Frequently Asked Questions
Hybrid hive / colony maintenance
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The Hybrid gives beekeepers the advantage of being able to manage their colony by rotating frames between the brood box and the super. This can be beneficial for keeping your worker population strong and can also help with winter preparations or encouraging the bees into the super for quicker uptake.
If you notice a strong honey flow, and your bees are busy filling frames, you might want to consider storing traditional frames outside of the hive for winter feeding. To do this you will need extra traditional frames to replace for the ones you have removed.
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If the roof of your Flow Hive is leaking consider the following treatments:
- Paint the roof with a standard exterior-grade paint. A couple of thick coats of paint can be enough to seal small leaks. Ensure you work the paint into the small gaps, and apply paint liberally to the joins between each of the roof panels.
- Apply a sealant externally to the joins between panels and any holes or areas that may be admitting water (e.g. silicone roof and gutter sealant). Discuss your needs with your local hardware shop to determine the most appropriate product available.
A strong colony of bees who have access to the roof cavity may also resolve water leaks as the bees themselves will fill any gaps with their propolis and create their own weather proofing.
Flow Hive brood frames
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The wooden brood frames we supply can be used in 4 different ways:
1. Foundationless frames
Wintering your Flow Hive
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We cannot emphasise enough that it is best to consult local beekeepers on this and other beekeeping questions. If there is a bee club near you, we encourage you to join it. You will get several opinions on what to do – but you will be able to pick the most suitable approach for your situation.
There are two main concerns for a beehive over the winter months; the colony starving, and the queen becoming stranded below the queen excluder. This response is oriented toward overwintering the Flow Hive – there is plenty of general information about overwintering bees on the web.
How long do the Flow Frames last?
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The Flow Frames have been tested for several seasons and are still functioning well.
They are designed to last many, many years provided they are kept away from sunlight and treated with care.
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 sealed system. This can be achieved by simply making a hole in the lid of a jar for a tube to go into.
If you are harvesting several frames at once using a larger container, you can make holes through the lid for each tube.
Are the Flow Frames made from BPA free plastic?
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We have worked hard to ensure that our Flow Frames are manufactured from the very best food grade materials.
The clear viewing ends of the frames, as well as the honey tube and caps, are made from a virgin food grade copolyester. The manufacturers have assured us that it's not only BPA-free, but it is not manufactured with bisphenol-S or any other bisphenol compounds.
Cleaning and Flow Frame maintenance
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We haven't found the Flow comb itself needs cleaning if it stays in the hive - the bees do a great job of keeping it clean. If you remove Flow Frames from the hive and store them for a while they may need cleaning. You can do this by using hot water (just hot enough to melt wax, no hotter than 70 Celsius / 160 Fahrenheit). A hot water hose is good. Set the Flow comb to ‘cell open’ position, this allows the water to run quite easily through all parts of the frame.
We have designed the honey trough at the bottom of the frame so that any remaining honey can drip back into the hive for the bees to use. If the honey leak-back gap remains clear this works well; however, if the bees block it up some honey may remain in the honey trough after harvest. Clear the leak-back gap prior to harvest and inspect the honey trough. If the honey trough is dirty it can be cleaned from outside the hive using a bottle brush or something similar.
Small hive beetle (SHB) and Flow - Can they enter and is there a need for maintenance?
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Small hive beetle is a big problem in our area. We have designed the frames with beetles in mind.
Beetles cannot get into the honey trough or movement mechanism. Unlike other plastic frames we have made sure there are no spaces created to harbour beetles.
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.
Does the honey in the bottom of the Flow frames ever go mouldy, ferment or crystallize? If so, what can I do about it?
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We recommend cleaning Flow Frames at the end of the summer, after harvesting is finished for the year.
This is easy to do without removing the frames from the super or the super from the hive. You can squirt water into the trough and then let it drain out.
If there are still signs of dirt, mould or crystalised honey, you can use a bottle brush to loosen it and then wash out with warm water.
Do I need to clean the Flow Frames?
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Apart from the trough at the bottom, you don't need to clean Flow Frames unless you detect disease in them. You will need experienced beekeepers to give you advice on disease prevention and response for your area.
The plug for the honey collection trough is designed with tiny grooves that allow a bee lick up any residue honey that collects behind the plug. Sometimes the bees block these grooves with propolis (a resin bees use to plug any holes in the hive) but it is easy to clean this out by removing the plug. We haven’t experienced propolis build-up in the frames themselves.
Do I need a special hive tool to pull out the Flow Frames to inspect them for disease?
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The Flow Frames are designed so that they can be removed in the same way as regular frames using a standard hive tool.
Can the honey channels get blocked?
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When the Flow Frame is operated the hexagonal honeycomb cells split forming vertical, zig-zag channels which the honey flows down to the large honey trough at the base of the frame.
The zigzag channels are sometimes blocked by a bee or by pollen. In bench tests we have found that the honey will flow around these blockages usually returning to the zigzag channel and down into the honey trough.
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Flow Frame sterilisation / irradiation / disease control
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Heat treatment: Flow Frames can handle hot water up to 70˚C.
Chemical treatment: The plastics chosen have good chemical resistance. We will be testing various chemicals to evaluate this soon.
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What paint or varnish is safe to coat my Flow Hive with?
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Many beekeepers use oils such as Tung oil or Linseed oil, however we have found when finishing with oils in wet climates, that mildew (black mould) can grow on the surface of your hive. While this will not effect the structural integrity of your hive and should not have any impact on your bees, this may not be the look you were anticipating.
It can be a challenge keeping wood outdoors looking like new, especially in wetter climates. If you wish for your hive to stay mould free and to maintain the natural timber look for as long as possible, we suggest you go to your local paint store and ask for a finish that will last outdoors.
Ants attracted to Flow Frames
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Clean up any spilt honey after harvest with warm water.
Remove the honey trough cap and, if necessary, clean the leak-back gap with a thin tool such as a kitchen skewer or wire to allow honey to drain back into hive.