Saturday, December 10

My First Flow Hive™

With some prompting from she who must be obeyed I finally purchased a flow hive, from Flow™ made famous by the enormously successful crowdfunding and the subsequent media, in particular “Australia Story” from the ABC and its sequel see: http://www.abc.net.au/austory/content/2016/s4534002.htm and http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-12/australian-story-flow-hive-family-talks-about-life-now/7828436 - accessed 10 December 2016. The story shows how Cedar Anderson and his father Stuart invented a new way to rob hives of honey, by essentially splitting the honey cell vertically – tearing each apart, allowing the honey to flow out into a trough and thus out of the hive to be collected.

Anyway – back to the story – sometime in October 2016 I purchased a flow hive, or rather a 7 Flow™ frames, and a super made of pine. I didn’t go for the cedar as I prefer to paint the hives and anyway I did not get it to show it off. The order was apparently delayed, but in any event it was as fast as most other on-line orders and within a week I had two boxes; a box of 7 frames (enough for a 10 frame Langstroth super) and a flat pack super. The on-line videos are very useful, and I would encourage anyone starting up a Flow Hive™ to look at these. The manual was good, except it failed to point out the sides have a back and front!

Under coat!
The first thing I did was undercoat and paint all pieces of wood – yes I do paint the inside of hives and I still have Pinus radiata supers that are >20 years old. If one looks after them, they last for a long time. The problem with painting the Flow Hive super was it was cut out with a laser cutter – which gives superior tolerance – the pieces were exact! The problem was there was not enough room for three coats of paint (1 primer, and 2 top coats), so I had to resize the dovetailed joints and sand the window covers a little. This was not much trouble – but better to have been done before painting.

The assembly was easy, except I did not notice the sides have a front and back. Because there is a window on the back of the super, to allow access to the flow frames, the left and right side at the bottom of the sides are tied together with a thin aluminium slat that sits in a recess – I put the back on the wrong end, so the recess was in the wrong place. But I noticed straightway and managed to pull the super apart (I had glued it) and reassemble it correctly. The company provides screws, which are adequate for the job – I add glue to stop water getting into the joints.

Side window to allow observation of the frames
I then placed the super on top of one of my hives – however it is perhaps not the strongest so think I will move it to another, as the bees have not really moved into the box (over 4 weeks). Plus this has been a very wet year in Adelaide and bee hives are perhaps not as strong as they could be. Using a queen excluder may also be a problem, something I usually don’t do – but recommended for the flow hive. For hobbyists, having a few brood in the centre frames is not really been a problem – just avoid these frames. So next week I will spin out the upper super of another triple and replace the super with the flow hive super – this hive is much stronger and much busier.




Nearly ready to go
Before putting it together I took a Flow Frame™ to work for a ‘show and tell’ which was interesting. I’m a pharmacologist/environ. toxicologist in a large health agency so it was surprising to find a couple of men who kept bees for a hobby along with someone else whose father had 40 hives plus one of my own staff also keeps bees. Everyone I talked to was genuinely interested and most had seen one of the media broadcasts – Australian Story mostly.

Is it all worthwhile? The hive is expensive – the transport was also rather expensive with the lot costing $700 delivered. I could have made the super – the company has plans on the Web, and I could have used a flat-pack super from a local supplier which costs about $30 – but putting in the windows would not have been as neat. Seven frames delivered cost $613 (December 2016 prices), so for the extra expense, unless you have the wood already, just buy the super as well.

For a beginner – it would save the cost of knives, boiler (if using a steam knife) and extractor – some of which can be found on-line but overall would cost more than the $700 I paid (note if starting from scratch you need to have a bottom box for the brood, bottom board and lid as well). Overall the Flow™ hive may be a very good place to start. You don’t need to learn how to remove frames, uncap and spin out the honey. So for a backyard beginner this hive is worth considering. Don’t forget that apiarists need to be registered in their respective state or territory.

Does it work? ... Watch this space!

Frames in box with a few bees

Back - final hive