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What the videos don't show you


#1

My first harvest was so dramatic; entirely contrary to what I’d seen in all the marketing videos.

Initially, it looked like my flow frames were no more than half full and none of the cells I could see through my side window were capped. This photo is indicative of what my hive looked like:

I had invited my two beekeeper friends to have a look but as they arrived they immediately alerted me to the fact that my bees were congregating on the front of the hive and about to swarm. I scrambled to find my key, jars, tubes, etc. and prepared to harvest the honey. I inserted the key into the third frame but it was only with tremendous effort that I could turn the lever. The videos suggested this would be so easy! With more effort I was able to open another frame and I began to fill my jars. Sweet, this was getting easier… or so I thought until my friends pointed out my bees were assembling at the front of the hive and… there was a lot of honey pouring over my corflute and spilling onto the ground.

Great drama, many dead bees smothered in honey. I was lucky I did not lose my queen and over the following weeks their numbers recovered.

So next time I thought I would harvest sooner and that was straightforward - except that the honey was immature and liquid.

Which brings me to today. Again I invited my beekeeper friends. Again the visible cells suggested the hive was only half full but you could see the capping on the full cells on the third and fourth frames. Again the bees were congregating at the front; an hour or two before my friends arrived there was considerable activity around the hive; much more than normal.

I suggested their presence might be the problem… well we laughed that thought away and discussed whether we should remove a frame for harvesting outside the hive or leave it alone and harvest according to the Flow Hive way.

We started with one frame, it opened relatively easily and after a little while thick, viscous honey began to flow. And after several minutes also began to appear on the corflute board.

We decided to remove the second frame and harvest that outside the hive so we could see what would happen as we opened the frame. Immediately, we could see honey falling down the outside of the frames in addition to coming out of the tube as it should…

.

This is a problem and I would like to know the solution. This frame was well capped, it was full of honey, it yielded nearly 1.5kg of honey, not including that which fell on the table.

Generally, we cannot wait until every single cell is capped or else the bees will swarm. Today, however, even cells that were capped leaked honey outside the frames.

If we are to harvest directly from the hive and honey leaks outside the frames then the bees in the brood box will drown. That is certainly not good for the bees and causes a lot of honey to be wasted.

My friends were quite distressed at the number of bees I lost the first time and tried to keep an open mind about the utility of the Flow Hive concept.

But my experience on three occasions now has not been consistent with the publicity. Am I doing something incorrectly or are my frames defective? The honey we get tastes terrific; my hive is strong; I barely have any problems with SHB or ants but this is not working as it should…

Help, please!!!


#2

This issue has been discussed at length, with the solution being opening the frames in stages ie. tool half way in then all the way in.

The photo you have posted clearly shows the lower reservoir overfilling causing the honey to back up and flow out of the cells.

As I have posted elsewhere, the original prototypes appear to have had a bigger reservoir to resolve this issue, but for whatever reason the shallower reservoir was used in the final product.


#3

My first comment is that your frames are not totally capped in the photo you show. The large half oval area at the bottom of both frames will allow honey leakage. The Flow design relies on a full sheet of wax cappings to hold the honey behind it and direct the flow into the collection channel. If you have any uncapped areas, honey will leak down the frame face - the path of least resistance. :wink:

Second, if the honey was liquid and “immature”, are you sure that frame was at least 90% capped? If not, it wasn’t ready for harvest. You can buy a refractometer to test honey for around $40 now, and I think it is a great investment. If the honey is more than 18.5% water, it isn’t ripe and needs to be used quickly or refrigerated/frozen. You can’t sell it as shelf-stable normal honey.

Third, many, many Flow users on this forum now open their frames in sections of about 20-25% at a time, pausing for 10-20 minutes before opening the next section. This helps with several issues. It is easier to open a small section rather than try to force the whole frame open at once. Next, you get a controlled trickle of honey into the collection channel and tube, avoiding any flooding from back-pressure of honey. Third, you get a chance to see a leak before it becomes huge, so you can stop the harvest before any bees get hurt. The disadvantage is that the harvest takes a lot a longer, but I would rather do that than drown bees.

It sounds like you have learned something, but I would like to suggest that all Flow owners should lift their Flow frames prior to harvesting to inspect them properly. If you have large areas of uncapped cells, then harvesting in the hive will possibly be problematic, and the best solution may be to harvest away from the hive with a drip tray under the frame. In any case, like with traditional beekeeping, you probably shouldn’t be harvesting if the frame is less than 90% capped. :blush:

Hope this gives you some ideas for the next harvest. :smile:


#5

Dawn has answered all the issues with your Flow frames i.e. frames not fully capped and the honey may have too much moisture content), however I should add that your bees will not swarm if the frames are fully capped. Will always leave fully capped frames in the hives and sometimes a box or two for storage for the bees or us humans. I can see that these frames have not been used before from the wax cappings. I think you will find that subsequent harvests will show better results in regards to honey leakage.


#6

Seems like a bummer to me, but mostly disappointing for you.

However, what @Dawn_SD has said is good advice and those of us who read this forum regularly have come across these problems and discussed them before adding to our novice flow knowledge base.

I would add this: the flow people require a backwards tilt of the hive to get the honey draining, and I see in your photo of the frames out of the hive that they appear to be sitting level.

On the positive side, you have now had a chance to collect honey three times from your flow frames. I am an original Indigogo contributor and am only putting my flow box on for the first time today!!


#7

Hi Robert, congratulations on getting all of that honey. There is no question that the videos are misleading. However with the few adjustments to the process such as lifting the frames to inspect first & opening each frame in increments, I’m sure you’ll be more successful next time. Oh, & do some regular brood checks to make sure your bees don’t swarm on you. Fully capped honey is NOT a trigger for swarming. cheers


#8

Thank you everyone for your responses which confirm Cowgirl’s observations. I appreciate all your comments very much.

In short, I can see that in future I’ll wait longer before harvesting; removing and inspecting the flow frames to maximise capping. This will necessitate harvesting outside the hive on a table I have with the frame I actually built to support frames outside the hive.

For clarity, there are some observations which warrant a brief response.

  1. After my first experience I did search the flow forum for guidance and found only very limited references to these issues. So I’ve waited until now before I held my ignorance up to public display. Perhaps my limited findings were due to an inadequacy in my search parameters? That doesn’t matter now.
  2. The frame on the left in the picture is the first frame we opened while still in the hive. The frame on the right I opened on the table. It did have quite a lot of downward slope as the table was also on a slope.
  3. I did open the frame by inserting the lever its entire length, however, as soon as I turned the lever honey spilt on the outside of the frames escaping from both capped and uncapped cells. This was an immediate response and not, I think, due to any back pressure from a full tube below.
  4. Re capping, on my first experience we found the capping extended to fill the space between at least three frames in places and we thought, perhaps incorrectly, that this was the source of the spilt honey. We thought the hive was over full… but I now realise that was likely an overly simplistic view.
  5. On Dawn’s second point which is valuable information - but I only mentioned this to disclose all my limited experience; albeit only necessary in passing. I have no desire to sell my honey, our friends consume it quite quickly. From a practical point of view, however, a refractometer cannot provide any guidance as to when to harvest. By the time you test the honey the frame is already open.
  6. Dawn’s third and fourth points are the crux of the issue here and it may be necessary that we all remove our frames from the hive, inspect and, when ready, harvest the honey away from the hive. However, if this becomes accepted wisdom then I would think that these issues would have been evident long before the product was made available for sale and the marketing videos prepared. I can understand the desire to present the Flow Hive in the best possible light but there appear to be significant differences between what we have been told for quite some time and what we are now experiencing. This is really a matter for the Flow Hive administration to address.
  7. I shall look forward with interest to any changes in the wax cappings. I draw comfort from Rodderick and Jeff’s observations about the prospect of swarming. That concern was driven by my friends who are experienced beekeepers.

All in all, I appreciate the feedback and I shall look forward to my continuing education and the fruits of my bees’ labours! They and their hive occupy pride of place in our backyard and are always a point of interest amongst our friends and visitors.

Cheers
R


#9

Glad you posted Robert - we have a valuable & very friendly resource here, with experienced beekeepers who’ve been using Flow supers & some who haven’t, plus all the newbees like me who are jumping into this all at once. It’s really been helpful for me to read & watch how Flow harvests go for others - like Sting I have yet to use my Flow frames & am waiting patiently until next season to do so.

About this [quote=“robertvm, post:8, topic:9122”]
table I have with the frame I actually built to support frames outside the hive.
[/quote] Can you post some pics please? I’m also wondering if it would make sense as a way to hedge against leakage for people to just lift off the whole Flow super, to harvest over a drip tray away from the hive, so there wouldn’t be a need for any other support or bracing for the frames?


#10

That is not quite what I had in mind. :blush: If the frame is fully capped, I see no reason why you shouldn’t harvest it in the hive. I would still open the frame in short sections though. If it is not fully capped and for whatever reason, you can’t wait for it to become capped, you may want to harvest it outside the hive.

Actually it can - you can lift off one cap or take a drop of honey from an open cell and test it without opening the frame if you want to. You only need a tiny drop of honey - you should get more than enough with a small pipette or even a cocktail stick.

You were very courageous, and your question helps others. I agree that it can be hard to find the information, because sometimes it comes from a different question. If you search for “flooding harvest” without the quote marks, you will find much of the information that we condensed above for you. However, I am happy to retype it, I think that sometimes it is clearer in the second, third or fourth version of the answer! :wink:


#11

Oh, the Gods are smiling on me today! Thank you Eva for your suggestions. Firstly, here are front and side views of my new frame, built using 2 cm x 9 cm treated pine boards:

The outside dimensions of this frame are 50cm in length (the same as a Flow Hive), the width is 45 cm (deliberately wider than a Flow Hive in order to provide space for all frames if necessary) and the height is 27 cm (3 cm higher than a Flow Hive super). However, you will notice in the picture I posted earlier I had to put my frame on bricks to gain additional height to enable harvesting - so I’d recommend longer legs.

You will notice that the internal width of 36 cm is sufficient to accommodate a 36 cm x 46 cm drip tray ($3 at Kmart). Perfect, coincidently.

You will also have likely noticed that one could pick up the entire super box and place it on this frame…

Thank you, Eva, for the questions and the inspiration.

The remaining question I shall leave for others to address is whether placing the entire super on this frame to facilitate harvesting (with the aid of the drip tray) is a viable proposition?


#12

Okay, you make some good points and sometimes it takes a bit of back and forth to clarify understandings. Thank you for taking the trouble to respond comprehensively. I appreciate it.


#13

Thanks for sharing your experience. It is helpful!

Here is a crazy thought…has anyone tried putting the flow super underneath the brood box?

I understand why historically and traditionally the honey supers go above the brood box. They are heavy! But with the difference in harvesting the Flow way, perhaps it would be safer to harvest in situ if the honey flow super was below the brood box and there was a drip tray.


#14

Hi Robert, be careful you don’t re-invent the wheel. You might decide that wooden frames with wax foundation works just as well & then come up with some kind of apparatus to spin the honey out of the frames after you remove the caps.


#15

Well you made me smile, but I doubt it!


#16

Thank you Robert, It was kind of tongue in cheek.


#17

HI Guys there is a great video on YouTube by Frederick Dunn, on harvesting the FlowFrame.

He had the same issue 1st time but the 2nd harvest he said the bees capped the hive better and store more honey.

See link below for his video’s on YouTube.


#18

The problem would be the queen excluder. Unless you make a top entrance for the hive, you would not want the queen excluder below the brood box, because all of the drones would get stuck in it and die trying to get out. You probably wouldn’t want the Flow frames below without a queen excluder, because brood in the Flow frames makes a difficult mess to clean up. I think the original concept is probably the best thing to try, and just be careful when you harvest. :blush:


#19

Thanks for posting those, I’m eager to see them when I get the chance!


#20

The queen excluder would go below the brood box in this stacking scenario.

The entrance still goes straight into the brood box as it does now. With the honey super below, it means the entrance is now placed in the middle of the two boxes. I dont see how drones would get trapped.

Would have the added benefit of a more direct route for foragers to go down straight down to the honey super and not have to trail through the brood box. :relaxed:


#21

Hi Robert, your stand that is designed to hold a full flow super full of frames goes completely against the original flow philosophy. Let’s look at the original philosophy according to the flow campaign video. In order to harvest the honey, you’re not supposed to have to…

Crack the hive open.
Pull the hive apart.
Stress out all the bees.
Protect yourself from Stings.
Fire up a smoker.
Lift heavy boxes.
Pull the frames out, trying not to squash bees.
Brush the bees off the comb or use a leaf blower.
Extract the honey in a shed or kitchen.
Clean up all the mess.
And then put all the frames back in again.

Quote: “and now you don’t have to do any of that”.