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Wintering your Flow Hive / Flow Frames


#1

Wintering your Flow Hive / Flow Frames is an important consideration that you will need to make.

We have a lot of different advice on the forum, and it all varies depending on region and beekeeper.

If you post a topic about wintering please include your location so that newbees can see the best options for their area.

We also have our faq here:
https://www.honeyflow.com/faqs/wintering-your-flow-hive/p/206#a2

We cannot emphasise enough that it is best to consult your local beekeepers on this and other beekeeping questions. If there is a bee club near you, we encourage you to join it. You will get several opinions on what to do – but you will be able to pick the most suitable approach for your situation.

There are two main concerns for a beehive over the winter months; the colony starving, and the queen becoming stranded below the queen excluder. This response is oriented toward overwintering the Flow Hive – there is plenty of general information about overwintering bees on the web.

It is most likely that you will have a standard Flow Hive consisting of a brood box and a Flow Super. In cold climates the general recommendation is for the bees to have a super full of honey for their food during the cold months. If you have a reasonably full Flow Super at the end of your nectar flow season you can leave it on the hive for the bees to use over the coming months. This will ensure they will not starve; however, you also need to ensure the queen can access these honey reserves… During a cold winter the bees do not forage but will steadily use up the honey stores in order to stay warm. The queen will not be laying brood at this time, so the colony will cluster around the honey that it is consuming. This means that the cluster may gradually move up into the honey super over winter. If you have a queen excluder in place she will not be able to move up with the colony and will die. Therefore, it is recommended that you remove the queen excluder as part of your preparation for winter. Of course you will probably want to replace the queen excluder as the warmer weather arrives and you will have to ensure that the queen is actually in the brood box before you do so.

We also recommend insulating the top of the hive by putting Styrofoam, wool insulation, etc. between the top cover and the hive roof. To minimise cold draughts; you may also put the corflute slider in the top position and reduce the size of the entrance to being just 30mm / an inch or so wide.

Some cold climate beekeepers prefer to reduce their hive to one box, the brood box, over winter. There are usually one or two frames of honey on each side of the brood, and this plus the option of feeding them a sugar solution either before or after the coldest months gets the colony through the winter. This eliminates issues with the queen excluder and there are advantages to the bees being confined to a smaller space. If you decide to take this approach, at the end of your nectar flow season extract the honey in the Flow Super and leave it in place for a day for the bees to clean, then remove the Flow Super with frames and queen excluder and replace the top cover and roof on the brood box adding some insulation in between

To store your Flow Frames wash them in warm to hot water and allow them to dry thoroughly before storing them in a cool, dry, dark* location for the winter.

*The Flow frame plastic is UV sensitive.

These two options apply to the complete Flow Hive setup with a single brood box and Flow Super; however, with advice you may want to add an extra brood box or standard super to your hive giving you more choice in overwintering configurations.

HOW TO PACK DOWN A FLOW HIVE FOR WINTER


Storing Flow supers in winter
Storing Flow Frames in Winter
Storing the Flow Frames for winter
Fred Oertli, Sydney
#2

How do I store my flow hive super in winter?


#3

In a cool, dry dark place, like a garage or barn. If you freeze the frames for 48 hours first, you will kill off any wax moths in the frames.


#4

I put mine into big rubbish bags and tied the tops. I just crossed my fingers about wax moth as they simply (knock on wood) haven’t been a problem for me and the bag was to keep them out… or in. Anyways, it’s spring for me and my hives are thriving so I have just opened the bags to bring the flow boxes out of storage and they are fine. In fact they look and smell exactly the same as when I stored them. No mould, still bits of honey and, most importantly, lots of wax.

The bees moved up through the excluder and got into the clean up job instantly. Within days I am seeing stored nectar in the window - outside frame!! So much different than when I used them the first time.


#5

Looking to understand how and where I should store to flow frames over winter? Yes I read the posting on how the come off and how to get the bee’s to remove any remaining honey from the frames. I am trying to understand where to place the frames over winder.

  1. in the shed/Garage?
  2. in a bag also?
  3. in a conditioned/headed environment, like in the house in a closet?

what are the issues with storing them? Should i wash them?

This is a start, I am sure I will have more questions as responses come forward. if another post covers this please send me to it. I thought I looked but only come accross how to winter your bees

I know I am not even close yet, I am in Dallas Texas US and spring is just starting up really good


#6

I am not very knowledgeable about such matters- but I would guess you would want to store them sealed in plastic (or similar)- and in as cool a place as you have? The reason is to stop wax moths getting onto them and eating the wax. The cooler the storage the less active max moths are. For traditional supers many people freeze them for a period before storage to kill any wax moth eggs/larvae. After this they are sealed so no fresh moths can attack.


#7

yes, I have read some of that, looking for a Flow Team member to reply or even Cedar :slight_smile:


#8

I’m thinking they would make my beer fridge smell good. That’s where mine are going :slight_smile:


#9

in the shed/Garage?

Yes.

in a bag also?

I wouldn’t

in a conditioned/headed environment, like in the house in a closet?

NO!

what are the issues with storing them?

Lesser wax moths are your biggest threat. They can live on just wax and thrive on wax and honey residue. The way to prevent them is freezing. If you put them where they don’t freeze it could be an unmitigated disaster. I still have lesser wax moths thick in my basement and somewhat in the rest of the house because I stored supers in the basement one winter…

Should i wash them?

No. Let the bees clean them up after harvest and then pull them off. It matters what winter is like. Once you have a good hard freeze that kills wax moths, then you can leave them outside until a month or two after the last frost. At least in my locale.

http://www.bushfarms.com/beeswaxmoths.htm
http://www.bushfarms.com/beespests.htm#waxmoths


#10

Thank you for this response.

So here is what I plan to do and I’m looking to be corrected if needed please. Our winners in Dallas Texas can vary dramatically. Our winners, coldest I’ve experienced so far has only been slightly below freezing for more than a day or so. This past winter we never had more than a few hours below freezing and that was early morning. So saying that here’s my process I plan to go through.

After harvesting what I believe is my last honey flow.

  1. Take the frames and box off
  2. leave them empty near the hive so that bees could go in and rob the honey
  3. after a week, take the frames and freeze them
  4. Freeze the box
  5. then store in the garage with good ventilation
  6. Do I want to refreeze before putting them back on the hive the next spring?

Do note, I am new and only one hive and would rather be more precocious than not :grin:


#11

Take the frames and box off
leave them empty near the hive so that bees could go in and rob the honey

If you empty them first and leave them a day or two, the bees should clean them up without risking setting off a robbing frenzy.

after a week, take the frames and freeze them
Freeze the box

Why wouldn’t the frames still be in the box?

then store in the garage with good ventilation
Do I want to refreeze before putting them back on the hive the next spring?

If your winters don’t tend to freeze much, sure.


#12

I have stuff in the freezer and only would be able to do 1 or 2 frames at a time and then doing the box, I would pack the food that is in the freezer in the box inorder to get it all to fit

correct, here in dallas we done freeze that much.


#13

I see… then, yes, put them back in the box when you’re done freezing them.


#14

I read that you put them in a bag after freezing so that they can’t get contaminated by fresh moths/eggs/larvae that were not frozen? From what I have read- here in Australia- people store their supers wrapped in plastic garbage bags. Where I am it rarely goes below zero Celsius in Winter.


#15

makes since, Thank you good to know. I figured that someone was going into winter soon and storing there boxes. Same here with Dallas about the Temp. when it does get below Zero it is only for a few hours, not days and unpredictable.


#16

I am currently having this discussion on another thread, specifically about freezing the flow frames.
Not all plastics are formulated to survive being frozen to low temperatures and can become brittle.

According to their FAQ:
“To store your Flow™ Frames wash them in warm to hot water and allow them to dry thoroughly before storing them in a cool, dry, dark* location for the winter. *The Flow™ frame plastic is UV sensitive.”

https://www.honeyflow.com/faqs/wintering-your-flow-hive/p/206

The Sterilization FAQ also does not mention freezing:
https://www.honeyflow.com/faqs/flow-frame-sterilisation-irradiation-disease-control/p/145

I have had personal dealings with plastics that go bad after freezing and considering the cost of these frames, I would like to know the official take on the freezing of this particular formulation.


#17

I left a post on the other thread where you were discussing this. I also know that @Michael_Bush leaves his Flow frames outside over winter, and his winters are quite harsh. The frames are probably frozen for several weeks or more. He hasn’t mentioned any issues with them, and this is his second season of using them.


#18

I’ve never seen plastic that “goes bad after freezing”. Where I live it gets bitter cold in the winter. And I don’t mean what Californians think is bitter cold. I mean like -27 F (-33 C). All of my Flow hives were in the barn, out of the sun and weather, but in the cold all last winter and I had one the winter before that that was outside as well. I have seen no ill effects.


#19

Hi Michael, that is good to know that you have seen success so far. Here is an article that talks some about plastics and cold, especially where you are: http://collections.dartmouth.edu/arctica-beta/html/EA02b-02.html

Plastics that tend to adsorb moisture are the worse at handling cold weather, ABS filament used in 3D printers is a perfect example. Freezing temps will introduce microfractures into the structure of plastics that adsorb H2O and they will get weaker and weaker with successive freeze/thaw cycles. Eventually they will just fall apart. Plastics that have a stress applied during the freeze/thaw cycle are also vulnerable to induced microfractures at colder temperatures as the materials brittleness increases greatly as the temperature drops.

I would assume that Flow had consulted with a chemical engineer when working on their plastics formulations. The expected effects of temperature extremes should be known to them. Since their formulation is a proprietary trade secret, we cannot try to determine this on our own, but your experience is reassuring. However, knowing for sure how to best treat these frames for maximum lifespan would be handy, considering the cost.


#20

Here’s a link that came up when I searched for cold temperatures and food grade plastic. If it is made from the first listed type of plastic we don’t have anything to worry about.

https://www.m2scientifics.com/blog/lab-plastics-guide