We have been getting question about the Flow Hive for some time now, and I wanted to share my opinion/ observations about them.
My opinion about flow hives:
I think Flow Hives are really cool. They are stunning to watch and really amazing engineering. We have a couple and think they are fun. They are a novel, awesome idea, and can be a fun part of a beekeeping hobby. If you are interested in beekeeping as a hobby, and have some money to spend on that hobby, these may be a great fit for you.
I have concerns about parts of the Flow Hive kick starter video. They make it look like beekeeping is a turnkey operation. It’s not. Beekeepers need to check on their hives, frame by frame, every 10-14 days spring to fall. We need to monitor for diseases, provide room for expansion, be responsible about swarms, feed them, harvest extra honey, prepare them for winter, and be overall good stewards over our bees. Most beekeepers are very keen to do this and are very passionate about beekeeping. Some of our customers get excited about the idea of beekeeping, but become afraid of getting stung and avoid working with their bees. This is a long-term commitment that comes with getting stung sometimes.
There are some things about Flow Hives that require special management. In a standard hive, all of the frames are sort of interchangeable, and bees can use comb to raise brood or for pollen and honey storage. Interchanging frames can help when managing bees, especially if we need to quickly give the queen more room to lay eggs. Flow frames were not meant for brood.
If you need to choose between buying honey extracting equipment and a flow frame super, I’d go with the extracting equipment. It will save you money and you will be able to use the extracting equipment on any frame in the hive. When beekeepers crack open the honey cells in the flow frame, they only yield the honey from that frame.
If you have the money, and are excited to purchase Flow Frames, they can be really fun. Go for it.
Adapting for Flow Hive supers.
The easiest way to adapt hives flow hive supers is to buy your entire hive from Flow Hive as a kit.
However, their hive bodies are significantly more expensive, so I wanted to share some budget-friendly options to mix and match too.
Flow hives come in two sizes: 8-frame and 10-frame. The two sizes are different widths because one holds 8 frames and the other holds 10 frames. You cannot interchange between 8 and 10 frame boxes within the same hive because they don’t stack evenly and would expose the bees in the overhang. Make sure to match the size of your flow frame super with the size of your other boxes. I am going to talk about deep boxes here.
10-frame Flow Hive Adaptation
You can buy a flow hive super that fits on a standard 10-frame hive. The bottom two boxes in any hive need to be standard boxes and will become the brood chamber. You can use flow hive supers or regular supers on top of that. You will need a total of 3-4 deep boxes for one hive for a typical Utah summer.
If you use flow hive, you will want to add a queen excluder to your order. This is a divider that beekeepers can place between the brood chamber and the honey supers. It allows the worker bees to go up into the super, but the larger queen is too large to fit through it. That will force her to lay eggs in the bottom two boxes/brood chamber. It would be sad to break open flow cells if they have baby bees in them. We choose not to use queen excluders unless we are using flow hives. That’s a personal preference. We choose not to because it congests the hive and we like to let the queen lay eggs where she wants. We do use queen excluders for other things, like queen rearing.
8-frame Adaptation (A bit more complicated)
If you choose an 8-frame flow hive super, you will need to make sure the boxes you buy for the rest of the hive are the same width. Mann Lake sells 2 sizes of 8-frame deep boxes. Make sure they match the outer dimensions of the flow hive box. You will need 4 boxes total to get through a typical Utah summer: two need to be regular boxes to make up the brood chamber, and the other two you can mix and match between flow and regular supers. You need to get a bottom board, lid, and hive stand, and queen excluder that will fit the 8-frame dimension too.