Flow Hive

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Flow Hive

AUL:
Hi there. I’d like to introduce Catherine Vanderheyden. She’s our Tuesday volunteer. She’s been volunteering with us for six years, something like that. Every Tuesday, she shows up. We quite look forward to working with Catherine. And today, we’re going to talk with Catherine about our Flow Hive. This is a hive that was donated to us by the company, Flow. We got to know them at Apimondia in Montreal in a couple of years ago. And they offered this to us for demonstration purposes and to try out. I’ve been trying to keep my mind open about this flow hive method. When they first came out, I thought what a really cool idea that you could actually turn a crank and open up the cells and harvest honey. We’d often joke to people when they asked us how we harvest honey. That we just turn on the tap on the side of the hive. But they’ve made that a reality. It’s pretty cool. There is a lot of controversy when they first came out because the beekeepers were really adamantly opposed to a change. But we’ve kept our mind open, and I feel it has a place in some for some beekeepers for sure. 

So Catherine’s going to talk about that a bit more so. 

CATHERINE:
Well, you have to admit, Paul being a woodworker, that it’s the most beautiful hive around. 

PAUL:
That’s true. It is very beautiful. If they’ve got that fit the fit perfectly, it’s all laser cut and we’ve got that nice natural looking finish on it there as well. But, that’s as big as it gets, right? 

CATHERINE:
Yeah. This is the full… 

PAUL:
So we got one brood chamber. This is their 10 frame version. You could fit 10 standard length (UNKNOWN) frames in that bottom. And then the top box here is the flow honey suit. So they only get one because you can harvest the honey fairly frequently. So let’s just talk over a little bit about some of the pros and cons here. One con is obviously the price. They are pretty expensive. 

CATHERINE:
That’s true. It is expensive to start. But if you’re a startup beekeeper and you’re only going to have two or four hives, it eliminates all extracting equipment. So that’s quite a cost to undertake as well. 

PAUL:
Yeah. It’s even at the smallest scale it’s possible 1,000 dollars to get yourself set up with extracting equipment. And you don’t need any of that? 

CATHERINE:
That’s right. And a lot of the clubs will allow you to use their equipment but then you’re scheduling and everybody wants to use it at the same time. This way, you’re you can go out and you can harvest. When you’re ready and also you don’t have to wait for the entire thing to be full. That’s another one of the pros to it. If you check in the center one is full and you know that they’ve been collecting clover you’ll get a clover tasting, honey. So one year I did seven different drawers. And for Christmas, I gave everybody the jars of the seven different flavors. And people couldn’t believe it came from one flow hive. 

PAUL:
Great. So like a flake…? 

CATHERINE:
A flake of honey. 

PAUL:
Very cool. 

CATHERINE:
Yeah, it was very exciting. And it introduced young people to the world of bees and they got quite excited about what learning more about bees and beekeeping and… 

PAUL:
And the connection with the different flowers and the season and so on. 

CATHERINE:
Exactly. 

PAUL:
Like in our area here, we typically harvest honey at the end of July, in the middle of September. So we have two lumps of honey. They taste different year to year to some degree but do it this way you get all those individual flavors through the year. Cool. Let’s talk over about ripening honey, because you and I have had lots of conversations about ripening the honey. And what? Because it’s different. Like when we harvest honey by the box, we can take it into our hot room and we can draw the moisture level down artificially if need be. But you don’t have that option since you’re not taking this into a hot room. 

CATHERINE:
That’s correct. The way that the flow hive is set up to work is that first they’ll finish drawing out the cone and then they’ll fill it with honey and they won’t cap it until it’s not the right amount. So before you take any honey, you always check the frame and make sure that it’s fully capped on both sides. If you look at the windows on either side, if you pull one of these off and you open it up and you see that it’s capped all the way to the outside, then pretty much your entire flow hive is ready to go because they start from the center and work towards the outside. 

PAUL:
But whenever you’re harvesting, you’d open it up and have a look anyway? 

CATHERINE:
Always, always, yeah. 

PAUL:
OK. Just to be sure what you’re harvesting is right. OK. It’s only one super. Do you find that that gives bees enough space? 

CATHERINE:
If you own a really big yarn it can get difficult. I’ve heard bearding, right outside the entire hive some people in places will put on an extra super and they’ll leave that for the bees. So… 

PAUL:
An extra flow super or just a regular super? 

CATHERINE:
No, just a shallow. And they’ll put that on just to give them a little bit extra space while when there’s a major flow. 

PAUL:
When, we find we can (UNKNOWN) bees pretty successful here in one brood chamber. So that part’s not an issue. 

CATHERINE :
No, I’ve not had any trouble (UNKNOWN). 

PAUL:
I know at the beginning some people bought these thinking that they would have very little bee management and they would just harvest honey. And that’s where a lot of season beekeepers got kind of concerned, because obviously you still have to manage your hive. So talk about the where that advantages is and and what has to be the state. 

CATHERINE :
So when they created this, they’re beekeepers and they expected this little video to be appealing to beekeepers. 

PAUL:
The one that they produce. 

CATHERINE :
That they produced. And so they expected that these beekeepers were already doing the responsible beekeeping. It went viral. It went so fast and so big and so fast for them that the general public started watching it, thinking, “Hey, I can have one of these in my backyard and go get a fresh jar, honey, whenever I want it.” That was never their intention. Right. And as soon as they realized that that happened, I had one of the original flow hives. And there were multiple sheets in all of the packaging saying that they absolutely promote responsible beekeeping first and foremost. And this is actually worked out well, because if as you get older or if you’re not as strong, you can time when you go in and do your checks so that if you take your honey, this is now an empty box. And so to get off and get into the brood chamber is not a problem. OK. So you can actually harvest, get the weight down and then take that off and do your work within the brood chamber. And some of the important things, obviously, are going to be disease control monitoring to see whether there’s disease in your colonies or not, looking for swarming behavior to try and eliminate that. 

And requeening colonies where need be. So all the standard kind of management that’s done in the spring and fall of the year you can still do… And they expect you to do it. they absolutely say the first thing they say is to take a beekeeping course. And they expect that you’re managing your mates, they still have the plates at the back that you can put your stick papers in. They expect full on hand, hands on bee management. The only thing is that it’s an alternative for extracting. And it makes it very convenient and it does disrupt the bees less. 

PAUL:
Right. So, Catherine, let’s talk over why we think this 10 frame version is the appropriate choice for our area. 

CATHERINE:
Right. The initial one was the set up to match the eight frame chamber. But in North America, almost everything is 10 frame. And so they came out with a second version and it has it matches and lines up. So it’s not a problem for the queen excluder, for the overwintering wraps, for the frames, for everything fits quite nicely and easily. So you really can take any kind of standard brood chamber and just get the flow high. Super. 

PAUL:
Right. And it’s standard lid or whatever else. 

CATHERINE:
And you would be able to do it? Yes. You’d be able to just put hat on your hives and it would be working. 

PAUL:
Right. One issue I have is I like to be able to set my smoker on the hive lid. That’s a little little more challenging on this one here. Yes, but that’s a minor point. We can live with that. 

CATHERINE:
We’re going to talk about extracting some honey from the flow hive. And if you wanted to check and see if the whole hive is ready, these windows are very convenient. On the side, you can see the bees in here. And if you look closely between all of that, honey is capped. And when the honey is capped, it’s ready to be taken. If the outside frames are full most likely, all of the frames will be full. So we’re going to make that assumption. And we would go ahead and take what honey we wanted from this hive. If we were just going to look to take one frame worth of honey, because let’s say we were going to collect what we think is mostly clover, honey. We would take the lid off. We would take the inner cover off. And you would check to make sure that the frame that you’re looking at taking is, in fact, capped. So by removing the backboard here. If usually they start from the center and come out. You can lift this one up. And take a look at this frame and you can see that this is not your standard frame. 

This is a flow hive frame and that the honey is capped on both sides. So that one would be ready to take. That’s as much disturbing of the bees that we would have to do, you can put your inner cover back on. And then what you do is come to the back. It’s important that the flow hive is kept in a slightly tipped towards the back position. In the deluxe model with the stand there is a level here and it’s set so that if the bubble is in between, it’s tipped to the right amount back, which I think two and a half to three degrees. Then there’s another level at the back that moves and makes it for the adjustment side to side. And they’re just a self adjusting feet out. So you would take this board this back off and you would. Some of the tips that I’ve learned about extracting is picking, choosing your day is important. The warmer the day, the easier the honey flows, the quicker it is. You definitely don’t want to be doing it on any days that it’s raining because the rain will get right in into the honey. 

It’s good to have I always have a wet tea towel or a little bucket of water just to keep your hands in anything that gets sticky. A chance to keep that clean. I bring out a piece of handy wrap or gauze to put over top in case it’s a time where there’s robbing going on that will eliminate it. You always have your smoker. If you have your smoker just wafting around, it keeps the bees away. They don’t smell the honey so much. And sometimes these when they’re first new, can be really stiff. This has to come out because that’s where the key goes. And this is where the tube goes. So those can be stiff as well. A subtle needle nose pliers can work to twist and get those out easily. Make sure you have enough jars and lids so that you can put the lid on the honey as soon as it’s filled. An alternative to doing it by jars is that some people will take the connections here and hook it up to clear tubing to one big tube that goes into a pail that has been cut out. And so there no exposure of honey, so there’s no chance of robing. 

So we’re going to go ahead and take this middle frame of honey. You can see here that this is all completely full. We’ll remove this part. The key will go in to the bottom. Another tip is on a warm day, not to put the key all the way in and turn it because all the honey can flow. It can overflow and flow down into the brood chamber. I’ve found that if I put it partway in and turn it and then continue opening it afterwards. When you’re putting this collection tube in this part has to go in at the bottom to make a seal. OK. And then we’ll just turn this and it can be stiff. And you’ll see here that the honey, the comb has opened and the honey is starting to come in. If there’s any chance of robbing, you can cover it with a cloth or you can cover it with a piece of handy wrap or gauze. And you can see that that’s as disturbed as the bees get for taking honey. So that’s pretty nice. You can do multiple jars at one time if you have a shelf and when you’re done, when the honey is just trickling out and when you’ve put the key in the top slot here and you have to make sure that it goes all the way to the back. 

And then you rotate in and that closes the comb. So that it’s in the right position for the bees to fill again. And then you just wait for the honey to stop dripping and put be sure to put your top back in and it’ll only fit in with if it’s in the right position, with that knob fitting over top of the piece of plastic there. Another really good trick is to have your smoker sitting just in behind here, and when the wind is calm, it just wafts up around the back and keeps the bees not interested because they don’t smell the honey flowing out the back of the hive. It’s another good trick. 

PAUL:
Thank you very much, Catherine, for sharing all that useful information about these beautiful flow hives. I think it’s absolutely fantastic to be able to go start to finish and have a beautiful jar of honey like fat in your hands the same afternoon. So we’ve talked over some of the pros and cons, giving you some tips on how to use these. It seems to me they have a place for beekeepers at a small scale level, maybe not for commercial use. And what would you think there, Catherine? 

CATHERINE:
I agree. Absolutely. It doesn’t change responsible beekeeping it just changes the extracting process. 

PAUL:
Right. OK. So thank you for watching this video. Please subscribe to our YouTube channel. You can follow us on social media. See you next time.