You could drain it…remove the flow and feed back to the bees. It would bulk out their stores. As you say if there is enough nectar for the bees to collect…they will store it in the brood box …and that should be sufficient for the winter. Here in the UK…they are inclined to collect ivy nectar which crystallises…so the Flow must come off before then.

We will all have different climates to work in and flora and fauna as well. I am in San Francisco, so I have a mild damp marine climate. Never snows or freezes, but doesn’t get much above 75 except for the occasional heat wave. And I will be using quilts for the dampness.

Up in Sacramento we winter over with a brood box and a medium super. No excluder. But there the winters are cold. I don’t know if one brood is enough to get by with in my area. I think I will have to check and see what the local keepers think/do.

The winter preparations will be the same as normal for your area. The main difference will be in climates where the bees continue to forage as the climate is tropical for instance. Then it comes down to types of forage and whether it is suitable for the Flow…as in jelly or crystalising nectars. Sadly, we have a definite winter here in the UK…so the Flow will be removed at the end of the nectar flows and prior to ivy nectar. It depends on the size of the colony as to whether you use one or two brood boxes. As long as there are enough stores. Many people nadir a super of stores in autumn and the bees move those stores into the brood box above. I, personally like the idea that the bees don’t have to cross from one box to another in midwinter. I have used a slab of fondant on the frames to ensure sufficient stores. The main thing is to ensure the bees don’t get isolated from their stores.
It seems there are many people who have ordered Flows, who haven’t kept bees before. For those people…there will be lots of learning how to keep their bees…all the husbandry that beekeepers learn. It will be specific for their climate too which is why a good mentor is helpful. There has been lots of advice about doing courses, reading, etc the difference will be in the harvesting of the honey. There will still be some collection of the honey if wax frames are used in conjunction with the Flow. If you haven’t kept bees before then you will soon discover what a wonderfully absorbing hobby it is.