The Flow Hive: a Solution in Search of a Problem

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This week so many people have forwarded me links to this Indigogo pitch for a new kind of beehive called the Flow™ that I feel I’ve got to respond and let you all know what I think of the idea.

On the slim chance you haven’t been forwarded the pitch yet, the Flow™ Hive is a honey super that you can extract honey from without having to open the hive and remove frames. It’s like a cross between a beehive and a beer tap.  My problem with this design is mostly symbolic.

Conceptually, the idea that a beehive is like a beer keg you can tap is troublesome. A beehive is a living thing, not a machine for our exploitation. I’m a natural beekeeper and feel that honey harvests must be done with caution and respect. To us, beekeeping is, at the risk of sounding a little melodramatic– a sacred vocation. We are in relationship with our backyard hive, and feel our role is to support them, and to very occasionally accept the gift of excess honey. For new beekeepers, and for people who are not beekeepers, beekeeping is all about the honey. “How much honey do you get from your hives? ” is the first question people ask us. But in our minds, the honey matters very little. What we get we consider precious, and use for medicine more than sweetening.

So that’s where we come from, and if you understand that, you’ll understand why we look askance at this “bee keg.” It reinforces our culture’s unfortunate dualistic view of nature that says all of creation is ours for our exploitation–our convenient exploitation.

On a more practical level, it seems to me that the ease of the tapping could lead inexperienced beekeepers to over-tap the hive.

Now, the inventors say this system is less stressful to the hive, because you don’t have to remove the frames for harvest, or even to check to see if the frames are ready for harvest.  And this is true. It is a novel system, where the plastic comb is built so that frame splits open and lets the honey drain out secretly, as it were, so while the bees are not disturbed by the lifting of frames, they periodically discover that all their work has just vanished into thin air.

This novel plastic foundation is key to this system. Under it, the bees do no building of their own. They are set to live in a tower of prefabricated plastic cells. As a natural beekeeper I  don’t use foundation at all, as bees are by nature builders, and I believe they build the best homes for themselves. I would not presume to define the scope and size of their home.

Another concern for me is honey robbing.  Pictures on the Flow™ Hive site also show honey dripping from the hive into open jars. In our region, this would set off a robbing frenzy as other hives in the area discover free, open air honey. When robbing gets going the bees in the hive get very defensive and stinging of people and animals nearby can result. Other photos on the site show the harvest tubes connected to lidded jars, which would be a lot safer. But I don’t think lidded harvest systems are included in the price of the set up.

Speaking of the price: It’s $460 for just the contraption or $600 for a brood box and the Flow™ Hive. I can buy two unassembled Lanstroth boxes with frames for around $40. A top and bottom board ads a few bucks. Some folks build top bar hives entirely from free scrap lumber.

All in all, to me this invention seems like a solution in search of a problem. It’s not difficult to peek in the top of the hive, take out a few honey frames and replace them with empty frames. It’s true that you have to take precautions: honey harvests should be done swiftly, deliberately and gracefully. But that’s not hard if you just make sure you’ve got everything ready before you open the hive.

As of this morning the inventors have raised an astonishing $1.2 million USD on a $70,000 campaign. I can’t help but think that the money would be better spent on researching natural beekeeping methods.

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65 Comments

    • Neli Moru:

      “Don’t Think” comments were not rude, simply a reasonable response to someone who want to keep bee keeping in the 19th century.

      …and shame on you for being the “thought police”. Nothing quite like “political correctness” is there.

      Well said, Don’t Think.

  1. I really like your points on honey robbing. I can see that becoming a huge issue with the design. One problem with your post is use of the word natural in describing your keeping. You are currently using a machine as well. You are part of that machine and I can see your symbolic attachment. I think saying you are a traditional keeper would be more exact. The scientific points you raise are very good conversation points, the ethics and traditional concerns are merely opinion. I do wood working, while I prefer hand tools, I do not hold disdain for those who accomplish the same outcome using a different process.

    • It’s not just other hives that will rob, in no time at all there will be a mob of everything that likes sweets: yellow jackets, bumblebees, ants . . . all drowning in those open jars. This happens to any piece of beekeeping equipment I leave outside if it even has a hint of honey on it somewhere. Insects appear instantly to suck up every last molecule of the honey.

    • surely you cant be serious about the robbing… Just cover the collection container… as was also seen in the promotional vid. ‘Problem’ solved.

  2. sustainability & plastic. Those are my two major concerns. This design makes a person reliant on a specific manufacturer/manufacturing process & product instead of the many DIY options out there. What happens to all of this gizmo as the plastic etc. breaks down? Not just from the need for replacement parts & landfill/recycling perspective, but also from the chemical perspective. I can’t imagine the difference for the bees living in wax combs that they’ve built v. plastic. At some point, I would have to imagine plastic bits/offgassing and whatnot getting into the honey.

    • I was just thinking the same things. How can honey created in plastic not be effected? And then there’s all of that plastic waste; no thanks.

    • The plastic gets me down, too. Beeswax is the most incredible substance, an second gift from the honey harvest– while this bee tower is yet another hunk of plastic foisted on the biosphere for the sake of our own convenience. And I can’t imagine the bees really want to live in it, either.

  3. You point out that honey harvesting isn’t really that invasive, and in my experience only happens once or twice a year. So the claim is that it’s not as stressful on the bees, which I suppose is technically true, but there’s so little stress in the first place it seems like an odd place to try for amelioration. Far more stressful to the hive are the fairly regular checks that most beekeepers need to make to ensure that their queen is happy & kicking, that their hive isn’t infested or infected, etc. These inspections are way more stressful on the bees, and the honey tap does nothing to reduce that stress. Worse, it might lull the beekeeper into thinking they don’t need to do the inspections at all, and their hives could succumb to who knows what right under their noses (while simultaneously passing on who knows what to all of their neighbor’s surrounding hives).

  4. Very well said Erik.

    And the price of this rig simply flabbergasts me. Crowdfunding is a very free market, and look, it has all the idiocies of the free market.

  5. I agree with the points you make in this post. It seems like this gizmo/hive/invention might be coming from a good place, but I can’t get past the image of “tapping the bees” either. Beekeeping is work, so let’s just commit to doing the work of good beekeeping. I don’t see a big need to ease the extraction process (which I agree won’t be easy if the hive is being robbed in the process!). The langstroth hive has its limitations but honey harvesting isn’t one of them. Let’s focus instead on keeping our hives strong without chemicals, and breeding strong, local, healthy bees that can resist the ravages of the varroa mite! How bout it?

  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post. I was one of the guys who forwarded this to other people. Your response is cogent and to the point. So much flim-flammery exists in the world. We need to hear this sort of deconstruction as much as possible!

  7. I have heard of hives being made with the cells too large. Beekeepers were not allowing the bees to make the proper size cells. It seems I recall that the problem mite was somehow involved in the too large cells for depositing honey. I know I am vague on this information, but maybe someone remembers it more clearly. At any rate, the premade cells for honey deposit were a problem.

    Wouldn’t bees in nature be disturbed by animals robbing their hive or tree falling down where they have a hive?

    For our own use we manage and change nature all the time. But, there are limits to how much we should manipulate the natural order. I think the hive makers have breached the limits.

    The price is unconscionable.

  8. I want to start by saying I’ve been keeping bees (natural-cell langstroth, always leaving enough honey for the bees to feed themselves) for about 8 years now. My first thoughts were along the same as yours, but on further thinking, while I’m certainly not advocating for this system, I don’t think it’s as bad as you do.
    1: I feel like the idea of “beekeeper” is a bit self aggrandizing (even though I use the term for myself as well). Bees have been keeping themselves for ages, and really don’t need any help from humans. All we’ve ever done is steal honey from them and poison their food. And if you are treatment free, what does checking the hive really give you? The only thing I can really think of that would be aided by human intervention is excess moisture. And adding a box to prevent swarming isn’t one of them, considering that swarms are part of their reproductive cycle (that said, I do still check them, since half of beekeeping in a city is human-keeping, and I don’t think neighbors would be happy to see swarms). So if you are going to be a natural beekeeper, and let the bees be bees, maybe going into the box all the time isn’t a great thing. Really, the best thing anyone can do to support bees is to grow food for them, and depending on climate, not necessarily to keep them themselves. Where I live, probably 10,000 hives come through every year for backyard keepers, and even if only half stay right in the city, the climate and urban situation just isn’t set up for that many non-native species. (I’m certainly thinking of quitting for the duration of living up here.)
    2: While I would never use it plastic foundation, there is already plastic foundation out there, and that is a choice people make for themselves. But in terms of cell size, this isn’t for the brood chamber, this is for honey. I’m imagining there is some sort of queen excluder, so you aren’t squishing bee babies while you gather your honey, which I wouldn’t be thrilled about using either, but that is another choice beeks make for themselves.
    3: Where are you getting two langstroths with frames for $40? I just started a two hive apiary for someone and it broke down to $28 per box for a bulk order of 8 boxes, I want to know where you are buying them!
    4: I think the bones of the system could work fine, for those who know what they are doing. So I propose, with your wood working skills, you could make a similar wooden system that people can dip in wax, that goes on top of the third box. That way, you are leaving at least one full box of honey, your foundation is biodegradable, and you really let the bees be bees.

    • Hi Shaz,
      1. I check the boxes to make sure the bees have room. But I’m not a big advocate of digging through the brood chamber. Moisture is not a problem here in LA.
      2. I’m guessing there is a queen excluder too. Queen excluders are another solution in search of a problem. In my experience the queen never lays eggs where honey is stored. Excluders are a great way, however, to create a hive of angry bees.
      3. LA Honey: http://www.yelp.com/biz/los-angeles-honey-supply-co-los-angeles. I don’t think they do mail order. The $20 boxes are medium boxes, unassembled and no foundation.
      4. My woodworking skills are infamous around the household! Kind of along these lines: http://failblog.cheezburger.com/thereifixedit.
      And thanks for your thoughts!

    • Mr Homegrown:

      WHOA! WHOA! WHAT? Queens don’t lay eggs where honey is stored. Now that’s just untrue! A typical frame will contain honey curving around the sides and top, with eggs lain in the center.

      Are you sure you are a beeker?

      Queen excluders are a solution looking for a problem?

      Again, WHOA! WHOA! WHAT? Here in southern Arizona, we cannot allow our hives to swarm because the new queens will mate with an AHB drone. This is a recipe for disaster. To secure the hives from swarming we must keep excluders both top and bottom of the brood box.

      Excluders DO NOT seem to make my Euro hives angry. What a bizarre comment.

      No, old friend, excluders are a solution to a problem, not the averse.

      How many hives do you have?

  9. THanks for chiming in on this, and clearly stating valid concerns. I’m not a bee keeper (but hope to be in the next 2-3 years). I asked the Flow Hive team if this method of honey harvest would lend itself to over harvesting the hive, which could keep the bees and keeper dependent upon sugar syrups for food (as opposed to letting the hive keep their own food to begin with). I didn’t get much of an answer other than to see the FAQ page. I believe their inability to answer the question means that yes – if you utilize the now easier option to rob all the honey from your hive, then you’re going to be dependent upon other food sources (bought from the grocery store?) in order to keep your hive alive. Isn’t that exactly what commercial size bee keepers do? Forgive my niavity here if I am not making the correct connection, but if that’s the case, do we really want to be emulating the commercial bee keeping industry?
    I appreciate Shaz’s comment that the best thing to do is create habitat for the bees. As a once again home owner, I will definitely keep that in mind as I start my backyard farmscaping.

  10. This article (well written Erik) and the chain of comments started me thinking on a slightly woo woo sideline: to what extent do bees know that they have entered into a working relationship with humans when they live in a human-made and human-tended hive? They could leave any old time they wanted, no? Well, I guess not, because they’d be leaving food and babies behind. But I cannot help wondering if somehow the bees know what they are doing, and would move on if their human “associate” were mucking things up. I am not a beekeeper, as you can tell, though I do love honey. I thing I long for the idea of a spiritual connection between bees and humans in a beekeeping scenario. I told you my thought was woo woo!

  11. Just … *applauds* Bravo, and well said. I’ve been struggling to express that while I appreciate applying tech to make our lives easier, this bothers me. Maybe it’s just I’m reluctant around the idea of change. You’ve summed up what has been in my gut – besides the no way would bees ignore the honey pouring out of the hive concern, the good things in life (like honey) shouldn’t be on demand. They should be with thoughtful consideration.

  12. I think this invention and the hype around it illustrates our current problem of celebrating ingenuity without regard to wisdom.

    In “Third Plate” Dan Barber mentions the Mennonite ban on non-steel tires. Rubber tires on a tractor makes a farmer go faster – essentially encouraging quantity over quality. I’m not giving up rubber tires, but it’s hard not to respect the wisdom of that thinking and the pursuit of balance behind it.

    But I also keep bees like you do, so that puts me in “Dont Think’s” snob category.

  13. Flow was presented to our local amateur bee club on the Sunday before the launch and we had a chance to examine the frame and also ask a lot of questions.

    The presenter stressed that the Flow wouldn’t replace standard beekeeping practices such as regular inspections etc. Although I agree with one of the comments above about encouraging people to become lazy with inspections.

    You will still need to lift the frames to check whether capping is at the correct level before harvesting. depending on if the bees cap the centre or the outside last this may be a single inspection as you can see the outside edge clearly.

    The big benefits are no need to brush bees of the frame when harvesting as it is in situ. For less experienced this is a bonus. And there is no loss of capping material which speeds up the repair work for the girls. 10 KG honey equals 1 KG wax so a big saving of their energy.

    The bottles can easily be covered with plastic wrap to prevent robbing. But yes it is plastic wrap. In the presentations we saw this worked well.

    Although in development for 10 years the current configuration is not that old. It will be interesting to see how long the individual plastic pieces last as they are put under enormous stress during the sheering process.

    Yes it is expensive but then some people have endless amounts of money. Our club is buying one as its charter encourages the club to have as many types of hives as possible for research and demonstration.

    How Flow performs against other hives will take some time to assess. I’m sure there are lots of other issues that haven’t been thought about. Who knows the bees may love it or it could lead to a disaster.

    It doesn’t seem likely that the big apiarists will want to invest that sort of capital per hive and so this will probably attract the backyard bee keeper who just wants some bees and as little fuss as possible in harvesting. The high cost of the box negates the need for the honey extractor, filter and comb knife.

    Some positives but I hope it doesn’t lead to sloppy bee keeping practices.

  14. Thanks, Erik for your thoughts on this and for inspiring/hosting the ensuing conversation. I’m a lassaiz faire bee guy (about 7 yrs now) with 6 Langs and a top bar hive. So far, the top bar has seemed like the most naturalistic approach, though I’ve not yet had a lot of success with mine.

    I, too, try to stay out of the brood boxes as much as possible, don’t do any prophylactic treatments (only thyme/eucalyptus oils for Varroa once so far). As others have said, the bees have been at this for some time now and don’t really need MY advice.

    I have a honey customer who’s actually offering to buy me one of these things, but even with that, I have a kind of squeamish reaction to this gadget. I’m not terribly smooth at dealing with hive work, and often end up with some pissed off bees by the end of it, so the thought of not going in is certainly appealing; that said, extraction has always been about the easiest and smoothest interaction for me – I put on an escape board for 24 – 36 hours and most of the girls traffic out of the honey frames on their own.

    Lots of “yeah, but…” questions come to mind: How do you clean this thing? How would the bees know to uncap the cells if they’ve been drained from the opposite end? How do you deal with the percentage of uncapped (i.e., “unripened”) honey on the frame? What’s the cell depth?

    But mainly, yes, the concerns you raise about convenience over care and all the questionable values that implies are the resonating unease I get looking at this. It seems to me that one could be too easily lulled into a “long-distance” relationship with the bees with too little care given, if not to the bees, then to our impact upon them.

    • Hi Bob, Not trying to sell you on the concept but to answer some of your questions.

      It is designed to not need cleaning although it can be removed and washed. Any honey left in the extraction pipe drains from a small hole into the hive for the girls to clean up. Same with any honey on the frame which apparently is very little.

      The cap is broken when the draining process is activated. It is a shearing action as the two halves of the cell are offset. Clever but must put a lot of strain on the plastic components. But the girls get to keep all their wax.

      Can’t tell you cell depth but it is quite long as only 7 frames fit into a 10 frame box. I was recently reading a book on natural bee keeping and the author was promoting only slotting in 8 frames in a 10 frame box and allowing the bees to build the cells and cap proud of the frame making easier to de-cap. He showed how to use your thumb as a spacer. The harvest per frame was larger and if I remember correctly in total for the box higher. The Flow system gets about 2-2.3 KGs per frame. But the number of cells per frame is less because of the tunnels at the top and bottom. It doesn’t sound like any volume is lost.

      But you triggered a thought for me. We suffer a lot from SHB. And they love getting into nooks and crannies. I wonder if they may end up inhabiting the tunnels at the top and bottom of the frame.

      I agree Erik’s article is very good and has created a lot of discussion and thought.

  15. Some of us know a lot about bee keeping and some of us just thing so. But this is about a honey tap. I wonder if any body has ever seen it work thru one season and did the bees survived in to the next? There are three important things, the health of the bees the right environment and pollination. An less one is starving honey is no good for you but with out the bees pollination this world is in very bad shape. So how does this contraption called “flow” fit in? and I am not convinced it even really works.

  16. “A beehive is a living thing, not a machine for our exploitation.” Current industrial beekeeping, especially USA, is horrifying. Migratory beekeeping has led to spread of bee diseases. Farmers’ use of insecticides on a vast scale for more profit is indefensible as it is leading to insect deserts in US and Canada. Apple trees in parts of China have to be pollinated by hand! This hive can only lead to more bees being kept long term so gets my vote! Objections are like stone age ancestors saying ‘What? Weaving? All those little holes will never work. Is shearing sheep respectful to sheep? Give me my skins!
    Great discussion…!

  17. I couldn’t agree with you more. I don’t know jack sh*t about bee keeping or honey harvesting, so the flow hive looks and sounds like a great idea; “no disturbing the hive…” but Erik, you are right about the prefab housing and how that’s a part of what they do (I’m a union member, we NEVER want to take a job away from anyone!) and how caring for the hive is an integral piece of bee stewardship.
    I did NOT like the term the Flow Hive peeps used “robbing” the honey, that says it all in graphic terms- me no likey.
    I liked how you said “It’s not about the honey, the first question people ask is: how much honey do you get?”
    I immediately thought about the first question people ask me about my miniature horses “Why do you have them/what good are they if you can’t ride ’em?”, implying that an animal’s/insect’s etc. value lies only in what they can produce for human consumption- in one form or another… hmmm sounds familiar to the industry by which I am employed come to think of it!
    I was going to help fund their idea but it looks like they don’t need my $ after all and that’s a good thing because I’m no longer on board.
    Thanks for helping me get back to center on this one Erik, I went off the rails for a second 😉

  18. My concern is, does the Honey flow out of the “comb” BEFORE its been properly evaporated by the fanning Bee’s? My understanding is Honey is not Honey until perfectly balanced and then ‘capped’ by the Bee’s!

    • Exactly. So you have to do an inspection anyways. While you’re doing that you could take out a few frames of honey!

    • Thank you Chris for making that connection. I actually built a special vacuum for sucking up bees when I remove them from people’s houses. This is what a UCSD music degree qualifies you for . . .

  19. here some thoughts to be added to the mix:

    It is very surprising to see that an idea like the so called  “Flow™Hive” gets so much attention and financial backing, when it represents a paradigm of beekeeping which undercuts the natural flow of native tissue (comb), continues the thinking of “auto mechanics of beekeeping” and continues to alienate  people from this mammalian, sentient being and animal. A true flow hive (like the Sun Hive, Log Hives or many top bar hives) would support and link to the natural inner flow of all physiological processes, and be in sync with the gestalt and instinctual preference of Apis Mellifera, but instead the “Flow™Hive” reduces this most sacred being into a honey tap machine (the receiving/sharing of honey is referred to as robbing on the “Flow™Hive” web site!!).
    The so called “Flow™Hive” adds another level of estrangement to the prevalent implants called foundations, which are used to replace natural bees wax comb. Now it is an entire prostheses being implanted, replacing original tissue and organ-like structures of this being. And on top, this powerful implant/ prostheses can be operated blindly, without having to enter any relationship with bees any more: The notion of a living being is redefined through the interface of the prostheses.
    Despite of this critic, I do believe that the inventors of the “Flow™Hive” wanted to help and improve the life of bees, yet this effort is founded in an obsolete paradigm, a paradigm which looked tempting and convincing, yet lead to the current level of destruction of the global biosphere. In the end, we can take this as an encouragement to look deeper and open our life to a perspective, which is aware of the entanglement of all there is. We have resources to evolve (Indigenous wisdom, quantum sciences, consciousness work and others)- and there is no other option, but to learn and awake to a new way of living on this planet (with bees) – because we want to survive.

    Michael Thiele
    http://www.gaiabees.com
    (707) 540 5072

    • What a wanka, leave responses to actual beekeepers not tossers wanting to make a name for themselves

  20. Pingback: The Deeper Message of the Flow Hive | Natural Beekeeping Trust – Sun Hive Bees

  21. Interesting that almost all the comments are Ideological. Where are all the practical beekeepers who would want to know how, and how well, it works? Probably all major inventions (telephones for example) were resisted by folks who thought they were unnatural, unhealthy, or evil. If you wanted to do things “naturally” you would walk everywhere and not wear clothes.
    Most inventions don’t end up real-world useful, and the useful ones usually go through a period of development and gradual acceptance.
    I’m skeptical of this one for obvious reasons, but people will buy them and we’ll find out if they are actually useful or just the gadget of the month. I’m content to let other people do this. Meanwhile, it’s pretty entertaining.

    • I’m optimistic. Some of the criticism I have seen has been laughable, to the extent that I am wondering if a lot of it is just sour grapes. Right now there is absolutely no evidence that the Flow Hive will cause more harm to bees, and it has been tested by researchers and expert beekeepers. Of course we simply do not know if there will be long-term negatives, but I doubt it. A family that has kept bees for 3 generations is not likely to just thoughtlessly unleash devastation on the world. As it is, they are stunned at the warm reception it has received worldwide. Their innovation and initiative is a credit to them and I am not going to find fault until there actually is fault. Yes, I donated, I tend to be an early adopter. Can’t wait to see how it does. Cedar Anderson and Stuart Anderson. Legend.

    • I certainly would like to see one of these in action. Does it work as well as they claim? Yes, it could turn out to be the gadget of the month that a few people will waste a lot of money on. But I hope not. I don’t like tearing into a happy hive. Even if it’s done with reverence and respect as a ‘sacred vocation’, the bees get PO’d.

      Does a ‘natural beekeeper’ tend his hives in the altogether? With no tools or smokers? Probably not.

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  23. Being a kenyan, i’ve to sdmit that such innovention i doubt if at all it exit here. Onto my argument, i cherish the idea behind your motive while inventing this hive i think i’ll call “honey stealing hive” Its fact that bees doesnt need any kind of desturbance as it would render thir productivity down less if killed during harvesting. Its apon then human beings to innovet such technological ideas as it would not temper with bees’ activities and aestetic values. I’ve no problem with this technology I support. However my querry, do you really all honeybee products ie pollen, propolis and jelly as it contains madicinal content?. Thank you Homegrown.

  24. I used to have a few hives when I was in a more rural living situation. I always felt that the whole point was to commune with the bees and collect a product better than you can get otherwise. Handling the bees, cleaning and maintenance was just part of the bargain I made with the bees in exchange for a share of the delightful product of their work ethic.
    How can anyone justify the cost of this contraption when a hive can be had so cheaply. I stress the cost at $600.00. Really ?
    Isn’t the point to save money ? Harvesting honey, maintaining the bees, showing children the workings of the hive and the bragging rights of the final product is very enjoyable if your attitude is in the right place.
    Erik, You are spot on when you state that this is a solution looking for a problem.
    Someone else stated that many inventions end up failing because after you get past the hype they are not practical. No professional is going to adopt this so that leaves the hobbyist. A limited market. I think
    Anyone that buys into this please check back and let us know how it turns out. Medium and long term.
    Thank You,
    Darrell

  25. I have read a few articles about this on various bee keeper blogs, my take away is this, ” Don’t buy these flow hives because we’ll be out of jobs” and also they are f*&$ ing bees who cares.

  26. Pingback: Why We Will Not Be Using Flow Hives in our Apiary

  27. As a newbie bee keeper, I will be watching this to see if it works as well as they think it will. I would buy a flow hive or 3 if they worked and the price came down quite a bit – as I suspect it will in the near future.

    I’ve never liked the idea of prying open a hive that my babees have carefully sealed and possibly squashing several of them in the process.

    Your article, while it mentions several interesting points, really does come off as sounding snobbish and hidebound. This type of frame won’t cause millions of non-beekeepers to suddenly become beekeepers. Most people are afraid of bees and wouldn’t have them around at all. (I’m the only person I know who ISN’T afraid of bees.) And even if millions of people DID suddenly become beekeepers, I think that would be good for the bees as well. I doubt that the cost of honey would go down because of this new type of hive. In fact, it might go up due to the cost.

    Hive robbing, which sounds like the biggest danger, is easily managed with a simple lid. So why not keep an open mind?

  28. I have been wanting to keep bees for a long time now and I just purchased the flowhive. One thing is for sure, the communication is not so great, but I am intrigued w/ this new concept. When we bought our 1920 house a few years ago there was a wild (huge) hive in the backyard that we had a keeper come remove. My intentions are to try both ways as an experiment to see what works. The honey is not the allure but nature itself and I’m excited about that. I have 4 grandchildren so the safety of the flowhive appealed to me and being able to watch them and let the kids learn. I hope this part of it works. As I learn more by “doing” my thought was that I could remove the plastic part and let the bees do their thing. I’ve spent $600 on a lot more crazy stuff than bees…so while the price was very high…it still didn’t keep me from paying it. I’m so excited to be a part of the bee world!

  29. All of these comments are obviously from experienced beekeepers who have their preferred methods. All I can think with this thing is that it does a great job in making people desire to keep bees….something this planet is losing very quickly. All of the negative points made against this device are certainly pertinent, but I can’t help but feel that it would be possible for this new product to increase swarms. Most of what has been pointed out as negatives can be dealt with easily, and I think if the cost was brought down I would buy one in a heartbeat just to do my part in the effort of buzzing bee conservation and the hopes of renewal. I think tax breaks would be a great incentive (aside from sweet rewards) to get people to own a hive of this type, or even a traditional hive. It seems that this set up might make it easier for those who want to play a role but have little success at actually doing so. I myself would require no tax breaks or extra incentive, but if this thing would motivate more people to keep bees, I see it as a great invention.

  30. I just can’t believe you actually posted what you did here. This system is genius and whining like you’re hurt that you didn’t think of this idea.

    This will help build the bee population as it has come close to be wiped out in parts of the world. Last summer I saw not a single bee until August!

    One question I have for you, do you still refuse to use a cell phone and keep your land line?

  31. Touche, Erik! (And hello again after briefly speaking to you at The Age of Limits conference a couple of years back.) Glad to see more and more critiques of this not-so-special beekeeping system, particularly those in favour of top bar systems that allow the bees to create their own wax (if I gather correctly in regards to your practices). I just pulled off my own article along the same lines, which only bolsters your take.

    http://www.fromfilmerstofarmers.com/blog/2015/april/dont-go-with-the-flow-go-with-the-wax

    Cheers,

    Allan

    • Allan–good to hear from you. Thanks for the link to your blog post. And, indeed, “It’s not about the honey, Honey – it’s about the bees.” That quote gets to the heart of the problem with this contraption.

  32. After my husband showed me a YouTube video about the FlowHive, we were both interested in getting one. When we found out the cost, we both expected it to be a LOT more and were even more interested. Now, neither of us know much about bees. I know that I don’t see as many as I used to, it seems. I know that we need them to pollinate our vegetable garden–and the world. I’ve heard they are in decline and that is a terrible thing.
    I’ve been trying to read up on the “bad” side of the FlowHive. If it would truly have a negative impact on the bees, then I wouldn’t buy one. BUT the only conclusion I can come up with, from the posts I’ve read here & other similar sites, is that it isn’t the “traditional” way of beekeeping that so many of you have a passion for. I completely respect the love you have for your bees; almost as if they are your children. Being that this isn’t the normal way to keep bees and goes against tradition, so to speak, no one has anything positive to say about it. Honestly, I was looking for a reason NOT to buy one and haven’t been convinced of that.
    If I could teach my kids (& myself) about bees, use that knowledge to help with the population in my area, and get a little honey in the process, then would this be such a bad thing in the long run?
    Please know that I am here asking because I truly want to know. I’m not trying to make anyone mad or step on toes. It’s a big purchase for a young a family with good intentions. (Yes, I’ve heard about the road paved by good intentions. 🙂 Can anyone give me a good (environmental) reason not to buy one?

    • Thanks for your question, Dorali.These are our main takes on the FlowHive:

      The first thing is, it is very, very expensive compared to any other hive system out there. Second, in exchange for that inflated cost, all you get in return is the ability to harvest honey a little bit–just a little bit–more easily than you can in a regular hive. Seriously, harvesting honey is the easiest part of beekeeping! So what are you getting for your money?

      The FlowHive isn’t hands-off beekeeping, as far as I understand. If you get one, you’d be a real beekeeper and you need to learn how to keep them–read books, take classes, join a club, etc. If you’re going to do that, why not just do it with a wooden hive that costs a fraction of price?

      Finally, you asked for an environmental reason. My primary environmental objection to the FlowHive is that it is a big hunk of plastic. I’m trying to reduce plastic in my life, as anything we buy in plastic is a permanent legacy we are leaving to the land, and our children. It seems to me that some things have to be plastic (e.g. surgical tubing) -but a beehive is one thing in the universe that I can swear really, really does not need to be made out of plastic.

      Also, and this goes back to the welfare of the bees–the plastic forms which the FlowHive are constructed of force the bees to live within plastic comb. In our hives, they use their wax to build their homes themselves. Using wax, they build the cells in the comb to the size they think necessary. Plastic cells give them no choice on how they want to live and rear their young. I can’t get into all the details here, but trust me–by forcing them to live in a “pre-fab house” you are taking away most of their agency and their ability to keep themselves healthy. As a result, as a beekeeper you will probably end up with a sickly hive. Also, you’ll never know the joy of harvesting your own beeswax. Or eating honey from the comb.

      I love that you are interested in bees and want to help them. The very best thing you can do is read up on it a bit — we recommend Beekeeping for Idiots (not the Dummies one–it’s easy to get them confused.) Then save yourself a bundle of money and buy a wooden hive of some sort (there are different kinds). The FlowHive is just a gimmick. It really won’t help you very much as a beekeeper, and it’s not good for bees or the environment.

  33. Sir, first I must present the FACT that a bee hive (their condo) is NOT A LIVING THING. It is a wooden box, with attachments.

    I, for one, do plan to try the flow hive, as a part of my beekeeping. My hives generally contain a brood box, honey box deep, and a 2nd honey box deep. The second deep is the rent paid by the bees, for my care taking duties.

    Obviously, you did not do your own due diligence concerning the Flow Hive. The creators recommend lids with a “flow” tube into the lid.

    Your comments and attitude toward innovation are,indeed, snobbish, and terribly out of date.

    But what can we expect from a bee keeper who says, that those who are wary of the AHB (Api Mellifera Scutellatta) are “latent racists”. I must admit that I was disturbed to hear what a “racist” I am. (re: The Africanized Bee Myth) That comment was truly way over the line.

    My company removes/rehabs, and sometimes destroys the Africanized Honey Bee many times a day here in southern Arizona.

  34. If this makes people feel more able to keep some bees, then it can only be a good thing.
    It also seems a good way to keep bees in a neighbourhood where people may be freaked out by a suited person belching smoke and sending clouds of bees.
    Stop being a luddite

  35. I showed up here in doing research for the Flow Hive — seeing it made me think that I might actually be able to keep bees. It reminds me of the arguments backyard chicken owners have — yes, free ranging is ideal. But it’s not always practical/possible. Is it not better to have more backyard flocks, even if that means using a pen, versus having only the commercial operations? Likewise, is it not perhaps better having more beekeepers in the world, even if it means some are using the Flow Hive?

  36. Hi All,
    My concern is how on the earth this people check for all those thinks which needs to be checked for a good hive management and also in control of water content of the extracted honey, one of the most important quality requirements.
    Also, if you use plastic, keep your honey to yourself!!!
    Peter

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