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Safety of Flow Honey for sale


I’ve snipped this from a trained pharmacist … off another forum…oooops
Can anybody from Flow comment on it?

It’s great that you drew off your honey without too much disruption to the hive and that’s a really positive outcome but it’s also come as a consequence of learning from and anticipating issues raised through debate.

I see the Flow hive as a potentially serious threat to the quality and safety of the honey harvested from them because of issues around hygiene. Understanding what happens to the honey in the collection channels after harvest is fundamental to the quality and safety of the next harvest. Open honey is hygroscopic and the hives maintain temperatures conducive to the growth of various microbes including some serious pathological ones and possibly ones that haven’t been considered simply because no one has used Flow hives for any great length of time. The Flow hive provides all of the right conditions for microbial growth - honey for nutrients, condensation and lack of ventilation for moisture and warmth from the bees. I can for example envisage outbreaks of botulinum poisoning in situations where appropriate hygienic measures have not been taken between harvests. In one of the Flow hive videos that I’ve seen the beekeeper reported that the honey had a strange ‘fermented’ (but still nice) taste. Might be nothing but it could well be as a consequence of moulds, yeasts or other microbes present in the system.

And please don’t take this as being negative. These are issues that have to be addressed to make Flow hives work in a safe manner so as to keep people who consume the honey safe.

Second Flow Frame Extraction
Drainage channel

I don’t think I would dignify it by commenting. Its ill informed drivel.


This is an interesting article…

I think in reality, if the honey did get diluted to a level where pathogens could grow, it’s combining with fresh honey from the frame would kill/immobilise any present.


His concern is leaving honey in the channels after harvest. The honey then absorbs moisture from the air as it is hygroscopic and may set up a situation that microbes can reproduce. The next batch of honey (as long as it is harvested at the correct time) will kill bacteria but not botulism spores or toxin. Spores are really only a problem for infants but enough toxin can be harmful to adults. So I understand the reasoning.

However, the current evidence does not support the theory. It really shouldn’t be any more unsafe extracting normally.

  1. There are already botulism spores in some of the honey we eat which is only a problem for infants.

  2. In traditional beekeeping no one sanitizes the comb after extraction. Even after letting bees clean up there is still going to be honey present (which by the same theory absorb moisture and set up an culture for bacteria). In fact that comb can sit around for a very long time before being placed back into the hive, yet we don’t see any epidemic of botulism poisonings.

  3. Being a trained pharmacist does not make you an expert in microbiology.



And that shouldn’t happen if you stick with the 2.5 to 5 degree backward tilt that flow recommends, as the honey will leak out of the hive return gap. I know honey is viscous, but I can’t imagine a significant amount remaining in the channel to culture bacteria in, if the tilt is properly respected.


I drained the small amount of honey that remained in the frames after I harvested into a container and all of the flow frames are now empty. There obviously is some residual left in the frames. I put them all in the freezer for 48 hours and then have them put away until next year. My assumption is that the bees will clean them up and get them ready to store fresh honey next season. The question I have is there any issues with the residual growing bacteria?


As honey from the pyramids didn’t grow bacteria (it was still edible after thousands of years!), I don’t really think there is any risk at all. Honey is too hyperosmolar to be a good place for bacteria to grow. Yeast can grow in it if it more than 18% water, but otherwise you should be perfectly fine. I think the pharmacist is scaremongering. :wink:


I suspect the honey in the pyramids was sealed? Yes it is too hyperosmolar for bacteria to grow, however, the pharmacist is wondering if the absorption of water from the environment by open honey will decrease the osmolarity enough for bacteria growth. If you look and Dunc’s article, a study is cited that shows honey diluted 50% by water is still bactericidal to pathogenic bacteria. Obviously the left over honey will not absorb that much water. So I think it is safe to say that you may leave as much honey as you want in the trough after extraction and not worry about residual bacteria. I agree with Dawn.



I would suspect that the honey still in the channel would be fine until the next harvest because it’s not exposed to air in the atmosphere, only the air within the channel. I find if I empty a bucket & put the lid on tight, the residue honey if fine until next harvest. However if a lid is not a tight fit, that’s a different story, the honey becomes more liquid with a fermented smell. Then the bucket needs to be thoroughly washed & sanitized.


And if the yeast grows then you get mead, not something toxic. Well, unless it’s really STRONG mead. And you drink way too much of it ; -)


There are a number of Beekeepers questioning a possible hygiene issue.
After we have done our first extraction and reset the Flow Frames for refilling what happens to the small amount of Honey in the collection channel. As the channel is not accessible to the bees and cannot be cleaned by them. Is there a possibility of mould, bacteria or fermentation happening in the channel which will then affect the next extraction? It would be great if a Flow team member could help on this one. Perhaps I have missed something or there is a link to what to do.

Thank you so far I am loving my Flow Hive and Frames.


Not hearing much from flow on this one?


Yes. I wash hoping for something rather than hobby conjecture



Since they have near constant nectar flows … Might not be an issue for them … Thus they may have to rely on other location n sources for a determination on this ! Just a thot on this ! :wink:. The whole thing is new to me except the bees.

Ta ta.


Well, in not-so-warm locations you’ll take off the flow super at the end of the season, which is august around here. You store them in a dry place. There’s no moisture or heat from the bees in the storage room. It’ll be cold in winter unless heated (who heats their storage rooms?) Plus you can rinse the channel and so there’s no honey left to rot in there. You can even wash the channel with hot water before putting the super onto the hive in spring. You might even use a food appropriate disinfectant if you’re on the picky side… I don’t see a problem here.


Thanks Gerald, but if they sell all over the world they must be suitable. I would like to hear what Flow have to say about the matter.


Freezing can cause some plastics to become brittle and cause them to deteriorate. Did Flow approve freezing their frames? I ask because they specifically mention removing, cleaning, and storing them where they will not freeze in one of their instructional videos.


I kept the cardboard boxes that the frames came in. I put them in the boxes and then put them in the freezer. I pulled them back out and put them back in the box they were shipped in and then back up on the shelf. I did it to mainly kill the chance of any bugs in the frames. I never asked for approval nor do I recall hearing about not freezing them. Which video was that in?


They have so many I am not sure I would find it again or if it was during one of their live Q&A sessions. However they cover it in the faq:

“To store your Flow™ Frames wash them in warm to hot water and allow them to dry thoroughly before storing them in a cool, dry, dark* location for the winter. *The Flow™ frame plastic is UV sensitive.”

They also have a FAQ on sterilization techniques and do not mention Freezing as being an option. They do not say it is not an option either. However, since it seems that freezing comb frames is a normal thing to kill moth larvae and such, I would have expected them to have addressed this method by now.

They state that hot water up to 70C is fine but that radiation and UV make the plastic brittle. I am curious if freezing is a safe option too? I ask because I would like to be able to consider all my options when I am to that point as well.

I just know from personal experience that all plastics are not freezer safe. I had some food storage containers that looked like tupperware kind of containers that fell apart once they came back up to room temp as well as some bag clips that were made of a transparent plastic that became incredibly brittle after a few freeze/thaw cycles. Considering the cost of Flow frames, I would hate to risk damaging them. Might be worth a thread for them to answer.


I have personally heard @Cedar discussing freezing Flow frames to help remove propolis, so I guess it is OK. :wink: