Thank you to Adrienne Smith, Journey student from Central Oregon, for providing this write-up for us:
I was one of the first supporters of the Flow Hive, in 2014 I forked over $600 for this amazing contraption, soon after, I found that there was a huge backlash among the majority of the beekeeping community against the Flow Hive. For a long while, I was embarrassed to share that I was one of “those” people who were “suckered” into this expensive “gimmick”. Honestly, I didn’t even tell many people I even HAD a Flow Hive until this year. It was really difficult to feel on the “outside” of the beekeeping community, unable to ask for help or find community due to fear of being made fun of, having people roll their eyes at you, and to hear so many people talk negatively about a product they clearly had not used nor done any research into.
The ONLY difference between a Flow Hive and a Langstroth hive is the Super and the way in which honey is extracted. The brood box(es), brood frames, screened bottom board, inner cover, and lid are all the same as what you would get for your Langstroth set up. The super frames are the only difference.
I have had my Flow Hive equipment since it was sent to me in 2015. I didn’t get bees until last May 2018. My bees stored enough honey for themselves the first year, and overwintered perfectly. Their population boomed this spring due to the unusual amount of snow (3ft in Feb!), and rain this spring in Central Oregon (usually very dry!) giving us am amazing spring wildflower boom. So, I gave my bees a super for themselves, when they filled that up with brood, and were just about bursting from the seams, is when I added a queen excluder and the Flow Super. I had read somewhere that when people use the Ross Rounds for comb honey, that it is a delicate balance of having your colony too full and a flow being on, for when to add your Ross Rounds super. I figured it shouldn’t be too terribly different than that idea, so I followed my gut.
I got the Flow Super on June 18 of this year. I had read some advice to spray the frames with 1:1 sugar syrup to get the bees to move up into the Flow Super and interested in the Flow Frames. I followed that advice. I kept checking and checking and slowly more and more bees were heading up to the super. But, no real work was being done. Other advice I was given was to smoosh some honey comb onto the frames. I had a bit from an accident in another colony, so I decided to try it out. Soon after, I noticed the bees working hard in the super, they began putting wax in the cracks, and even started capping a couple cells!
One piece of advice I received but didn’t use, to get the bees to work on the Flow Frames, was to put the Flow super on top of the brood box, of course, after a Queen Excluder, and then add your regular super on top of the Flow Super. If the previous advice of smooshing some honey comb onto the frames did not work, I think that was going to try that bit of advice out.
It seemed like it took forever for the bees to finish capping both sides of one frame. I was antsy because I wanted to get some honey into the fair (to gain service points, of course). Missing out on entering for the the first Fair was disappointing, but on July 30th, I was able to inspect the super to see if they had finished capping. They did! They capped two frames actually! Reading up on the directions really quick, I started the process of extracting honey from two Flow Frames without so much as opening my hive!
It took quite some time, I do believe it would have been quicker, if I had waited until a little later in the day to open the frames, it would have flowed faster from the tube if it were warmer, I think. After a few hours, I drained the two frames and got 2 quarts and 4 pints of beautiful clear, light golden honey. My first honey, from my first colony, ever. Wow, what an experience!
It went so smoothly. I had only a few bees come around to check out what I was doing over those two hours. Armed with some Saran Wrap and a kitchen towel, I placed those on, and the interested parties took off. I was not wearing any veil or suit or anything, being nervous at first, but, seeing that no bees were interested, I felt at ease and kept on.
While I do know that some people have issues getting their bees to take to the Flow Frames, I believe that is manageable and there are tons of suggestions from other experienced Flow users. I think the contraption is super cool, and while I wouldn’t purchase the full $600+ set up now, I would purchase the Flow Frames again. If you are on the fence, and leaning toward getting one, do it. I see no harm in having them as long as you are not disillusioned into thinking that you don’t have to manage your colony, or that you can set them and forget them – because you can’t. The management style for a Flow Hive is no different than your Langstroth.