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…