My Flow Hive Experience
By Jen Haeger
In 2015, my sister-in-law sent me a link to the Flow Hive Indiegogo (like Kickstarter outside the US) campaign. She knew one of my dreams was to keep bees. I have to say that at first glance the Flow Hive seemed too good to believe, and it was also way outside my hobby budget at the time ($750 with shipping). But then my mother-in-law said she was also interested in keeping bees and would split the cost of the Flow Hive with me and help me keep bees on her sheep farm, so I took a risk and we purchased a Flow Hive through the campaign. Not knowing what I was getting myself into with beekeeping in general, we could’ve waited a year to make that purchase, but I’m not sorry we did it.
In 2016, we purchased our first two nucs and stumbled through a year as beginning beekeepers without using the Flow Hive’s patented frames. They are not really meant for first year bees who don’t have an established hive because you might take too much honey and leave your bees starving in the winter. Despite taking an excellent beginner beekeeper class, our bees died over the 2016-2017 winter, but this didn’t deter us.
In 2017, I took the intermediate bee class, and we purchased two new nucs which took off on our old bee’s comb, so we felt confident in using the Flow frames. At first the bees were
a little reluctant to use the plastic frames, but not because of the required queen excluder (brood in the plastic frames is a big pain to clean out) which we witnessed the bees flying through like it wasn’t even there. I imagine that it just took a little while for the bees to figure out that they could fill in the gaps with wax or propolis and then fill the plastic cells with honey, but they finally did.
Through the observation window and the removable back panel, we watched the plastic frames fill up and when they were around 80% full of capped honey, we popped off the caps, popped in the spigots, turned the key, and watched the honey flow into jars without needing any filtration. Wow! For us, each frame yielded around 6lbs, and once emptied, the bees would chew through the still-intact wax caps and fill them up again! No muss, no fuss, no heavy lifting and transport of full honey frames.
Now that’s not to say things went perfectly. At our first harvest we had the spigot in backwards and lost a lot of honey to the inside of the hive (fine for the bees, but less honey for us). We also found the need to set up stands at the back of the hives so we didn’t have to hold filling jars. Tipping the hives to help with the honey flow was additionally useful, but a bit of a pain, as was covering the spigots and top of the jars with plastic wrap to keep the bees out of the honey as the jars were filling. There’s a little leakage every time, but it is minimal and goes back into the hive for the bees.
I’ve learned a lot about the Flow Hive in these two years. Firstly, it’s just a Langstroth garden hive with a modified honey super filled with special, plastic frames. In fact, you don’t have to buy a complete Flow Hive if you don’t want to. You can buy the frames only and then modify a regular deep Langstroth super to fit the Flow frames. The frames are made of many sheets of plastic which form nearly complete cells. After the bees complete the cells with wax or propolis, fill them with honey, and cap them, you slide in a key at the top of the cell and turn it so that half of the sheets move and “crack” open the cells. The honey then flows down the inside of the frame to a channel at the bottom where the spigot attaches, and out the spigot into your jar.
I know it sounds too good to be true, but seeing is believing. I encourage you to check out www.honeyflow.com to watch videos of this amazing system and how it works. The good news is, the Flow Hive company is invested in the global health of bees and the education of beekeepers worldwide, are happy to answer any questions you have, and have excellent customer service. They also have a Bee Club Support program offering education, discounts, and sometimes free hives to bee clubs around the world. The Ann Arbor Backyard Beekeepers club (A2B2) is a participant in the Flow Hive Ambassador program and members receive a 7.5% discount on most Flow products. If you are a member contact an A2B2 board member to receive a link to get your discount.
Now, one word of warning about the Flow Hive: it is not a substitute for active, informed beekeeping. A Flow Hive makes extracting honey easier, but doesn’t change anything else about beekeeping. You still need to maintain your hives, check and treat for Varroa mites, and properly winter your hives to be a successful beekeeper. Bee classes and joining your local bee club help tremendously with this!All in all, the Flow Hive is a great tool for hobby beekeepers like me. So, would I buy another Flow Hive? I just did. Looking forward to double the honey next year!