In recent years, beekeeping has seen plenty of developments and advancements in both the equipment used and general practices. The Flow Hive is an advancement of the popular Langstroth beehive design. The Flow Hive design makes honey harvesting easy for beekeepers by allowing the honey to be harvested directly from the beehive, eliminating the need for a honey extractor .
The inventors of the Flow Hive are an Australian duo of father and son – Stuart and Cedar Anderson. They came up with the Flow Hive in their attempt to avoid opening up beehives during honey harvesting. Indeed, the Flow Hive owes its existence to its inventors and crowd-sourcing. In 2015, the inventors launched an Indiegogo campaign seeking to raise $70,000 in funding for the Flow Hive technology development. Within a short period of time, the campaign had far surpassed that goal to receive a whopping $12 million in funding. By the end of the campaign, the inventor duo also had more than 20,000 orders coming from more than 130 countries in the world. This campaign broke a number of Indiegogo records.
A number of components make up the complete Flow Hive. They include the hive itself and the Flow frames. These are patented technology by the inventors – the Andersons. The most conspicuous and functional features of the modern Flow Hive are viewing openings and the Flow frames. The Flow frame is specifically designed for Flow Hives. It incorporates transparent material to allow you see how much honey your bees have stored up, while the clear viewing panels built into the sides of the flow beehive give you a peek at the frames inside. Additionally, Flow Hives are friendly to bees since they do not get squashed in the process of harvesting honey.
The Flow Hive is new, and like any new technology, it has its early adapters as well as its detractors. This Flow Hive review concerns the original beehive released by the company, and will go in depth, discussing the advantages and disadvantages of using Flow frames, as well as discussing two of Flow’s signature products – the Classic Cedar 6 Frame Langstroth Beehive and the Classic Araucaria 6 Frame Langstroth Flow Hive. Ultimately, it will be up to you to determine whether the features that the Flow Hive offers will be suitable for your beekeeping journey. With that said, let’s get started.
Advantages of Using Flow Frames
- To use a Flow frame, the beekeeper uses a specially designed key. A turn of the key splits the cells in the honeycomb to let honey out. Honey flows down and is collected via a honey-tube. This makes it very easy to package and brand honey. You may collect honey directly into jars, or into tubs. For beekeepers with many Flow hives, a bucket for your honey collection is the best option.
- Bees remain undisturbed in a Flow hive. The bees that may be on the surface of cobs are not injured in any way during honey harvesting. There is adequate space for bees between comb walls of flow frames.
- Flow frames fit well into standard Langstroth beehives, with both in both 8-frame and 10-frame configurations.
- Super boxes in Flow beehives have cutouts through which you can see the flow frames. The cutout can be placed back to cover the peeking space once you have observed how much of the frames are filled with honey.
- Since honey flows from cells in the honeycombs by itself, beekeepers are saved from the need for an extractor. Honey extractor machines can be an expensive affair. They cost a tidy sum of money to buy and cause beekeepers maintenance expenditure. Hand-cranked honey extractors are additionally very tiring for the beekeeper that has a number of beehives to harvest honey from. With Flow frames, you no longer need an extractor.
- Flow frames are an easy lot to set up and use. All that is required is a Langstroth beehive. Your old beehives can easily be converted into Flow hives with a few tools. Unlike conventional top bar frames, Flow frames never have to leave the beehive one you have installed them. Honey flows freely from the frames while they are still in place. Once you are done harvesting honey, the Flow key returns the frames into position, ready for your bees to fill them with honey again.
- Honeybees have to uncap cells and repair some bits of the cells in Flow frames. This is significantly less work than they would need to do with traditional frames after honey extraction. Uncapping using knives and other sharp cutting objects – including serrated edges – does a lot of damage to honey cells. Bees take a long period of time to repair this damage while adding honey in the cells. A beehive with Flow frames has less work and more honey for you since bees take less time to rebuild their stock of honey after every harvesting.
Disadvantages of Using Flow Frames
- Flow frames are not an all-roses-story. They have been faulted for a number of reasons. Top on the mind of critics is the way Flow frames are made. Plastic is used in their manufacture. It is a shift from the beeswax that in the natural material that forms honeycombs. Wax cleans out impurities from honey, preserves it and protects it from acquiring foreign flavors and aromas. The same cannot be said for plastic. If anything, there are concerns that plastic frames and contact with honey can lead to the honey being contaminated with traces of plastic.
- Another disadvantage of Flow frames is that they can disconnect you from beekeeping. Flow technology positions bees as a tank of honey and exposes them to risk of ever-exploitation. Beekeepers must take into account that honey is food for the bees. They store it away to use in harsh times. Taking honey from bees is denying them some of their food stock. Flow frames with their accompanying Flow technology turn away from the generally accepted view that beekeeping is a passion-based venture with some economic return. In its place, Flow technology positions beekeeping as a purely economic activity. Beekeepers that are in it for due to passion or bee conservation purposes may not be happy with the way Flow technology is used in beekeeping and opt to not use.
- Beekeepers can be an impatient lot with their bees. This is especially noted in amateur beekeepers. They may want to harvest honey more often than they should. In their harvesting, they may also take away too much honey and starve their bee colonies. Additionally, seeing honey stocks every time you visit your beehives wrongly influences beekeepers to harvest honey more frequently. The ease with which you can harvest honey with Flow frames, without the risk of stings due to aggravated bees, makes you want to harvest honey more often than you need to. Beekeepers with Flow frames in their beehives increasingly see the beehive as one big barrel of honey. What is there to stop a beekeeper from going to a beehive and extracting a jar of honey every time they want?
- Not every Tom, Dick and Harry can afford a Flow Hive. Indeed, the technology is quite expensive. This limits their commercial usefulness despite decreased labor costs and the likely premium prices that honey can fetch in the market. Without a tidy sum leaving your pocket, you may not own a Flow Hive. This is very disheartening for beginner beekeepers who are attracted to beekeeping in the hope that they will start out with a Flow Hive.
- Attracted by the hassle-free beekeeping that Flow Hives wrongly promise, prospective beekeepers soon realize that they must be good at beehive maintenance if they want a healthy colony of bees. Additionally, the large initial setup cost turns away these budding bee conservationists away from the practice of beekeeping. This is wrong and negatively impacts on the number of beekeepers in the world. Considering that bees are currently in need of protection, prospective beekeepers should be encouraged to join beekeeping so as to raise bee populations, and the Flowcost for doing so should be kept as low as possible.
Despite the negatives that Flow Hives may have in the beekeeping world, they have been purchased the world over and have become centerpieces in apiaries. Beekeepers are treated to a wide variety of Flow Hives in the market (including knockoffs of the original). Those that stand out are the Classic Cedar 6 Frame Flow Hive and the Classic Araucaria 6 Frame Langstroth Flow Hive.
Original Flow Hive Review
Flow Classic Cedar 6 Frame Langstroth Beehive Review
The Flow Classic Cedar 6 Frame Langstroth Beehive features patented Flow technology and is touted to be suitable for both beginners and experienced beekeepers. With this beehive, you are able to easily extract honey, without harming bees and without the need of an extractor. The original Flow Hive comes from a desire to reduce the chances of a beekeeper being stung. A bee suit is however still recommended since you will be around bees anyway.
About the Flow Classic Cedar 6 Frame Langstroth Beehive
This beehive comes from a history of research and prototypes over a period of more than 10 years. It is made from high quality Western Red Cedar featuring a solid construct, and is manufactured in the USA and Australia. High grade food quality plastic is used in the making of each of the 6 Flow frames. The plastic used is both BPA and BPS free.
The Flow Classic Cedar Beehive weighs 18.7 pounds (8.48 kg) while fully assembled. It measures 19.9 inches x 14 inches x 9.7 inches. There is no smaller model available. Beekeepers looking at reducing costs can modify their existing Langstroth beehives into Flow Hives and add separately purchased Flow frames. It should be noted that the Classic Cedar Beehive does not come with honey collection jars and lids. Furthermore, this Flow Hive is shipped in two boxes. One box contains the wooden components of the beehive and the other has the Flow frames.
Pros and Cons
- Harvesting honey with the only requires you to insert the flow key and watch as honey effortlessly flows from the beehive into your collecting jars. This beehive allows you to enjoy pure honey within minutes.
- The beehive has a well-thought out design. It maximizes airflow within the hive while not excessively cooling it. On the part of the beekeeper, keeping the beehive dry at all times ensures that bees have an easy time controlling the humidity of the hive. The beehive rarely has occurrences of mold growing inside the hive.
- The premium Western Red Cedar is the wood type used and it is very sturdy and durable.
- The honey flow beehive has integrated pest management features such as the screened bottom board and observation windows.
- The beehive features a sturdy and very attractive garbled roof to keep out rainwater and the sun while being very aesthetically pleasing and stylish.
- One weakness of this Flow beehive is that it uses plastic foundation. African bees are not very friendly to plastic foundation and may not readily take to the frames. If this happens, beekeepers have to improvise and lure the bee swarm to make comb over the plastic foundation.
- Beekeepers harvest a number of products from their beehives. These include honey and wax. With this Flow beehive, while you are able to collect honey in a seamless easy way, you however, are unable harvest wax from the beehive. This is because the Flow Hive is designed to allow you harvest honey with minimal damage to the honeycomb and with minimized disturbance to your bees. Beekeepers wishing to harvest wax from their beehives should instead use the traditional frames for Langstroth beehives, not the flow frames. Luckily, the Flow Classic Cedar Beehive is made to take both the Flow frames and the traditional frames.
- While it is marketed towards beginners, this beehive is best suited for professional beekeepers. While it promises hassle-free honey harvest, the it can be quite a befuddling contraption. Amateur beekeepers should practice beekeeping for some time using conventional beehives until they gain some experience. They may then purchase the more technologically advanced Flow Hive later in their beekeeping journey.
Cleaning the Flow frames of the beehive is done by the bees themselves. Any honey that remains in the honey trough leaks back into the hive via a specially designed gap in the frames. Make sure that the leak-back gap is clear. Bees will take care of the honey that flows back into the hive. A brush is useful in cleaning the honey trough from outside. However, this is not an activity that is required to be done often. Beekeepers using the this Flow beehive in their apiaries may find it to be less intensive on the maintenance practices that must be carried out on the hive.
Flow Hive in the Winter
The cold months of winter are a major concern to beekeepers. With the Flow Classic Cedar Beehive, you may choose leave Flow frames in the super box or remove them. Remember to also remove the queen excluder. If you opt to remove the Flow frames, it is recommended that you wash them with some warm water and let them dry fully. Store them in a dry cool and dark place over the winter. If your super is full of honey in the winter, your bees will not starve. Removing the queen excluder ensures that the queen will access the stored honey that acts as a food reserve in winter. If the queen cannot access the honey, she will die. Once it gets warmer, be sure to return the queen excluder and make sure the queen is in the brood box.
Flow Hives are good for both beginner and professional beekeepers. Importantly however, the art of beekeeping and properly taking care of bees and their beehive is still required, just as it is for any other beehive. The Flow Classic Cedar Beehive is no exception; you need to be a good beekeeper to enjoy its full benefits. The Flow system only makes it easy to collect honey.
Beekeepers are advised to paint the Flow Classic Cedar Beehive with a layer or two of weatherproofing material. These may be paints or sealants. Once you have painted over the beehive, allow it a day or two for the fumes to dissipate before housing your bees in the flow beehive. The roof of the beehive is the area most exposed to the elements. Take additional care in protecting it. Flow agrees that you may add a skillion roof over the beehive. If you do this, be sure to allow sunlight onto the entrance of the beehive.
Flow guarantees customer satisfaction and invites them to an exclusive Flow community. In the community are numerous resources to help both beginner and experienced beekeepers in their beekeeping journey. Additionally, Flow has a customer support service that does its best to support beekeepers who reach out to them.
Flow Classic Araucaria 6 Frame Langstroth Beehive Review
About the Flow Classic Araucaria 6 Frame Langstroth Beehive
The Flow Classic Araucaria 6 Frame Langstroth Beehive is made of Araucaria pine wood. This type of wood is strong and durable. It is friendly to bees and does not impart flavors or foreign aromas to honey. Araucaria wood is known for its beauty, texture and fineness. It is of a light yellow color. Araucaria is a loved and very effective wood for making of beehives. It is no wonder that this excellent pine species has been used in making the of this beehive.
There are a total of 6 Flow frames in the Flow Classic Araucaria Beehive. These frames are made of clear plastic using Flow technology. They are adequate for honey storage in your beehive super box(es) within the beehive.
This beehive has a wooden exterior which common to all beehives. It is built in the Langstroth design and incorporates honey flow technology. The Flow Classic Araucaria Beehive features features clear panels on the sides of the hive that make observation of hive activities very easy. You will easily know when your super box is full of honey – ready for harvesting. The 6 frames each have their attendant honey collecting tubes to be used during harvesting of honey.
Wooden slats make up the gabled roof of the Flow Classic Araucaria Beehive. They are placed in a double – slope roof to keep out the rain, wind and sunlight. The slats are securely held in place and do their job well. This all goes to show how solidly the beehive is built and the amount of thought that went into its design. The Joints of the hive are also firm and very strong. They are reinforced in some places to give the hive that extra sturdiness that beekeepers are looking for in their beehives. The hive is strong, sturdy and very solidly built to give it durability.
Pros and Cons
- The Flow frame technology allows honey to pour out of the beehive without causing injury to any bees. The honey that comes from the hive is pure and unprocessed. It does not require filtering since it does not contain any wax in it or other impurities. This feature of Flow Hives is what makes them very popular with beekeepers.
- Beekeepers are free to add to the beehive as they please. It easily takes on an extra brood box. An additional super box for honey is also easy to add to this Flow Hive. With a larger colony of bees, you have higher chances of colony survival, better hive protection and they are able to make larger amounts of honey in comparatively shorter periods of time.
- The beehive comes with a printed flow manual. This is great for first-time users of Flow Hives. The manual is very handy in understanding the hive and how to use it. It largely removes the possibility of anything going wrong with it.
- The Araucaria wood used in making the beehive is sustainably harvested. Precision laser technology is used in manufacturing the hive to minimize wastage of this precious resource and keep the hive very environmental friendly. The naturally grown wood used in making each Flow Classic Beehive gives every individual hive its unique character.
- The biggest letdown of the this Flow Hive is that you are denied beeswax which is one of the products of a beehive. Beekeepers that target beeswax as one of the benefits of their beekeeping are left out.
- As with the Flow Classic Cedar Beehive, a weakness of this Flow beehive is that it uses plastic foundation. African bees are not very friendly to plastic foundation and may not readily take to the frames. If this happens, beekeepers have to improvise and lure the bee swarm to make comb over the plastic foundation.
- To make sure that beehive lasts for long, Flow advises that beekeepers weatherproof it. Beekeepers with varying levels of skills may do this easily by using sealants such as varnish or exterior house paint. Your creativity is allowed to go into the paint job. Since the wood used on the beehive is stable and durable, weatherproofing it will ensure that the beehive accompanies you in your beekeeping journey for a long time. This beehive is suitable for professional beekeepers. Those who have some experience in beekeeping – but are not yet pros – may also be suited by one or two of these flow Hives. Beginners may find it difficult working with flow Hives.
Included in purchasing the Flow Classic Araucaria Beehive are Flow frames, Flow key, a complete Flow Hive and the bits that go into it such as a queen excluder, inner cover and entrance reducer. The bottom of the beehive is made of a screened bottom board. A single brood box and super box are included. You may add the number of boxes of each type depending on your individual preference as a beekeeper. More brood boxes mean larger colonies of honey bees. A large colony of honeybees is better at colony health, hive security and honey production. You must however take into account that a larger colony of honeybees in your hive will require more honey to survive the cold months of winter.
The Flow Classic Araucaria Beehive measures 19.9 inches x 14 inches x 9.7 inches in dimensions. It is 45.4 (20.6 kg) pounds heavy in shipping. Once you unpack the package and assemble beehive, you can easily move it to your preferred location. You may however not so easily do this once the Flow Hive is colonized by a swarm of bees and contains honey.
Flow warns its existing and potential customers of imitations that are increasingly permeating the market. They are the only registered producers of Flow Hives. Flow honey harvesting technology is patented. The Flow Classic Araucaria Beehive is an authentic Flow Hive built in Australia and comes with a 12 months warranty calculated from the date of delivery. It also comes with excellent customer support from a friendly and very knowledgeable team at Flow. Support for the beehive can be accessed both online and offline. Additionally, there exists a large resourceful online community that is ready to assist you with the practical details of beekeeping using beehive.
The Flow Classic Araucaria Beehive is made in Australia. This includes the wooden parts of the beehive and the plastic flow frames included in the hive. The hive does not come assembled. It is shipped flat-packed and unsealed. Beekeepers need to assemble the hive and seal it to protect the bee hive’s wood from environmental elements. The order arrives in two separate boxes – one having the wooden parts of the beehive and the other containing the plastic Flow frames. Assembly takes an average of 2 hours and is greatly aided by the instructions manual that includes graphics.
A Final Word
Flow Hives make it not only easy to harvest honey, but also they also produce very clear honey. The honey that flows out of the Flow Hive does not need sieving. It is free of quashed bees, wax and other impurities. Harvesting honey has traditionally been an exercise that had a number of downsides which are all but eliminated by Flow Hives. Quashed bees, angry colonies and tedious processes of removing frames and later returning them after honey extraction are no more with the Flow Hive.
Flow Hives make it a little safer to harvest honey and inspect your beehive. Observation panels mean that you do not have to open up the whole hive to take a peek inside. This should however not be taken to mean that beekeepers do not need protective equipment. Even with a Flow Hive, you need to invest in protective wear since all that is needed is one angry bee and you will get stung. It should be noted that experience, expertise and knowledge of beekeeping are not thrown out of the window when you use a Flow Hive.
To maintain a healthy colony, you must read up about beekeeping, interact with beekeepers and stack up your years of beekeeping experience. Without proper knowledge of beekeeping and beehive maintenance, you will have either a poorly performing colony of bees in your Flow Hive. Such a colony is susceptible to diseases, pests and attacks by predators.
Experienced beekeepers who have worked with Flow Hives should readily share their beekeeping knowledge and skills with beginners. Despite its inability to give you wax as one of the beehive products would usually get, a Flow Hive is a great addition to your apiary due to its ease of maintenance, simplified honey harvesting, and the high degree of honey purity that it affords beekeepers.