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Using flow frames without an excluder?

I am really looking forward to getting my hive and getting started keeping bees. However the more I read the more I am leaning toward the camp of not wanting an excluder on my hive. How do you keep brood out of the frames? What happens if brood gets laid in the flow frame? Can you still harvest if there is brood and will it kill them if you do? Are there tricks, techniques etc that you can use to minimize this from happening?

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There seems to be some convincing literature out there that claims that the excluder will shorten the life of the bees fairly significantly by wearing out their wings prematurely with the friction against the edges of the excluder. And that they can actually encourage a hive to swarm.

I am trying to do my research and do right by the bees ultimately. Getting honey from them is an added benefit but not the only reason I want to keep them.


From what I know, the bees get battered whilst foraging, when in the hive their wings are not flapping so much. I doubt that it matters too much and its more important that brood (probably drones) does not get laid in the Flow cells otherwise you could have a right mess to cleanup.

I appreciate the feedback, I definitelty want to have the full picture before making a decision on which way to go so I can make an informed choice.

Another option is to have 2 x brood boxes + a honey super + Flow Frames on top (4 x boxes in total). It is highly unlikely that the queen will travel up this far to lay brood.


I don’t think there is a definitive answer to this. There were a lot of tests done over the last few years without a queen excluder and we never had any brood in the flow cells. Then 6 months back we had some brood laid in the flow frames. : :disappointed_relieved:
If you want to be sure use a queen excluder. If you understand how your bees usually behave and are willing to keep an eye on the super I think you can happily do without an excluder.

We’ve run excluders for decades and never had an issue, I recommend them to everyone! I’d your concerned for the bees having to climb through it causing them harm, make a top entrance through your lid, they’ll use it for venting too.

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What’s the easiest way to add a top entrance on the flow hive?

I have just started using an excluder this season. When I last got into the hive there were MANY drones who were dead stuck in the excluder mesh…as though they tried to get through and got their heads stuck. Have you ever seen that? I was puzzled as to why they would even try and not just exit through the hive entrance. Perhaps they were trying to get to the stored nectar above?

Here in Canada we have to feed our bees so I have feeder holes in the tops of my hives and I just leave them open. You can also drill a hole in the front of the box above the excluder.

Bones in the excluder are pretty common especially if you have moved a lot of brood above the excluder. They aren’t to bright.

We recommend the use of a queen excluder as this ensures no bee eggs or larvae end up in the Flow™ frames.
Having said this, most of our experimental Flow™ hives did not use an excluder and we never found worker brood in them and very rarely found drone brood. We have designed Flow™ comb to have deep cells of a size that suits neither worker or drone brood. Bees don’t necessarily do what you want though…
Another factor that we believe helps ensure brood stays in the brood box is giving the bees flexibility in making the brood comb by providing them with the opportunity to build natural frames (wedge frame) rather than foundation to build on. They will then build drone or worker size brood cells as they see fit, leaving the Flow™ frames for the honey storage.
If you want to experiment with no excluder you will need to pull out a Centre Flow frame from time to time, especially in spring, to make sure there are no drone cells.


I think the most common cause of brood in the supers is lack of drone comb in the brood nest. I make no effort to control drone comb in the brood nest and probably have 20-25% drone comb. I’m using my Flow frames with no excluder and having no issues yet. But then I’ve only been using it for a short time.


Hi @Michael_Bush are you still using your flow gives without an excluder? How’s it going?



Fine. But I think having plenty of drone comb in the brood nest contributes to that. I have plenty.

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I had two brood boxes and a honey super so the bees made it through the winter. This spring the honey super is full of honey and their is activity in the honey flow but they surely don’t seem to be putting any honey in them. Im perplexed as what I should do? I wonder if I should remove the honey super and just put the honey flow on the 2nd brood box with the excluder but the local beekeeper says that is really a honey excluder. I don’t have an extractor so not sure if they eventually will work the honey flow. I’ve tried to add wax and spray sugar water on the honey flow frames. There are always bees in there but I’m not sure what they are doing. Any suggestions?

Perhaps you don’t have enough bees yet? is every frame full and covered with bees?

The local guy said we almost did too well over the winter, full of bees. Said they would probably swarm this spring, I think some may have. I took two brood frames out and put in a new hive to try to give more room so I don’t think it is because of not a strong hive.

In that case, they are probably “polishing” the plastic flow frames. If you lift the frames, you can see it happening as the frames start to look more opaque and “luminescent”. They will seal the plastic with wax and draw out the faces to take nectar. It can take a month or more of a good nectar flow before they start to fill them. If you don’t have swarm cells in the brood boxes, you just need to be patient. :blush:

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Thanks for your thoughts.