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Restart after 35+ years

Hello … and hope this is taken in spirit it is intended.
I did some beekeeping at end of 70s to early 80s, at that time built my own hives (not from a kit)
2 work colleagues kept bees, one had WBC and the other National … Then it seemed to me having double skinned WBC … looked more traditional and also protected better against wet & cold. (Though a lot of maintenance)
At that time it was solid floor hives, and I used to run a brood chamber with drone foundation as first chamber.
I sold all more than 30 years ago.

Looking to restart … there seems to be several ‘flow’ hives, the concept seems logical, not yet sure on the facts.
Would like to restart in a small way … mainly to something back into the environment. I would be keeping traditional Welsh black bees as before.

This may be an easier way to restart …no extracting seems a great bonus, as is not continually replacing foundation.
I’m no Luddite and happy to consider improved methods & product design.
I am also an advocate of not taking all they produce, and giving them sugar solution … they made it they deserve it.

Of the various flow hives … what made you choose ‘Honeyflow’ over the others. Be interested in why you made your decision.

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Hello Sargan and welcome:

Here’s a response to a thread on Beesource from someone in New York USA who started last year and gives his experience after a season. I’m assuming it gets cold where you are (Wales)?

"I started with nuc colonies in spring of last year ('18). All three colonies built into two standard 10-frame deep brood chambers. By summer, two of the three built up enough to need a super. First I tried a shallow Hogg comb honey super, which they refused to use, and I gave up on it. Then I tried the Flow supers. At first they were reluctant to use them, but once I rubbed some wax on them and sprayed a little honey/lemongrass/water mix into the cells, they started working them. I don’t know if this rain dance helped or if it just took more time and a good flow, but anyway, the cells started filling.

In the fall it was a little awkward because all the flow frames had some capped and some uncapped honey. I extracted the best frames and the honey was a little moist, like 20% water. But ok, I’m not trying to sell it, and so far it hasn’t fermented. The extraction process itself was pretty much as advertised, so kudos on that. Some bees drowned in the jar, some honey spilled into the hive, and generally the process was a little messy, but still easier than dealing with an extractor, in my opinion. If I had 50 hives, sure, an extractor would be way easier, but with just 3, the flow supers were pretty ideal.

Overwintering was a bit awkward, too. I wanted to leave them enough honey, but much of it was in the flow frames, and I didn’t want the queen to lay in those frames. I couldn’t just leave the super on above an excluder because the bees might move up and leave the queen below. So, I removed the flow supers. If the hives get light before the spring flow I guess I’ll extract and feed. But it’s annoying that even though I’m using all deep hive bodies, my frames still aren’t totally interchangeable because I’d like to avoid larvae in the flow frames. I probably wouldn’t worry about that with “normal” frames.

Maybe this is too obvious to mention, but the claims that flow supers allow you to avoid disturbing the bees are something between irrelevant and utter nonsense. Most of the disturbance is checking that the colony is queenright, applying varroa treatments, and stuff like that. Sure, one disturbance per year is stealing the honey, but even with the flow supers you need to pull out the frame and check that it’s mostly capped before extracting. So if you go into it thinking this is a real advantage, you have no idea what beekeeping is about.

But ok, whatever. As long as you go into it knowing that a flow super is nothing more than a slightly easier way to extract for backyard beekeepers, with some slight downsides with respect to interchangeability of frames, I think you’ll get what you expect. The product does basically work as advertised, in my experience."

I wish you great success :slight_smile:

Chili pepper sent you a reply from someone else and it answered the question about use of flow frames in general. You are asking also why choose this system here as opposed to another system of similar.

The system has been tested and it is the first. All the others out there that you’re finding are copies. They have not been tested. There are ever so slight differences in them so they can get by with potential copyright infringement laws.

I can speak directly to that from my beekeeping club. I only have the system from here the original, a number of other people in my beekeeping club purchased knockoffs and they cannot get their bees to take to the hives at all they look virtually identical but they are not the same.

There are way too many little differences for me to go into, but among those are the exact size of the comb itself, to the angle in which the frames sit with each other. Cedar and his dad did a lot of research. Likely it would be helpful for you to go back and read some of the original threads where they talked about all the little nuances and information they went into to figure this out.

Additionally the plastic that they are using is all food grade. As opposed to some of the ones I’ve seen from my B club don’t have that stamp of food grade plastic on them. so no telling what they’re made out of and whether or not that quantity of nonfood grade plastic is potentially even toxic to the bees.

The system is only been around 4+ years. The knockoffs came pretty quickly because how well the crowdfunding worked for this project. Truly China knockoffs

Welcome back to bee keeping and I’m glad you found the forum where you will find good advice and friends in like minded people around the world. Like you I dropped out of beekeeping for a few decades and with a change of location (climate) I had to relearn so much.
Lets clear the air, there are only 4 versions of a Flow hive. They are the 8 frame and the 10 frame sizes, but with the added thickness of the Flow Frame Super frames they are actually onlt 7 and 9 frames made of plastic in the supers, the brood box is the same as you remember in a Langstroth hive. The other two versions is that you have the choice of Cedar or Hoop Pine as the timber used in the making of the hive boxes.
Then there is the inferior copies that are made in China and I would not recommend them to my worst enemy, they are nothing short of junk. Most are made of non-food grade plastic of unknown quality and strength.
Using Flow Hives still requires your regular inspections and management of the hives and colonies in them. Taking the honey from a flow hive is easier and a little quicker and doesn’t require the need for an extractor so there is a cost saving there but most of the normal bee keeping tools are still very much in use.
As for the number of hives ‘needed’ I recommend a minimum of two but three is even better to begin with. But bee keeping is very addictive so your apiary is very likely to grow in hive numbers. I restarted my bee keeping a year ago and already, regardless of my best laid plans to have no more than five hives, I have now got 11 in my apiary and 5 off site. So bad that I have been re-stung under my dining room table is boxes with wired and foundationed frames ready to go, Only two of my hives are Flow Hives so my extractor and de-capping gear is in the kitchen, Nailed frames are in the bedroom and so it goes on.:thinking: Wife is not pleased but accepting my bees are a big part of my life.:face_with_raised_eyebrow:
Welcome to the forum, cheers.:grinning:

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Thanks for the comments … need to do more reading. :slight_smile:
Have to find a British beekeeper who uses or has swapped to this system.

On a basic level I need to consider what frame style … as there seems to be be various options.
As I have none of previous equipment left, at least that does not influence decision.

One thing unsure of … where are these made, I had assumed from Website they are made in Australia … yet I see a ‘local’ seller, who advises they ship direct from China ?

Peter … that explanation of frames helped with understanding the system a little better.
Looks like the locally advertised ones are Chinese copies then.

Do I assume Red Cedar is still the most durable, and in a cooler climate (and wet winters) still better choice?
Previously I had Scandinavian pine, and maintenance issue of regular painting with white gloss paint.

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Have a look for @Dee on the forum, she is in the UK and worth her weight in gold for information, Ooops, sorry Dee, not implying you need to diet :joy:

The genuine Flow Hive is either made in the US for the North American market, or here in the Australian factory. Anything that is shipped from China is DEFINITELY not the genuine article.

Red Cedar is a more durable timber and resistant to rotting. My hives are all pine timber and need painting every few years with white paint. The Cedar hives need weather protection and treating. The popular treatment is with Tung Oil to retain the natural look of the timber but others use marine grade varnish with a quicker drying time for the same look of the timber. Roofs are a different issue as they tend to get a black mold growth which visually detracts from the appearance of the hive, Down here that can happen in as little as 6 months. I’m a lazy old fart so I paint all my hives needing doing every 3 or 4 years, even longer if any box damage is painted when needed. In your climate maybe Cedar is the better option balanced against the extra price.

That is a similar pine to Hoop Pine, the common name of the pine that the Flow Hives are made from. It is a fast growing clear pine grown commercially so is better for the environment.
Regards

Pete means 6 Flow frames in an 8 frame Langstroth and 7 Flow frames in a 10 frame Langstroth.
Or you can just buy the Flow frames themselves and modify your own box.
My understanding is that the UK uses predominantly National and Warre hives and the National is close to the same size as a Lanstroth 10 frame hive.


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That was such a basic counting error 5hat I made Skeggley. I need to make sure I take my meds on time. Thanks for picking it up and pointing it out to save confusion.
Cheers :roll_eyes::flushed:

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Hi Sargan,

If you are in Europe/UK, we actually have UK National Supers you can purchase to go on existing UK National sized brood boxes/hives in your area.

You can purchase them through our European webshop here:

You may find this easier if you are having trouble sourcing brood box foundation etc the correct size for our Langstroth sized Flow Hives.

There is a UK beekeepers group here on the forum:

I know @Paras has been pretty active on the forum and is the UK, maybe a different location, but he can help with some sizing queries, etc.

We also have this page on our website which discusses Flow in the UK:

We also have our faq on how to modify a Flow Super to fit a UK National sized hive, so this may give you an idea of the size differences:

https://www.honeyflow.com/resources/blog/uk-national-modification/p/243

Modifying a Flow Super to suit UK National hives

By Stu Anderson  December 7, 2016

Modifying a Flow Super to suit UK National hives
A UK Commercial on top of a UK National. You can see they have different depths, but otherwise share the same dimensions.

We’ve just launched UK National Flow Supers and they are available on our EU website, but if you wish, you can simply adapt a conventional Flow Super to fit. Flow Hive co-inventor Stu Anderson shows us two easy ways to Flowify UK hives.

Flow Frames have been made to fit Langstroth size boxes, however they can be shortened or lengthened to suit other supers. But, pulling apart and changing the Flow Frames (and cutting up a UK Commercial super) may be more work than simply making an adaptor to fit your existing brood box to a Langstroth size Flow Super.

There are two approaches to adapting a Flow Super (Langstroth 10) to fit a UK National or UK Commercial brood box (UK). These UK boxes are the same length and width and will stack on each other, but are different depths. If your brood boxes are different from the UKs, the dimensions in these instructions can be adjusted to suit. Putting different size boxes together does not look pretty, however, the bees don’t care about external looks and making these adaptors is quick and gets your Flow Super operating.

The first approach involves screwing three strips of wood to your beehive boxes. The second approach is to make a plywood adaptor sheet.

The three-strip method

Modifying a Flow Super to suit UK National hives
See the gap on the left between the brood box and the Flow™ Super? There’s another on the right which you can’t see in this image, and one at the other end of the hive. Those are the gaps you’ll fill.

The Langstroth 10-frame hive is narrower than both the UK Commercials and Nationals, but longer. Two strips are fixed along the lower sides of the Lang 10 to make it wider. One strip is fixed to the upper front (the front being the entrance end of the hive) of the UK brood box to effectively make the UK longer.

Modifying a Flow Super to suit UK National hives
You can see here that two strips have been attached, one on either side of the Flow™ Super and another at the front of the brood box.

Side strips: 510mm X 27mm X 20mm (20 X 1 X ¾ in)
End strip 460mm X 50mm X 20mm (18⅛ X 2 X ¾ in)

The 20mm (¾ in) thickness of these strips is a minimum, it doesn’t really matter; it just has to be meaty enough to handle screws going through from edge to edge. I used scrap timber from a pallet to make these, I think an ideal thickness would be 25mm or 1”.

I used three screws to locate the strips. I pre-drilled the screw holes in the strips to prevent the wood splitting and placed the end holes well in from the ends of the strip so that there was plenty of firm wood on the box for the screws to bite into.

The bees will fill/glue small gaps with propolis so, once the Flow Super has been on the UK for a week or two it will be ‘glued’ in position.

You might as well paint the strips to match your hive boxes.

The advantages of the strips are:

  • Easily made from scrap timber
  • The wood will be reasonably weather-proof. A slope could be put on the upper surface of the side strips to shed water
  • Once attached they don’t have to be thought about again.

Plywood adaptor sheet method

Modifying a Flow Super to suit UK National hives
These are the measurements you’ll need. If you have any trouble interpreting this template, please contact Stu directly. That’s a joke. Mark it up just like Stu has here and you’ll be just fine.

Another simple method, this involves cutting a piece of marine grade plywood that is about 6mm (⅜”) thick. The cutting is most easily done using a circular saw or a jigsaw, however a hand saw will work if you can scratch in your saw (or drill a tiresome number of small holes) for the inner cut.

The dimensions are outlined in the picture. Once again, you can vary these to suit the size brood box you have.

Modifying a Flow Super to suit UK National hives
The adaptor in action. Note that the back of the Super is centred side to side but not front to back. It’s flush with the adaptor at the back of the hive where the honey is tapped.

The ply will have to be painted well to withstand the weather. You will be relying on the bees to seal the gaps between the boxes as rain will pool on the exposed ply and potentially leak into the hive.

The advantages of plywood are:

  • Easily shifted from hive to hive
  • No screwing to boxes that may be full of bees.

Why is the Flow Super centred side to side but not end to end?

The reason the back of the Super is aligned with the back of the brood box is so that the bees can reach the Honey Leak-Back Gap at the lower rear of the Flow Frame. If the Super was placed more evenly from front to back then the top of the brood box underneath would get in the way of bees licking up the honey at the Leak-Back Gap.

Modifying a Flow Super to suit UK National hives
Stuart Anderson

Stuart Anderson is a lifelong nature-lover and a devoted beehive tinkerer. So much so, he invented the Flow Hive with his son, Cedar. It doesn’t get much more beehive tinkery than that!

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