Runny Honey from Poor Ventilation?

We have two hives in Perth WA, one standard hive and one flow hive. We are on a very small block so the flow hive is connected to an observation tube providing to allow the bees to exit above the roof a bee free backyard. Also great for non bee keepers to get up close and see all the different pollen colours coming in.

Every year the flow hive significantly underperforms the standard hive which we had attributed to extra energy the bees have to use getting in and out the observation tube on the flow hive. However, the honey from the flow hive is also consistently far runnier than the than the standard hive and we have had issues with fermentation if stored for extended periods. Now before anyone jumps in and says this is because we are harvesting uncapped honey, before every extraction from the flow hive, frames have been checked to ensure they are at least 95% capped and usually it’s fully capped. This is where I am lost, I was under the impression that if it’s capped it’s good to go but that does not appear to be the case.

The main difference between the two hives is the standard hive has heaps of ventilation and the flow hive has very little which is further compounded by the observation tube restricting entrance ventilation. The box at the bottom of the ventilation tube does have fine fly screen on either side to allow good air flow but in winter the tube gets loads of condensation over night and the observation windows on the super also show a lot condensation.
It’s a WRC flow hive 2 and is standard apart from the observation tube exit. We have left the bottom board in place and the ventilation plate in the ventilated mode. Located in Perth WA within 500m of the beach.

Depending on responses here, we are considering trialling some added roof ventilation to see if it improves matters.

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Hi Dedman, welcome to the forum! I’m not from your area but we do have occasional issues with moisture here so ventilation is something I’ve learned to factor into my decisions. About the capped honey being prone to fermentation now & then, these things come to mind -

  1. If it’s right on the edge and you harvested in high humidity, maybe it picked up that extra percentage point.
  2. Maybe the bees can only get it to the edge of full cure with their best efforts and then cap it all.
  3. Some nectars lead to thinner vs thicker honey.

I have my hives set up with two small entrances on either side of the lower opening/blocked across the middle, and one upper entrance once supered. I also use slatted bottom racks that go between the bottom board and the brood box. If I ever block off the hole in the inner cover it’s with screen.

I think your tube is really clever, but is probably contributing to the humidity problem. If you need to keep it, you could try a slatted bottom rack and maybe screen off the top inner cover hole and add a shim between it and the roof for more space above & below. The bees might be better able to move the air around that way even with just the tube entrance.

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I took another look at your pic and had another thought - you could probably cut it down a bit and still have the benefit of bees not flying at person-level, and what if you replaced it with a tube made of screen?

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I like the concept and execution any other photos you could share of the entrance and tube.

I tend to agree with @Eva about the likely causes. With other chimney designs I see a lot of ventilation at their base, built in mesh at the bottom of the chimney to allow ventilation and also debris from the hive to fall through.

The plastic tube itself could be creating humidity issues buy heating up, do you normally cover it?

With the flow roof, it is really leaky. It doesn’t fit tight to the hive body nor the cover board. The bees don’t have access and so don’t seal with propolis. What have you done with the feeding hole in the cover board? You quickest and easiest solution for more ventilation may be covering it with mesh.

Is the thin honey associated with a particular time of year and therefore a nectar source? From memory the pig face produces this sort of honey.

Hopefully a few things to consider and would appreciate some more photos.


Firstly welcome to the forum Dedman.
This is not a problem I have with honey from the flow frames once it reaches room temp, I like to harvest on hot days so the honey is more viscous and flows more freely.
I suppose the pertinent question is; What is the water content of the runny honey?

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The interface box for the hive was designed such that no modifications were required to the hive to use it. The circular cutouts on both sides have fine mesh across them and the top circular cutouts have clear perspex over them. The mesh is very fine so may restrict air flow a bit.


I would love to know the water content, dont have the gear to test it unfortunately though.

Thanks for the information Eva. Maybe you are right that its just on the edge. Will see how the increased ventilation goes. Cheers.

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You can buy a honey refractometer from Amazon or eBay for less than $40, even in Australia. Just make sure that it is specifically for honey. Then calibrate it with extra virgin olive oil which reads 27.4% water on a honey refractometer. Very useful - I love mine!



Hi Alex & I also welcome you to the forum.

After reading your opening dilemma message, I’m wondering why you can’t mimic your standard hive with the Flow hive, seeing as the honey from that hive returns a higher viscosity.

It IS interesting that bees will cap unripe honey, while we all assume that bees should know what they’re doing, so therefore we trust their judgement when it comes to capping honey.

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Reading through, I think it might be down to ventilation too, the bees will fan out humidity and reduce water content by spreading nectar in cells and fanning this, the fine mesh doesn’t seem like enough for the bees to effectively remove this via the entrance - It would be fanned out the entrance and then become trapped inside the extended entrance. So they would need to work harder and they might just be capping it off in the same time frame when they would normally expect it to be fully cured. I would look at using a larger gauze over the openings.

Is there any possibility these bees are foraging from a sugar water source?

You could try shifting the hive so the bees have a more natural entrance and leave them like this until your next harvest and compare the harvests. Maybe you could try a top entrance leading to the tube as well. While including some ventilation holes in the roof.

Looks like a good modification for the entrance. I think I agree with Kieran that you should consider using a 3mm mess (like the vented base board) to help with ventilation. It is hard to tell but it looks like they may have started to propilis the mesh you are using, particularly the one closest to the camera?


have you removed the plastic tray, as a matter of interest? That will also increase ventilation

We are now trialling no tray and mesh over the hole in the top board to see if the next harvest is a bit thicker. Also emptied the super as a baseline.

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You are quite correct, they have started to propilis the mesh. Originally we had fibreglass household fly screen which offered somewhat more ventilation but they would chew through it every 6 months or so (which I was amazed by). Will try the 3mm mesh next.

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I do not think so. In suburbia so anything is possible but I would say very unlikely. The non flow hive would also forage from the same area.

There is no reason I couldn’t do this. Would just need to get the height right. Ill see how the increased ventilation goes for the next harvest and then if there is still a difference try that.

Thanks for the info. I knew you could get them and it was on the to do list at some point.

I don’t know that height would make any difference. I was thinking more about the configuration of the hive, as in the bottom board & roof, as well as the entrance. I’m curious, do you have a chimney on the traditional hive?

Actually the other day a bloke picked up colonies from me to place into traditional hives. He already has 2 traditional hives. His neighbor has 2 Flow hives, from which he was given a sample of honey. He commented on how different it tasted & how much runnier it was to his own honey. Then I told him about your dilemma.

I wonder if some of this is from harvesting time? I have personally measured honey water content, comparing that draining at the start of a Flow frame harvest, and compared it with honey from the end. It varies by as much as 1% or more, and the higher water content honey always drains first. So it could be that the time for harvesting was too short, and the “good stuff” was left in the frames.

FYI I give my frames at least 2 hours to drain, but I prefer 4 hours or more. I start late morning, and stop when the afternoon begins to cool down, around 4 or 5 pm. :wink: