FH2+ and our 6th birthday!

by Flow Hive 16 min read

It was an exciting day here, as we celebrated 6 years of Flow Hive with freshly harvested honey drizzled straight onto some delicious cake! Cedar also showed off the new features available with the Flow Hive 2+, including ant guards and an entrance reducer. We also did our regular Q & A, with questions on topics such as when to add a second box and cleaning up leaking honey.

Video Transcription

We're celebrating here today because it's been six years since we launched our invention on crowdfunding. And if you're watching and you remember that time, put some comments in about how that was, because it was an extraordinary thing. The Flow Hive, when we first showed it to the world, our invention we'd worked on for a decade who put it up there and the video just went crazy. And then the crowdfunding launch a week later was really something that blew our minds and a lot of people around the world as well with just so much interest. And it was really the first time there'd been a huge amount of interest in something that wasn't a tech widget on the crowdfunding. So it really did create some waves. 

And we've got the honey just pouring out here now. And we're actually going to go straight on to a cake here, look at that. Beautiful. So it's time to have some cake and celebrate. And of course, if you've been watching what's going on, we also have a new release to talk about coming right up next, after we enjoy a bit of a cake. Excellent. We've got Frey here, harvesting some honey, as well as Alice. They're going to make sure the jars don’t overflow if I get distracted answering questions.

If you've got questions, put them in the comments below, questions about our new Flow Hive 2+. Also, if you remember the crowdfunding time, put a comment in, let us know what it was like for you. There's so many stories from around the world of people trying to get one of our Flow Hives, because they were so popular that it was a real challenge to actually get in on the crowdfunding. 

Yum! There's nothing better than honey from your surrounding area, the flavors that come in. This is a dark honey, so it's got the tones of the winter. So this honey, this frame hasn't been harvested in a while. It's got the deep tones of the Heathland here, which you can see by the coast. And you tend to get these darker multi rich tones, which really will go nicely with these cakes. 

Flow Hive 2+ Intro

Okay. So you're probably turning in wanting to know about our Flow Hive 2+. So without too much further ado, we're going to get right into that and answering your questions about the Flow Hive 2+ here that you can see. So I'll just run through the upgrades so you can understand them.

Ant guards

So this first one down here is the ant guard. Now that's made right here in Australia from recycled materials, and it was a much-requested feature because ants can be quite annoying on your hive. They don't really affect the bees, but they can make nests in behind these covers. In fact, I've got one right over here to show you, I left it here just as an example. So when ants get annoying, they come up - you can see them carrying their eggs. So what they're doing is, because we've had a lot of rain, they're actually moving home from in the ground where it's too wet, into the hive and they're carrying their eggs up and building that nest right in here, which is just a bit of a mess to clean up. 

So the ant guards are made to be a liquid barrier. Although you could put a solid grease barrier in them as well if you want to. You could use water, although that will evaporate quite quickly, you might actually want to use cooking oil, which will sit there a lot longer and provide an area that the ants find it hard to crawl over. 

There's different size ants. So if you've got this screwed all the way down, that'll suit for small ants, but the larger ones will tend to bridge that gap. So we've made it so you can just adjust it a bit as needed. Lift it up if you find ants are bridging that gap there, around about level with the top here or a little bit below is probably about perfect. 

If you're still having trouble with ants, there’s an area underneath where you can add some grease. There's a little rim there and we've made it so you can grease this area as well as an extra barrier.

If you're still having trouble, make sure you've removed all the foliage from around the hive. If you have a look over here, you might have your ant guards on like this, but if you've got foliage touching the hive, the ants will be happily walking along that foliage and onto the hive in order to make their home. So a good idea just to remove the foliage from around. You might even need to brush the ants away a few times. If they're really set up home, there'll be quite persistent. And once you’ve removed them a couple of times, the problem will tend to go away. 

Hive stand

Moving on to the leg, the bolt, we’ve increased the size of that for extra stability. And we've also moved it outwards towards the corner, and that's just for extra stability. And then it's screwing into a solid aluminium leg bracket here. So that's cast really nice and solid, which is good, less tedious to put together than those little pieces of wood that used to go on the older ones. And also the bits near the ground tend to get a bit of splashback from the rain and tend to look a bit muddy in the wood. So having it metal is a nice idea as well.

Pest management tray

And then moving up, we've also got a new tray. We found that the older trays were cracking. They were made from acrylic. Now we've moved to recycled polypropylene. So if you have a look at this, it's a much more solid tray. This one, you can bend it and it won't crack. I'm not going to jump up and down on it, but you could. It's quite tough. And so that's a good thing.

And just one thing with the tray, actually two things with the tray, when you slide it back in, if your hive is really busy at the time, just be mindful that bees might fly underneath here. And when you put your tray back in, they could be stuck in that area. So a good idea to have a look, if it's too low to the ground, you can use your phone or a mirror to look up at and just check before you slide that tray back in. If they are under there, brush them away with some foliage or a bee brush, and then slide your tray back in. Early morning is best for doing that if that becomes an issue. 

Another thing is to make sure the vented cover is pressed up against the tray. Otherwise, bees could get around here. And if you are using this tray for catching beetles, then you might have some oil in there and you don't want bees getting stuck in the oil. So make sure this is pressed firmly in, do up your screw, nice and tight, and that'll hold that. 

Entrance reducer

I'll just run through another feature around here, which is another requested feature. And that is the entrance reducer. You can see here, there's a much smaller opening for the bees, which can be useful if there's robbing happening from other bees or you just want to reduce the entrance for ventilation reasons while the bees are getting started, or perhaps you live in a really cold region. The other thing is wasps. It'll be easier to defend the hive. We don't have those wasps, those yellow jackets here in Australia. But if you live in a country where you do that will help just easier for the bees to defend the hive. 

Now you can turn it over and it can become a closure as well, which is super handy if you're moving your hive. There's some other holes here, if you do want to screw it firmly down, let's say you were really doing a show and tell, and you want it to make sure no bees are escaping. You could put some screws in here just to really screw it down. Just a tip - you need to make sure your hive brood box is in line with the base. And that way it will really provide a seal. But if there's a gap here more than a couple of millimetres, these may escape out the edge here. So just keep that in mind when using your entrance reducer.

Beekeeping Questions

Will the entrance reducer be available to add to my existing Flow Hives?

Yes, we will make the entrance reducer available. I've made it so it will fit the Classics as well. And that's what some of the other hole positions are about as well. But generally, it's used in this fashion in the same kind of manner with the L-screws. That way you can take it on and off. So I'll make a nice little video showing you how to retrofit it to your classic Hive.

The ant caps will also be made available to retrofit your Flow Hive 2 stand.

How do you get water in the ant cup?

So if you want to put water in, you'll need to use either a little cap or you can use a small bottle with a spout. Now, oil is probably preferred. So what you need to do is wind the lower cup all the way down, and just provide yourself a bit of space and lift the top one up. And that way you can get a little cap of oil. I might as well do that for you now. 

So I'm just putting a little bit of oil in here, and then all you need to do is tip that into the lower cup like that. And that provides a barrier from the ants and just fill it to the top, which doesn't take very much. So you can use your favorite extra virgin olive oil, if you want to, without damaging the kitchen supplies too much, otherwise any old cheap oil will do.

Coming into spring, should I add a second brood box first, or the Flow super? (UK)

I would always recommend the Flow super. The reason is if you go for a second brood box straight up, it will take a long time for you to get any activity in your Flow super, which you may then get a bit impatient or you might miss the season. So I'd always recommend going straight in a configuration like this, to start off. That way the bees will get in and work the Flow Frames earlier. And then, once they've filled up that, you can experiment with adding more boxes, either another brood box or another super.

How do you empty the Flow chamber?

Okay. So I assume you mean the frames where the honey's coming out. The trick to that was 10 years in development, where we created moving parts inside the frame, the bees then cover in wax and attach their comb to. And when you turn this key here, the honey starts flowing out. And if you just want to harvest a little bit, you can turn the key just a little ways. Or if you want to harvest the full frame, you'll get lots of jars like this out of one frame. And then you can go on to harvesting more frames if you want to.

Do you find that the bees bother you when you're having a barbecue with family or friends, or do they just go about their business?

So it really depends on genetics, whether your bees have a nice friendly trait like these ones or whether they can get a bit territorial. So some of these hives can get a bit territorial at times, but mostly they're pretty calm and you can be around them like this. When you're new to beekeeping act with caution, wear your bee suit when you're around the hive, wear your gloves. We've gotfirst aid links on our website also. And as you start to get more experienced with beekeeping and also understanding your particular hive, you can decide how close you want your hive to be to people.

The general thing you do is put in the entrance somewhere where they can get a really nice clean, flight out. They're not right where people walk. For instance, if this was our walkway and we had the hive turned around the other way, we would be continually walking through bees. They might accidentally get in our hair, get a sting on the head, things like that. 

So situating your hive. We've got a whole video dedicated to that. And if you have a look atTheBeekeeper.org, we've got an in-depth training course to take you from square one to deep scientific knowledge in beekeeping. But basically you can be close to your hive as long as your bees have friendly genetics. And when you're ordering your bees from a bee breeder, you can ask for nice calm bees.

My hive is quite full and they made honeycomb under the roof. Does that mean I need to add another super?

That's a good sign. If you've got honey came under the roof, your hives doing really nicely, and you could either add another super or you could take a split. I tend to run them in this configuration and take a split and start a new colony. If you don't want another hive, somebody else really will. And it's a great thing to be able to gift bees to somebody, or you can even sell the bees to somebody else. If you want to take a split, I've got lots of videos showing youhow to do a hive split

Also, if you open the side windows and they're not jam-packed in there, this time in Australia, you’re less likely to get swarming. Although you could get a late swarm. If they're looking like this, or even a few more bees, you could probably just leave them and enjoy that honeycomb in the roof. If you can't see the comb at all, then they're just really packed in there. Then yes, it might be time to add another box or take a split.

How can you get the bees to fill the ends of the frames?

So sometimes find the bees won't fill all the way to the end. So these bees are actually a little bit hungry right now. So they've actually taken some honey out of these frames. So they really only fill to the ends when they're on a good honey flow. And that's the time that you should be harvesting. There are some exceptions and that sometimes you can get genetics where the bees just like to leave the remaining cells empty around the edges. I have had a hive like that once. 

And if, if that's your experience, then it's just a bit harder to tell when the honey is ready to harvest, look in the side, windows, get a good gauge. If you're seeing it's all capped in the side windows, then you could go ahead and harvest that frame. You can see the capping on the frame there, although it's not quite completed, in this corner looks like they've gotten a little bit hungry and they've eaten some of the honey out of some of those cells. 

Mostly bees will fill the end frame here, and that's a good indication once they've capped it. Like you can see down this side that the honey is ready to keep on the shelf. The bees cap it when the moisture content is below 20% and they want to store it for later. And that's a good time for you to also store some for later in a honey jar.

I harvested two frames this week, and there was still a bit of honey at the bottom chamber. How does the rest of the honey in there empty?

I don't have an example here today, but what I'll show you is how to, to sort that out. So basically if I take this cap out, there's a little gap between the yellow material and the clear, and that's called the leak-back point. On the cap here are little ridges and that's just to space the cap out so it doesn't block that completely. And the bees can use their tongues to lick up the last remaining bits. And we call that the leak-back point. 

The reason why that's important is that you don't want honey building up in that area and staying there for too long. If you're in a humid climate like this, it could start to ferment in that area there. So what we did is we created the leak-back point, but the bees sometimes block that up.

So the answer to that one is you can stick the tube in which has a little tongue on it, which automatically cleans that out for you. So each time you harvest that should clean out that point so that if you want to walk away a bit early, the last remaining drops can go back to the hive to be re-used. Now, if they've sealed that up and there's honey building up in there, you can also use things like your key, just for unblocking that area. Sometimes just spinning the cap around will unblock it and you'll quickly see the bees licking that honey away. And then that area will dry out.

When is it a good time to open the inner cover hole? 

So the inner cover hole, I generally leave it closed these days. In the beginning, I liked to open it up and let the bees build honeycomb in the roof. But after a while, it gets a bit annoying to clean up. So nowadays, if I wanted to collect honeycomb, I will contain them to a smaller area using, say a glass baking dish or something like that on top of that hole. And that way the bees can still build some honeycomb, but it's contained rather than in the full roof. So I just tend to leave that plugged in unless I'm using it for a feeder.

Any tips to get the bees to use the Flow super? I’ve had bees for two seasons and they've been stubborn to use the Flow Frames. 

So sometimes that can happen where for whatever reason, the bees are slow to start working in the Flow Frames. And sometimes it's really fast. There are a few tips. The best recipe is there are lots of bees in the hive. So take off any other supers, make sure there's lots of bees when you open the side window and that coinciding with a big flowering where there's a lot of nectar available for your bees, and then you should get fast action. 

However, if you want to speed things up a little bit, getting a bit impatient with that, or like you said they didn't use it that season. Then you can scrape some burr comb from the top of the brood frames. If your hive is really busy, there'll probably be an abundance of brood came up on top of the brood frames and with your hive tool, just simply cut some of that off and mash it into the Flow Frame surface. You won't damage the Flow Frames and do it in the windows. And you can watch as the bees have that wax and recycle it and start coating that little area in wax ready to use. But even once they've done that, they still won't fill it with honey, unless you have a lot of bees and a good flowering. So that first time to get the bees going on it can take some time, but the secret really is a lot of bees in a hive and a good nectar flow.

I’m adding a second brood box. Should I remove full honey frames from the brood box, so the queen can have more empty frames to lay brood?

Yeah, some people do that. So when adding a second brood box, you could take some of the frames from the edges here that typically have honey, put them in that second brood box, which you've got here and put some fresh ones in towards the middle of this one. Probably position here and here for a couple of fresh frames. That will provide some nice, fresh new wax. Also proves the purpose of cycling frames from the brood out of the brood nest as well. So good idea.

I've harvested a few frames recently across a couple of hives, and I've had some honey leaking through the vented bottom mesh onto the ground. Where could this be coming from? (Harvesting tube was firm).

So that means you have our Classic, if you've got the mesh at the bottom. Sometimes, depending on the way the bees build their comb onto the Flow Frames, you will get some honey spills inside the hive. Generally, no problem and the bees will lick that up. But if you are harvesting with the Classic, then your vented cover should go in the top slot, so the bees can lick up that honey, and it'll sit between the Corflute slider and the mesh. So a good tip there when you're harvesting.

Okay. So we've got some beautiful jars of honey here. We've got time for a couple more questions. For those that are just tuning in, it's our birthday. So six years ago we had just kicked off acrowdfunding campaign and it was an amazing time. It's been an amazing journey and saying thank you to all of you that have supported us along the way to take us from inventing this Flow Hive with my father, actually not too far from here, to being able to continue to build them and deliver them to 130 countries around the world.

I received my Flow high four months ago. Is it possible to attract a wild colony into the hive?

While it is, that's called a bait hive where you actually put your hive in a location that’s near other beehives. And in springtime, there's a reasonable chance a colony will move right into your box. You only use the bottom box. However, you're going to be waiting a long time if you want to start your hive that way. Thebetter thing to do is probably purchasing nucleus from a bee breeder or a package, or take a split from a friend and that'll get you going much sooner.

Is it a good idea to take the Flow Frames off for winter? (Melbourne, Australia)

Here in this part of Australia, no, we can keep the honey box on all winter. But if you live in a colder region, it is common to actually remove the Flow super for that winter time.

It depends on your strategy there, but a lot of people will be downsizing their hives for the winter, making sure they do have enough stores though, to survive the winter, depending on how cold it is in your region. I've got some specific information on overwintering your bees atTheBeekeeper.org and an online course to take you from square one, right through to being an expert with deep scientific knowledge. But the learning never stops, so that's the fascinating thing about bees. Have a look there, and we've also got videos on ourYouTube channel. You can look through it as well. 

Okay. Time for one more question.

Can you offer sugar water all year round to be safe?

Generally, that's not the done thing. You want to tune in on when there’s honey coming in and when there's not. The reason being is you don't really want to get sugar mixed in with your beautiful thing we call honey. So beekeepers will feed usually prior to winter, if there's not enough stores in the hive and the bees can then store some of that sugar water as honey that's made from sugar and then use that to survive on over the winter. Then come spring, the flowers are flowering, it's filling up with honey. Again, there is an exception to that. If your bees are starving and you find they are really hungry, then you're better off feeding them than not. You find they're hungry. If the hives really light and there's no honey in the box, when you go for your inspection, then yes, feeding them is a good idea, but I wouldn't just feed them all year round. 

Thank you very much for all your questions and all your questions also about the Flow Hive 2+. That'sour latest innovation. Tune in again next week, let us know what you'd like us to cover, and we will be covering some more topics to get you started in beekeeping. Thanks for watching.

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