On the Flow Hive

Bee-Girl    By Sarah Red-Laird   February 18, 2015

The Flowwwwww Hive! Its the latest bee hive design taking the internet by storm! So here's my two cents: First, I think it's very pretty and I think the father son team that developed it are adorable. Will it revolutionize beekeeping as we know it and release bees from our medaling to feed the world a healthy sugar alternative? I mean, is it "scalable"? I don't think so. However, is this a possible fun gadget to add to your backyard apiary, see how it works? Totally! 

But.......... here's my Debbie Downer red flag: ROBBING (when hungry bees attack an open honey source in a violent, angry, horde). If your honey flow is epic and nectar is more then prolific, robbing may not be an issue. However, as I sit here writing this, in a pickup truck waiting on an almond grower, in Bakersfield, CA - I'm surrounded by drought, lack of diverse forage, and soon to be hungry bees. I just keep thinking about lack and hunger and robbing. And the whole West, and how hot and dry and flowerless it's becoming. So. Would I use this hive and risk ensuing the horde that would result? Nope. 

But if you live in a land of plenty, experiment away - but please don't forget to think about the bees first in your beekeeping adventures. 

I also want you to consider a couple more thoughts in this new potential hobby.  Do we really need beekeepers in all of the backyards?  And do you want to be a beekeeper, or a bee reaper?  

Honey bees are awesome.  They are a joy, they do amazing work, and they also have stingers.  One percent of the population will have a systemic anaphylactic reaction when they are stung.  That is one out of every one hundred people.  How do people get stung?  Yes, by being an idiot and swatting at them.  But also by sitting on one, grabbing a gardening tool where one is resting, or taking a swig of soda that a bee may have nosedived into.   

Bees can also become aggressive and sting for “no reason” when there is turmoil inside the hive.  This could be an infestation of the Varroa destructor mite, aggressive wasps picking off their babies, or the common neighborhood four legged hive terrorizers: skunks and raccoons.  This is where the difference between “bee havers” and “beekeepers” comes in.  

Keeping bees, and keeping bees alive and healthy is harder than it has been then any time in modern history.  I already mentioned Varroa and mammal pests.  But oh… let me count the other ways: Nosema ceranae, Nosema apis, Israeli acute paralysis virus, black queen cell virus, hairless black bee syndrome, acute bee paralysis virus, deformed wing virus, sacbood, chalkbrood, stonebrood, American foulbrood, European foulbrood, IIV6.  Oh wait.  And then there are pesticide poisonings, chilled brood, dysentery, starvation,  and as I mentioned above, extreme weather. 

So what’s your plan to manage your bees and make sure these animals you have decided to adopt are cared for?  What is your strategy?  Denial and neglect are not a strategy. 

One last thought.  It takes about 2 million flowers to make one pound of honey. What does your neighborhood look like?  Is there enough for the honey bees, and also for their native polinator cousins? 

If you feel called to beekeeping – awesome!!  If its because you want to be a beekeeper.  If it’s because you saw a cool thing on Youtube where you can get free pancake syrup, don’t even.        

For further thoughts, here's a write up from my friends at ANU in Australia.  

Visit Bee-Girl: http://www.beegirl.org/#!Oh-the-Flow-Hive/cswu/54fe35a80cf2458597907506

[Note: Sarah, Thank you for this insightful, informative, bee-care-full take on the Flow Hive. Kudos to you Sarah, keep up the great work! Webkeeper!!]

The Flow Hive: a Solution in Search of a Problem

Root Simple      By Mr. Homegrown   February 23, 2015

This week so many people have forwarded me links to this Indigogo pitch for a new kind of beehive called the Flow™ that I feel I’ve got to respond and let you all know what I think of the idea.

On the slim chance you haven’t been forwarded the pitch yet, the Flow™ Hive is a honey super that you can extract honey from without having to open the hive and remove frames. It’s like a cross between a beehive and a beer tap.  My problem with this design is mostly symbolic.

Conceptually, the idea that a beehive is like a beer keg you can tap is troublesome. A beehive is a living thing, not a machine for our exploitation. I’m a natural beekeeper and feel that honey harvests must be done with caution and respect. To us, beekeeping is, at the risk of sounding a little melodramatic– a sacred vocation. We are in relationship with our backyard hive, and feel our role is to support them, and to very occasionally accept the gift of excess honey. For new beekeepers, and for people who are not beekeepers, beekeeping is all about the honey. “How much honey do you get from your hives? ” is the first question people ask us. But in our minds, the honey matters very little. What we get we consider precious, and use for medicine more than sweetening.

So that’s where we come from, and if you understand that, you’ll understand why we look askance at this “bee keg.” It reinforces our culture’s unfortunate dualistic view of nature that says all of creation is ours for our exploitation–our convenient exploitation.

On a more practical level, it seems to me that the ease of the tapping could lead inexperienced beekeepers to over-tap the hive.

Now, the inventors say this system is less stressful to the hive, because you don’t have to remove the frames for harvest, or even to check to see if the frames are ready for harvest.  And this is true. It is a novel system, where the plastic comb is built so that frame splits open and lets the honey drain out secretly, as it were, so while the bees are not disturbed by the lifting of frames, they periodically discover that all their work has just vanished into thin air.

This novel plastic foundation is key to this system. Under it, the bees do no building of their own. They are set to live in a tower of prefabricated plastic cells. As a natural beekeeper I  don’t use foundation at all, as bees are by nature builders, and I believe they build the best homes for themselves. I would not presume to define the scope and size of their home.

Another concern for me is honey robbing.  Pictures on the Flow™ Hive site also show honey dripping from the hive into open jars. In our region, this would set off a robbing frenzy as other hives in the area discover free, open air honey. When robbing gets going the bees in the hive get very defensive and stinging of people and animals nearby can result. Other photos on the site show the harvest tubes connected to lidded jars, which would be a lot safer. But I don’t think lidded harvest systems are included in the price of the set up.

Speaking of the price: It’s $460 for just the contraption or $600 for a brood box and the Flow™ Hive. I can buy two unassembled Lanstroth boxes with frames for around $40. A top and bottom board ads a few bucks. Some folks build top bar hives entirely from free scrap lumber.

All in all, to me this invention seems like a solution in search of a problem. It’s not difficult to peek in the top of the hive, take out a few honey frames and replace them with empty frames. It’s true that you have to take precautions: honey harvests should be done swiftly, deliberately and gracefully. But that’s not hard if you just make sure you’ve got everything ready before you open the hive.

As of this morning the inventors have raised an astonishing $1.2 million USD on a $70,000 campaign. I can’t help but think that the money would be better spent on researching natural beekeeping methods.

Read at: http://www.rootsimple.com/2015/02/the-flow-hive-a-solution-in-search-of-a-problem/

Honey on Tap: A New Beehive that Automatically Extracts Honey without Disturbing Bees

COLOSSAL   By Christopher Jobson   February 19, 2015 

The Flow Hive is a new beehive invention that promises to eliminate the more laborious aspects of collecting honey from a beehive with a novel spigot system that taps into specially designed honeycomb frames. Invented over the last decade by father and son beekeepers Stuart and Cedar Anderson, the system eliminates the traditional process of honey extraction where frames are removed from beehives, opened with hot knives, and loaded into a machine that uses centrifugal force to get the honey out. Here is how the Andersons explain their design:

The Flow frame consists of already partly formed honeycomb cells. The bees complete the comb with their wax, fill the cells with honey and cap the cells as usual. When you turn the tool, a bit like a tap, the cells split vertically inside the comb forming channels allowing the honey to flow down to a sealed trough at the base of the frame and out of the hive while the bees are practically undisturbed on the comb surface.

When the honey has finished draining you turn the tap again in the upper slot resets the comb into the original position and allows the bees to chew the wax capping away, and fill it with honey again.

It’s difficult to say how this might scale up for commercial operations, but for urban or backyard beekeeping it seems like a whole lot of fun. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine these on the roof of a restaurant where honey could be extracted daily, or for use by kids or others who might be more squeamish around live bees. You can see more on their website and over on Facebook.

View more... http://www.thisiscolossal.com/2015/02/honey-on-tap/