Hi - I have had the flow hive set up for a year. we have flowers across the year. brood box looks fine and is close to full. we rarely have any bees in the top box. the only thing i can think of is that the cells in the top box do not seem absolutely aligned - some seem more forward than others in a zig zag type pattern – just a few millimetres out of alignment. a friend assembled the flow hive, so I am not sure if the way has done it is causing the problem. Thanks, Marg
Are you able to post through some photos of what you mean regarding the Flow frame alignment. We will be able to let you know if they are aligned correctly or not.
Where are you located? and what is flowering? Not all flowers contain nectar, in fact many modern cultivars have been bred for colour and in the process no longer produce nectar.
Hi Roderick – thank you for your reply. I have approximately 2 acres of garden, surrounded by eucalyptus forest. We are located near Icy Creek in Gippsland, Victoria, at an altitude of about 600 metres. The garden plants are a mix of fruit and nut trees; grevilleas/banksias/callistemon and other flowering natives. I also have cottage type plants – roses/camellias and huge swathes of lavender, so flower/nectar supplies should not be a problem. The flowers are covered in bees across the year, and we often see them with their legs covered in pollen returning to the hive. I hope the attached photo is clear enough. If not I will open the hive and remove one. Thank you for your offer of assistance. Regards, Marg
Have you read the FAQ about encouraging bees to use the flow frames? Have you tried one or more of the suggestions (spray with sugar water, rub wax one, etc)?
Hi Adam – I will try these techniques. I have emailed a photo of one of the frames to get someone’s opinion about the alignment If that seems OK, I will try these other methods. My underlining feeling is that it may not have been assembled correctly. I will let you now . Thanks, Marg
Hiya Lyrebird, sounds like you have a beautiful property and bee friendly. I have 5 hives in my yard and have only harvested from 2 of them in 2 years. There are various reasons for this. As long as you are following good beekeeping husbandry it is a waiting game. I think that waiting until the brood box is chock-a-block before adding the super is a key as well as being in a good sunny location. Currently only 1 super in 1 hive is being filled here and the others are empty. If I didn’t have the other colonys here I’d think this beekeeping game was easy!
When it comes together and you finally do harvest that honey is going to be the sweetest.
I don’t see the flow frame alignment as being an issue. I believe that the issue could be that the colony isn’t strong enough yet to be able to store surplus honey above and beyond the brood box/s.
I agree with Jeff- to me the alignment on those cells look fine- (you can see how the ones facing directly to the camera look the most hexagonal- it’s a bit of an optical illusion when you look at flow frames that the ones on the periphery look out of alignment) but I can’t see any evidence of the bees having put any wax on them yet. The cells are all divided down the center vertically- these gaps are closed first by the bees with wax- they might be what you were concerned about? They are normal.
You might want to try the trick of taking them out and rubbing a piece of bees wax on them like they were cheese graters. Only a small amount comes off at the edges of the flow cells but that’s enough to stimulate the bees- but it only helps when they are already ready. It won’t help if they are not ready. Also if they are ready: it’s not entirely necessary- we have had plenty of hives fill up when we haven’t done anything to stimulate the bees.
I think the issue must be with the strength of the colony for some reason. At our Bee society meeting the other day there was a fellow who has had the same experience as you: after two seasons still no honey in the flow super. He blamed the flow super and said ‘bees don’t like plastic’. All I know is that I operate 6 flow hives and every one of them produces quite a lot of honey.
Last year at the Bee societies apiary of normal hives they hardly harvested any honey from their supers- it was just a particular bad year at that location. Nothing to do with the type of super. That area has plenty of trees and flowers visible but for whatever reason not as much nectar as you might assume. Perhaps there is a lot of competition with local bees- perhaps flowers with little nectar- who knows?
Have you inspected the brood box recently to see how the queen is laying and how many bees there are in there? Currently in my hives every frame in the brood boxes is completely full of brood, pollen, honey and every frame is completely covered in bees. It’s only when they are like that the bees flood into the supers and start filling them up. Build up your colony and the honey will flow!
Yeah, it’s when you get your brood box like @Semaphore is describing that you get a population explosion. Then, in conjunction with a honey flow, your flow frames will fill up without any coaxing.
From your photo, it looks fine. The face of the frame is deliberately designed to be “wavy” to help create a shear plane behind the wax cappings. This minimizes honey leaks when you open the frame with the key to harvest. As long as the cells all make plastic hexagons, and the Flow key makes them move into S-shapes, you have a perfectly-functioning Flow frame.
I pushed some burr comb from an inspection into my Flow frames to get the bees in there. Within 2 days they were using it and about 6 weeks later, the frames had capped honey. The frame faces look just like yours, so i don’t think they are faulty.
Thank you Skeggley – I will follow the leads of some other people, and my intuition as well. I just do not want to do anything to harm the bees. I do follow good practice and they have a lovely sheltered spot away from wind and rain, but sunny under their roof. Thank you for your words of reassurance. Marg
This thread just gave me a thought: we were given a talk at the Bee society by a couple who run over 1500 hives. One of the points they made was that they closely monitor the productivity of each hive and are careful to weed out nonproductive hives by requeening them. They noted that some colonies simply never build up sufficiently to be truly productive- and that this was a genetic issue- more common in colonies made from random swarms, etc.
They bred their own queens using Italian and local dark ‘brumbies’.
So perhaps in these cases where a hive fails to be productive in a decent timeframe it may indicate that requeening is in order?
Hi Jack, I’m doing a bit of requeening myself at the moment. I’m getting rid of non productive queens, then letting the colonies make new queens with brood from productive queens.
Hi Jeff - do you let them simply make emergency queens or do you use another method like the Hopkins method?
G’day Dan, I let them make emergency queens. I just replace all of the brood with brood from strong colonies that are ready to be weakened out. I use the brood from the weak colony to boost colonies of nucs etc.
I let the strongest queen be the victor. However if more than one frame of brood contains multiple queen cells, sometimes I’ll take one of those frames to add to a new nuc.
I haven’t heard of the Hopkins method.
All of my queens are through emergency queens & natural selection.
There is always the odd failure, that’s just par for the course.
Thanks Jeff. That would save a lot of mucking around. I understand you don’t have too much trouble producing honey from your hives either with those emergency queens…something like 100kg per hive on average as I recall you saying.
You’re welcome Dan, I haven’t averaged 100 kilos per hive for the past 18 months on account of a bit of a drought we’ve been going through. However I have been doing a lot of splits. I still may have averaged that if I didn’t sell so many colonies.
I’ve been getting some excellent reports back from the folks I’m selling my splits to. The queens in those are new naturally selected emergency queens. That’s what put me into gear to requeen some of my non performing colonies. I want all of my own bees to do as well as the ones I’m selling.
Thank you Richie, I didn’t match the user name with any bee customers. That’s great to hear.
We got 74 mils of rain in just a little over the last 24 hours. I’m pleased with that. They only forecasted a max of 30 for the two days.