Frequently Asked Questions
How to collect honeycomb from your hive
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One of the greatest benefits of the Flow Hybrid is the ability to harvest both Flow harvested honey and honeycomb from the same super.
To harvest honeycomb you need to open the super (remember to take safety precautions – please see our Flow sponsored safety pamphlet covering common beekeeping safety risks and first aid responses).
What do I need to check before I harvest from my Flow Hive?
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It is important to check that the Flow Frames are fully capped and ready, before harvesting.
If it is your first time, we recommend that you open the hive (with a smoker and protective gear) and lift out the Flow Frames for inspection so that you get to know what that end-view window is telling you. It’s not uncommon for bees to fill the frames in different ways – some frames may appear full, while the centre remains empty and some colonies will fill a frame and avoid the last cells in the window.
Leaking honey from my Flow Hive
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It's not uncommon to have a small amount of honey leaking from your frames inside the hive whilst harvesting. The majority of the time this is not a problem as the bees will mop up the excess honey even if it reaches the bottom of the hive.
The amount of honey leakage that occurs will depend on the way the bees have capped the cells and also how you set up your hive for harvest.
How do I stop the bees getting to the honey while it’s draining out of the Flow Hive?
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We have found we can usually harvest the honey without the bees noticing us at the back of the hive. Nevertheless, it is best to cover the jars with flywire or plastic wrap, or better still, make a closed system. This can be achieved by simply making a hole in the lid of a jar for a tube to go into. Just make sure that there is a little bit of space for air to get in, otherwise it can cause the honey to back-up in the honey trough.
If you are harvesting several frames at once using a larger container, you can make holes through the lid for each tube.
How long does it take before I can harvest the honey from the Flow Hive?
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This depends on the amount of nectar available for the bees and how strong the colony is.
We have had Flow Supers fill in a week during peak times of the flowering season. A super usually fills well within a month during the spring and summer (at peak flowering times and production of nectar).
How long does it take for the honey to drain from a Flow Frame?
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It can take anywhere from twenty minutes to over two hours (depending on the temperature and the viscosity of the honey) to drain a Flow Frame.
It is OK to leave the frame draining overnight, provided it is secure from insects and nocturnal animals.
How much honey comes out of a Flow Hive or Super?
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When the Flow Super is full, you can expect to harvest approximately 3 kg (6.5 lb) per Flow Frame (even more if the bees really build each frame out).
What extra equipment will I need to operate a Flow Hive and harvest honey?
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For harvesting your honey, you will need a container (or several jars) to collect your honey. It’s a good idea to have some extras on hand – you may be surprised by how much honey comes out!
A bee suit and gloves, or at least a bee veil, are important to have on hand in case your bees get aggressive – it’s always best to bee prepared.
How do I know when to harvest/drain the hive?
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Bees typically fill frames from the centre moving outwards. As the ends of the Flow Frames are visible through the rear window of the Flow Super, it is possible to see when the Flow Frames are ready to harvest.
It is worth having a look at the bees regularly through this window as you’ll get to know your hive and it doesn’t disturb the bees. You will see the bees depositing honey in the cells and, when the cells are full, sealing them with a wax capping.
Do I need to smoke the hive?
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Although you should not need to smoke the hive when you harvest from your Flow Frames, we do recommend that you use a smoker whilst undertaking beekeeping activities, such as routine inspections of the brood nest.
Smoking the hive masks the alarm pheromone and helps to keep your colony calm.
Do I need to wear a bee suit, bee veil or gloves when I drain the honey out?
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We recommend you wear a protective beekeeper suit whenever you are opening your hive and working with your bees, and though this should not be necessary when harvesting, it is important to have a suit on hand in case your bees become agitated.
For more information see this Flow sponsored safety pamphlet.
Is there a best time of day to harvest the Flow Hive?
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It is possible to harvest from a Flow Hive at any time of the day or night because there is no need to open the hive. This means the regular concerns of chilling or disturbing the bees on cold or windy days do not apply.
We have found the bees are often calmest in the late afternoon, and at this time the honey in the hive is likely to be warmest and may flow more easily, therefore this can be an opportune time for harvesting.
How many Flow Supers do I need per hive?
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One Flow Super per hive is the simple answer, as you can keep harvesting the honey whenever it is ready, giving the bees room to keep working and making more honey.
However, if you live in areas with a very high nectar flow, or if your existing bee colony is particularly large, we would recommend you use two Flow Supers or more. You can also add conventional supers for overwintering purposes. Read more about overwintering your Flow Hive here.
Do I need to leave some honey in the hive for the bees?
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Yes – your bees need honey stores to get them through the times when there is no nectar available. The number of frames of honey that you should leave depends on your climate. We recommend you consult with local beekeepers as to how much they leave for their colonies over the winter.
The Flow Frames make it a lot easier to see how much honey is in your frames at any time, so you can learn to manage how much honey to harvest and how much to leave for the bees.
Can you harvest beeswax from a Flow Frame?
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You cannot harvest wax from a Flow Frame. Honey comes out of the Flow Frames free from wax and ready for the table.
All the wax stays in the hive and the bees reuse it. Bees use about 7kg honey to make 1kg of wax, so this aspect of the Flow system can improve your hive’s rate of honey production.
Crystallised honey & Flow Frames
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If honey has crystallised in the Flow Frames, you have two options:
Wait for the bees to remove it: Attempting to harvest the honey will have disturbed the comb a little. The bees will likely remove the crystallised honey to repair the comb.
Do the bees ever put pollen in a Flow Frame? Is this a problem?
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Occasionally the bees will store pollen in Flow Frame cells. In our experience this isn’t a problem as the frames will still operate when some cells are full of pollen. Pollen cells may block the flow of honey from above, but the honey will drain around the blockage, and usually back into the Flow channel. If it doesn’t drain back into the channel, the bees get to lick it up.
Do Flow Frames work with Manuka / Jellybush honey?
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The only test we have done with thixotropic honey in Flow Frames used Australian Jellybush, which is similar to New Zealand Manuka honey. This ended up being a 50/50 mixture of ordinary honey and Jellybush.
We found that with repeated opening/closings of the Flow mechanism almost all the honey would flow out. We know that thixotropic honeys do respond to agitation but cannot say yet whether this would work with 100% of a thixotropic honey in the Flow frames.
Cap doesn’t fit on the Flow Key operation slot
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The cap can only be replaced when the frame is properly reset.
Insert Flow Key in the UPPER operating slot and rotate 90 degrees.