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Time to harvest and population explosion


My Flow Hive has exploded with bees and there are a couple of Flow frames that appear in the back window as ready to harvest and it’s not even June yet here on the central coast of California. The hive is configured with 2 brood boxes and the Flow box. I’m concerned that my girls are running out of space as when I lifted the top lid last night there were a LOT of bees congregated there and they are seemingly on top of one another in the observation window.

What to do? Should I harvest from the flow frames that appear ready…or wait for all the frames to fill up? Should I move a frame or two over to another Flow Box on another hive where the bees are reluctant to use them? Should I add another medium box below the Flow and the Queen excluder to give the bees more space?

Also, is anyone using a “hybrid” flow hive? I have one that has 3 flow frames surrounded by 2 standard frames with plastic foundation on each side of those. This is the second year I have tried to get my bees to use this and they absolutely refuse. I have waxed the frames, I have interspersed a Flow frame that was used last year, I have added a drawn out regular frame with bees on it…nothing! My bees are using the 6-frame Flows without any issues.


Hi Louise, I would physically inspect the flow frames & harvest the ones that are ready.

I would check the brood for signs of swarm preparations, if no swarm preparations, I would remove the frames of brood that contain the most sealed brood to add to the weaker hive, as long as the weaker hive has sufficient population to guard & care for the extra frames of brood. Replace those frames with frames containing fresh foundation.

If the hive is preparing to swarm, you’ll need to do a type of artificial swarm or a split or both, depending on what extra gear you have.

If a colony is preparing to swarm, adding an extra super wont automatically suppress the urge to swarm. We need to look into the brood to see what’s going on before it’s too late, then take appropriate steps depending on what we find.

A lid/roof full of bees is ALWAYS a trigger for me to check on the brood. Especially if the bees in the lid/roof are sitting there doing nothing.


Hi Louise, do what Jeff says for sure. Great advice.
As an aside and not to do with reducing the swarm impulse, I would as you have suggested, consider swapping some partially filled flow frames from the good hive with the slow hive ones - (again, nothing to do with helping prevent swarming, it is just a good opportunity). As Jeff says - it is the brood space which is really important in relation to swarming. So you could drain the capped frames if any (do look at them as Jeff says) - it will probably be the middle two. If you do that, you have those two drained ones to add to the other hive to get busy with and you could choose one other partially filled one to add to them as well.


I agree with @JeffH and @Dan2. Inspect the Flow frames by lifting them out, then harvest any which are 90% capped or more. You don’t need to wait for all 6 frames to be capped - that is the beauty of the Flow design. :blush:


Harvest a couple of frames. If you want to be sure they are capped, lift them first to check, and be prepared for the bees shifting honey and wait a couple of days to harvest. However, if you see a flow frame about 90% capped, harvest. It’ll be just fine.
Hybrids give too much choice I observed. Go this way or other, don’t mix.


Thank you all for the sound direction. In the back of my head I had thought
of these suggested strategies but didn’t have the confidence to implement
them without your confirmation.

Yes, that hybrid hive I have is not very popular. It is the result of my
initial purchase when the “Fund me” offer was first presented. 3 flow
frames was all I could afford or wanted to commit to at the time. And since
it came with instructions on how to convert a standard brood box, I opted
for that. It seemed like a safe way to start…but nobody (bees) likes it.

I may do what I’ve seen previously suggested here (which is also consistent
with your most recent recommendations) and insert a couple of frames of
brood from that “overpopulated” hive into the hybrid along with maybe the
drained flow frame (or frames) that is ready to harvest. If that doesn’t
encourage them to start using it, I’m not sure what will.

Thanks again for your sound advice. I feel much more confident about going
forward now!


I have the three frame hybrid super- and unfortunately I have also had no luck with it. My bees filled out the four natural combs- and then never fully filled the flow frames. I harvested two of the natural combs and they immediately refilled. I have the super on all season and at the end the flow frames were only 30% capped- the rest of the cells were completely empty. The flow frames were heavily propolised. Also the natural combs were wonky with quite a bit of bridge comb at either side as the gap between the combs and the walls of the hive is too large. in my family we have three running full flow supers and all of these have worked perfectly. I will not be using the hybrid again and will convert it to a 6 frame flow super (I have the necessary parts already happily).

Initially I liked the idea of the hybrid- and the ability to make flow and comb honey- but my experience has put me off it. Having said that- it may be due to the bees in that hive- they have had mild chalkbrood all season and this may have set them back. Still: I have decided I prefer full flow supers.


Interesting to read your experience, Michelle.

For all who took the time to answer my initial post I will tell you that I
got into that full Flow Hive I was concerned about today and found that
although one frame looked full from the end I found that none were ready
for harvest quite yet. They are all getting close but not quite. So I left
the Flow frames alone.

I had intended to drain at least one frame of honey and then insert that
into the hybrid along with a couple of frames of brood from that hive,
since I was concerned about overcrowding and possible swarming. Well, I
think it was a good thing that I looked into both brood boxes because there
was very little space for the queen to be laying. I removed at least 5
queen cells, 2 frames of solid brood, and 1 completely capped standard
frame of honey, replacing them with new, empty frames.

I placed the brood (with nurse bees) and the capped honey (with the bees
that were on that) into the hybrid hive (no bees were up there looking
around even). My configuration on that hybrid hive was 2 deeps, queen
excluder, one honey super and the Flow super. I repositioned the honey
super above the Flow Super thinking the bees would at least have to pass
through it to work on their nectar storage. So I guess it will be a wait
and see situation.

If I get no use in that hive after that effort, my next plan is to wait
until I drain some Flow frames and replace all those in the hybrid with the
"used" Flows. That will be my last attempt…then, like Michelle, I will
give up on the idea of a hybrid and just buy 3 more flows

While I really like the Flow concept, especially at harvest time, I have to
say that my objective of simplifying hive management has not worked out as
I had planned. If I had known how heavy those Flow Boxes would be when full
of honey, I would have thought twice about switching over. You still have
to get below the Flow to manage your bees properly and I can hardly lift
the Flow Box on my own. How do some of you others who don’t have strong
upper body strength handle them? Am I missing some tricks?



@Semaphore @en2gen as I’ve mentioned in other threads where the hybrid has come up, my experience is opposite. I get much better productivity out of my hybrid super than I do out of my full flow super (I would hazard my hybrid super is filled preferentially almost on a 2.5-3:1 basis, and that doesn’t matter if the hybrid is the top super or immediately above the brood box.

One thing I haven’t mentioned before (or have I?), and it only just occurred to me reading Louise’s post, is that to start my hybrid off I cycled 2 (or was it 3?) frames with a brood-nectar mix out of the brood box into the hybrid and used a wax foundation on the other traditional frame. I then put fresh wax foundation frames into the 4 empty spots in the brood box. Since then, I leave the 4 traditional frames alone and have no issues with the bees taking to the flow frames, or refilling them after extraction.

For honeycomb I put on an exclusive half-deep super with a mix of starter wax strips, starter wood strips, and full wax foundation to see what the bees preferred. I couldn’t really see any preference over the different configuration but I was interested to note that the starter wood strips appeared to end up with slightly larger cell sizing than the frames with the wax foundation (I was expecting the reverse to be true).


My upper body strength is half decent BUT I had to remove a flow hybrid super the other day to inspect the brood box- and not only was the super super heavy- is was so solidly proplised and burr combed onto the QX and brood box that removal was quite difficult. I broke the seal all the way around the edge- but even then the box was stuck by the queen excluder which was ‘burr combed’ onto the bottom of the flow frames. When I tried to lift it off- it lifted up the entire brood box with it. In the end I decided to remove the flow frames one by one to get the box off.

So that’s my solution: remove at least some of the flow frames and place them in a spare box- before removing the entire super.

Part of my problem was that I had not removed the box for several months and it had time to get thoroughly welded into place.

Another solution which may work sometimes is to time your brood box inspection to just after you have harvested the flow frames…


Well, I am going to keep experimenting with these suggestions and see where that leads. I have read a lot of comments on smearing wax on the Flows, etc; but my experience is that it needs more. I do think that once the frames have been used and filled by the bees they will be more apt to use them again. Maybe they just don’t like that “new car” smell or something, LOL!

Thanks for giving me a reason to keep on trying!

Yes, Michelle, I can relate to your dilemma on trying to lift that flow box…I can really visualize it. I keep a check on my brood boxes much more frequently (due to past problems with mites), so I’m into them every 2-3 weeks or so during this time of year. I think having an extra box to “'offload” those frames is the best answer, even though I hate to remove them and then have to fit them back in…that can be tricky also.

I guess if I have one criticism of the Flow folks it is the lack of discussion of essential hive management and that this harvesting system is just that…a harvesting system. You still need to manage your hives in the traditional way (maybe not so much in Australia) and that means taking that Flow box off and digging in.


well- it’s too early to say- but if my long hive design works- it could well be the solution to all your flow woes. You would never need to lift a single box again. You could inspect the flow frames more easily- and when they are harvested- if there are any drips- they won’t go anywhere near the brood box. You can inspect the brood at any time without touching the flow frames… but as I say- until the concept is proved next spring I don’t know how my set will work with flow frames.

(BTW- my name is jack and I am confusingly using my mother Michelle’s flow account :wink: )


Hi Louise, I also learned the hard way about the weight of the full flow super so there is just no way I would try to lift it again without removing the frames one at a time. A standard upturned lid on the ground with the spare super on top to put them in seems to be the way to go. If they are frequently removed the increased skill from performing the task often and less time for the bees to glue them in will mean it should only get easier each time.


I put a flat roof upside down next to my hive. Then I put an inner cover inside it to maintain bee space for what comes next. I put an empty deep box on top of the inner cover. I lift the Flow frame, inspect it and put it into the empty box. If I intend to move the Flow box to inspect the brood below it, I continue to inspect and move frames over one at a time until the Flow box is empty. Then I can lift the empty Flow box, put it on top of the frames, and repeat the process with the top brood box. Easy peasy. :blush:


I wonder if people with the three Flow frames from a hybrid super that is not working out could alternatively modify a nuc box to be a “mini Flow”? The brood box below would obviously need to have a partial covering, a la Michael Bush when he puts an 8 frame in top of a 10 frame…or even a more purposely cute design like sloped roof flanges on either side…


Gorgeous work, Jack :sunglasses::+1:

Time to edit mum’s profile or make your own :smile:?


Already did it! And it works brilliantly- my three flow frame Nuc tower hive is going very well- two of the three frames are 100% capped honey now:



Explain how that inner cover is used to “maintain bee space”. Do you mean go bees on the bottom do not get smashed when you load the frames in?


Yep, that is exactly what I mean. :blush:


Your “long hive” is beautiful Jack. I am not exactly sure how it is set up inside or the particulars of it; but I sure would be interested in following your work and your results.

And thank you, Dan2, for reassuring me that I wasn’t just being a wimp with questionable upper body strength!!

I do have a husband with great woodworking skills, so that long hive is intriguing. But, in the meantime, I will get him to build another deep super and inner cover to use for temporary storage during hive checks. Thanks all for those suggestions.