Flow Hive Redux

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I had been avoiding this topic for the better part of a year. Letting the words of others speak for me. But I think it’s time to talk about the elephant in the room. Arguably the most controversial topic in the world of Bees right now.

The “Flow Hive” aka “Spigot Hive”

Since I became a beekeeper, many well intentioned friends have sent me emails, posted to my Facebook wall, and posted comments on our website about this “new” “amazing” product that is going to save the world’s honey bees.

If you haven’t heard about this yet, “have you been living under a rock?” Perhaps you haven’t been seeing environmental or bee-related news. The Flow Hive is a beehive created by a Beekeeper and his son in Australia. It was the subject of a $12 Million dollar IndieGogo crowdfunding. Have a look at the video above.

In short, the Flow hive is a normal 10 frame Langstroth hive, like you see in apiaries all over North America. But the difference is that the honey supers, which are the shorter boxes on the top of a hive that are used to collect honey (without baby bees) have an engineered comb system. When the bees make their comb and put honey into it, there is a mechanism that cracks the individual cells open and lets the honey flow right out into tubes that the beekeeper, or even grandma can collect via a place of waffles! Is my sarcasm palpable?

Am I just being a hater, or a negative Nancy? Maybe a little, but here is my take on this hive.

First of all, I think it’s a brilliant piece of engineering. Now that the hives have been delivered to a few people I can say that it’s well thought out, well-constructed, and seems to work pretty well under certain conditions.

That being said, I have some issues with it.

The target market for the hive is the general public, which is a good thing. However the marketing is very misleading. Fallacies;

  • You never or rarely need to open the hive
  • Turn a bunch of bees into a honey factory, with a pipeline directly to your house
  • Keeping bees is as easy as having a garden, a hive and a handle to turn on the flow

For the average consumer who orders a Flow Hive, orders a package of bees, I think they are going to get a shock when they install the bees in the hive. Moreover regular inspections frame by frame are a very important part of IPM(Integrated Pest Management), if you want to be a responsible beekeeper you must do this, or almost certainly your bees will fall victim to one of the numerous pest and diseases that are sadly now a regular part of bee management.

Bees are not honey factories. They are indeed livestock, but this idea that honey is the only important part of beekeeping is a poor attitude. Although bees are domesticated, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to use natural methods whenever possible. We discussed this in an earlier article.

Keeping bees can be easy for someone who is willing to put in the time and education learning how to do so. I think every person who reads this article could be a beekeeper. But the way the Flow Hive portrays beekeeping as a product that you buy that you can instantly know is very misleading.
Now there is a very important good-side to all of this. Almost good enough to offset all my complaints. And that is the awareness of bees that has been brought to the public. Many more people want to become beekeepers, in fact just in Nova Scotia we have seen a huge surge of beekeeper registrations.
I only hope that the new interest in bees lasts and that the owners of the flow hive gain some real knowledge and experience on how to take care of the bees, as we need them more than ever.

Ames News

Orders for New Zealand bees are in, word is that our province is ordering almost 1500 packages!

I attended the Annual General Meeting for the Nova Scotia Beekeeper’s Association. Many of my awesome fellow beekeepers were in attendance. But even more notable was that this was the best attended AGM in the organizations’ history. Almost half the attendees were completely new beekeepers. We were also lucky to have a visit from the Minister of Agriculture who reiterated the province’s commitment to the bee industry.

Our hives have done well this winter despite the recent discovery of Varroa. One of our colonies was on the verge of starvation (till I fed them some fondant). The constant changing temperature causes the bees to move around more and use up more of their stores.

Bees in the News

Nova Scotia Bee Statistics are in! (pdf)

  • 114 New Beekeeper’s this year
  • 23,334 Colonies were active this summer
  • 410,000 lbs of honey was produced
  • 2014/2015 Winter Losses 15.1 % (2.5% better than last winter)

Hive Thefts in California spike, not enough bees for pollination

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