In this area we will be posting some letters and emails of correspondence with renowned bee keepers and industry experts, to help remove some disbelief about the Flow™ hives.
Posted with permission:
People keep asking me what I think of the new 'Flow Hive', so FWIW here are my thoughts.
First, it is not a new hive, but simply an add-on to a conventional hive - really just a set of special frames, and only for honey, not brood. This removes many objections on the grounds of 'propolis jamming it up' and 'eggs laid in plastic foundation' - they are simply not going to happen if it is used correctly.
Do I approve of it? Only insofar as I approve of any conventional beekeeping, which I don't very much. I don't like plastic in hives - particularly plastic foundation - and I don't like unnecessary disturbances in the lives of bees, BUT- this device actually reduces such disturbance, as well as removing the need for a centrifugal extractor and other extraction/bottling equipment, so from that point of view, it is 'greener', provided it has a long life, which it should have, given that the moving parts only move infrequently and with little load stress.
As a piece of thoughtful engineering I think it is remarkable. I was invited to look at it and contribute my thoughts about 6 months before the launch, and while I expressed some reservations - particularly about crystallization of honey in the combs - I could see that, for some people, this was what they had been waiting for to take up beekeeping.
Given that most people live in urban locations, the storage problems generated by conventional equipment are considerable, especially when much of it is only used occasionally. Add to this the fact that bees can become very defensive when whole supers of honey are removed from their hives, which can put people off keeping them in populated areas or near their own house, then this device could be a boon to the backyard beekeeper who wants to disturb her bees as little as possible.
There have been accusations of 'exploitation' and even 'cruelty' associated with this product, but I suggest it is rather less exploitative or cruel than the violent methods currently used by commercial beekeepers to take honey - such things as bee-blowers result in the deaths of millions of bees during the honey-taking operation. This device enables honey to be taken in modest quantities without opening the hive.
Lastly, there is the question of 'attitude': promoters of the Flow Hive have been accused of 'callousness' and having a 'mindset of casual exploitation'. I must say that this is not borne out by my correspondence with the inventors, who appear to have bee welfare very much at heart.
Used correctly and with due care, this device may well increase people's awareness and appreciation of the lives of bees, and reduce the casual disruption promoted by so many beekeeping organizations. By enabling the removal of some of the honey at the right times, bees are able to top up the cells without having to suffer the violent removal of honey supers and the collateral damage this entails.
'Attitude' is not something that is derived from or dependent upon any particular device. A tool is a tool: an axe can be used for chopping wood or for killing someone. If people are of a mind to exploit nature, then they will find ways to do so. If they learn to appreciate the natural world, then they will treat it with respect, regardless of the tools they happen to be using.
I still prefer to do my beekeeping in top bar hives, because of their simplicity of construction and use and bee-friendly design, but given that many people prefer to use movable-frame hives, I see this device as a possible alternative to the 'box-removal and centrifugal extraction' method that may appeal to some beekeepers.
Subject: Following up a comment attributed to you on www.honeyflow.com
From: Maree B <email hidden>
Date: Tue, February 17, 2015 6:04 pm
To: Michael Bush <email hidden>
I am an amateur beekeeper in Australia and own a copy of your complete book - it's great (and I said so on Amazon !!). I know you are very busy but the reason I'm emailing you is to find out whether a comment attributed to you on the website http://www.honeyflow.com/ is real. There has been a lot of debate amongst beekeepers in my region as to whether this website is a scam. I'd be very grateful if you could confirm that you trialled this "flow' technology and the comment on the website is really from you.
Thanks very much,
From: Michael Bush
Sent: Wednesday, 18 February 2015 1:57 PM
To: Maree B.
The product is real. I was sent one box worth of the frames to test and have seen it in operation and in person. I thought it was impossible when I first saw a video. I actually wondered if it was a spoof or if it was real. But after seeing how it works and watching them do one frame in the open live on skype while I could see the entire frame and talk to them and after they sent me a box worth of them to test, I can assure you it works. My test of it so far is too small and over too short of a time to be sure what I think of it in practice, but I can't imagine that I'm going to find too many disadvantages. I'm not sure how I will manage my hives using them as it changes several things I have always done. First, I run all eight frame mediums and these are deeps, so I'll have to buy some deeps (which I already did). Second, it makes a hive much more static in size when you can empty the combs without even opening the hive really. No need to stack the supers up so high when you can just drain them periodically without having to clean up the extractor and all the equipment and the kitchen every time. Just draining it into a bucket eliminates all of that mess. The queen won't lay in them because they are too deep so you don't need an excluder (which I don't use, but some people do). You don't have to run the bees out to harvest so you eliminate all of that part of harvesting as well.
In recent years I've had all the same size boxes and I try to leave them honey for winter. This may change my view of some of how I determine what to leave them since these are deeper combs and can't be used for brood I don't think I want them to cluster in them over winter. So I'll have to work out the details of how I will use them as far as when to put them on, take them off, drain them, how many mediums to have on below them etc. In other words, I'm pretty sure I'll be using them, it will just be too useful not to, but exactly how that impacts my total system I'm not really sure, until I've tried to work those details out.
When I first saw it I thought of this story from "Mastering the Art of Beekeeping" by Ormond and Harry Aebi:
" 'I want to buy one of your beehives' he said. 'I want you to bring it to me tomorrow at eleven in the morning and I want you to set it up on top of a ten foot pole that I'll have set up by that time. And I want you to come over every Thursday afternoon and drain out the honey so that I can have fresh honey every week.'... 'I can't place a beehive up on a pole like that,' I said. 'And even if I could, I couldn't work it to take off the honey.' 'Why not? I shall expect you to install a spigot at the bottom of the hive. All you'll have to do is open it and drain off the quantity of honey I require.' 'Beehives don't work that way,' I told him. 'I can't possibly do as you ask.'..."
Dear Cedar and Stuart,
My name is Chris Russell and I was the Ag Science based judge on the ABC TV New Inventors from 2005 to 2012 when the show concluded (http://www.abc.net.au/tv/newinventors/txt/s1057726.htm). I saw many and varied inventions for agriculture and food production on that show but I would have to say your "Flow" Honey Tap would without doubt be right up there as one of the most ingenious and innovative inventions I have seen.
It fits all the criteria for a great invention - simple, well-engineered and delivers fantastic value (hence being innovative) by both easing the labour for the professionals and bringing beekeeping further into the realm of a household enthusiast (perhaps in a "rent-a-chook" style business where the hive is rented and maintained by professionals for households but the collection can be done by the inexperienced householder).
So congratulations on a wonderful advance in bee keeping and honey production. You have ticked so many boxes and I just wish the show was still running so we could showcase it and celebrate your work....