beekeeping equipment

Flow hive review

No matter what anyone says, the Flow™ hive does not revolutionize beekeeping. Not even close. If the system works as the creators claim, it could perhaps revolutionize honey harvesting. But the rest of beekeeping—the daily caring for bees—does not change. The idea that anyone can have honey on tap without having to mess with bees is a myth.

Extracting honey has been one of the least controversial aspects of beekeeping. This website, for example, has well over 1200 posts about beekeeping, yet there’s hardly a mention of extracting—and that’s simply because no one ever asks. The Flow™ is very cool—and certainly entertaining—but extracting is something most beekeepers do for a day or two every year. It’s the other 363 days that are problematic.

You can’t extract honey until the bees make it, and to make it, the bee colony has to be healthy and productive. Keeping bees healthy and productive is what beekeeping is all about. It’s also the part that is difficult.

Many of the comments I’ve read about the Flow™ are precious. “The first new hive design since Langstroth!” But it’s not a new hive design. It’s a deep Langstroth super with a built-in extractor that fits on a standard Langstroth hive that, except for extracting, requires conventional beekeeping methods. Yes, the extracting mechanism is new and ingenious, but all else remains the same.

Whether the extractor is in the super or in the barn, the beekeeper must still deal with Varroa mites, tracheal mites, viral diseases, zombees, small hive beetles, wax moths, chalkbrood, foulbrood, and Nosema. Beekeepers must still deal with bee nutrition, especially in agricultural areas or in places devoid of flowering weeds and natural habitat. Beekeepers must deal with pesticides in the environment, scarce water supplies, Africanized colonies, cranky neighbors, nectar dearths, and local laws and regulations.

Beekeepers must deal with poor genetics, weak queens, environmental stress, precocious foraging, and air pollution. Oh yes, there are storms and wind, heat waves and torrential rains, not to mention swarms and stings and allergic reactions. Come winter they deal with blizzards, sugar supplements, pollen substitutes, wraps, quilts, cozies, wind breaks, mice, dysentery, and shrews. But hey, not to worry, the harvesting thing is solved!

This morning, on seeing the Flow rack up its first two million dollars in just a few hours, my husband hinted that I was possibly out of a job. He may be correct. All of us who have spent years trying to answer beekeeper questions have suddenly been made redundant by this unprecedented and revolutionary way to keep bees that requires nothing more than a beehive, a tube, and a bucket.

I’m glad everyone is happy and I hope it works for them. But sadly, I think the “coolness” of it steals attention from the bees . . . and that’s were attention is needed the most.


Related Posts:

Should you go with the flow?

Patent for Flow-style beehive: 1940


  • Well put/written!!!! Rusty, I say it again, There’s
    bee keepers and then there’s bee havers!!

  • I think your husband is correct to a point. People who sell extraction equipment will eventually be finding other products to sell. This product is nothing more than a honey extractor on a hive. It doesn’t replace beekeeping. I live in Western New York State close to Buffalo. I live in an area where I have no dearth. So from Spring to Fall is my honey flow. With this invention, my bees are not spending their time creating allot of wax but dedicating their time to producing honey which is what I want. I’m in beekeeping for the honey money. I won’t have to buy all those medium supers most use. My physical super with frames cost just went down. I just inspect the one deep super (I use deep supers anyway) for honey completion, then extract. I’ve ordered two of the flow boxes with frames. I can’t wait to get them. At the beginning of October which is about the end goldenrod flow, I’ll share my experiences and adventure. If all goes well, I’ll have flows on each hive next year.

    I applaud their out-of-the-box thinking and product. Bravo, Bravissimo, Bravo!

    • David,

      Definitely let us know how it goes. I’m really curious to hear how it is working from someone in the States. Thanks!

  • Many folks can’t keep bees now and this thing is just going to being on more unknowing individuals to beekeeping. I see backyard issues all over the place. We (you and I) and others like us will still be here after this thing fails many.

  • Rusty;
    Enjoy your writing and you are spot on about the Flow !!!
    It takes the joy out of bee keeping .
    Like you stated, we still have all the problems in trying to keep our ladies Happy and healthy .
    Keep up your great work.

  • Agreed on all counts, except that the quoted comment “The first new hive design since Langstroth!” is wrong on another count as well. Both the Warre’ hive and the Kenyan/Ugandan top bar hives were created since Langstroth’s. There are probably others.

    BTW, I’m a big fan of your blog. I help teach new beekeepers, and your site is one of the resources I recommend to them. Thank you!

  • Hi Rusty,
    I’m wondering about the following problem:
    The bees will fill the new frames (see above) with honey and cap them. Then (quasi through the backdoor) the honey will be harvested without the bees noticing it. But the fronts are still capped …..
    How will the bees know that they have to uncap everything and refill them?

    What do you think?

    • On their website, the Australians say the bees detect the empty cells right away. Perhaps they sound (or feel) hollow? Maybe the cells echo when the bees walk across them, like a drum? I don’t know.

  • I agree 100%! If buyers ever receive their purchase from the two unknown Aussies, at least they can say they were the “first” in America to get the cool new device. That seems like what is most important to many people today. What happened to our desire to be first in education, first in manufacturing, first in politeness, etc?

  • Watching and trying to understand the bees and the way they interact with each other and their environment is definitely what keeps me trying again even when I have a failure.

  • Hi Rusty

    I just love reading your blog articles and the responses. It is just so useful to me as a relatively new amateur beekeeper in Australia.

    I doubt that any experienced beekeeper would disagree with your assessment of the Flow system. The promoters of that system seem to imply that there will be no need to do anything other than harvest the honey, which is obvious nonsense to the initiated. But I see an upside to it. It will encourage more people to take up amateur beekeeping. In Australia, as I am sure it is elsewhere, amateur beekeepers are a significant line of defence against the spread of bee diseases, as long as they inspect their hives, of course. Will the use of Flow hive boxes increase the number of beekeepers who do not inspect their hives? I am not sure, but doubt it. I imagine that after naively buying a Flow box and getting into setting up a hive, new beekeepers will quickly learn that hive inspections are essential. If the net effect is that there are more beekeepers, all the better, I feel.

    In Australia there is very little public funding of bee research and the number of commercial producers is too small to have much influence. More amateurs means more agitation and political influence for funding for research and regulatory systems to monitor the control of diseases. Over the years, governments have been spending less, rather than more on developing our honey industry. We need more beekeepers urgently.

    Best wishes

    • Barry,

      Interesting perspective. I love hearing from so many Australians on this; it brings it closer to home. Thanks.

      • Australia is a big place. I think it is the only country with all the climatic zones – from the Tropic’s up North to the Alpine areas in the South – Arid areas, Temperate Zones, Mediterranean in the West we got the lot.

        To simply say “yes” would not be fair to my friends in the colder parts.

        Here, in Subtropics (and down the coast and up North) single brood boxes are the norm.
        I keep some hives with double brood boxes and use them mostly to make up splits.

        • Thanks for sharing. So the one brood chamber they are using is the norm for their area. That’s what I thought. There are a few on this blog who think one brood chamber is misinforming the masses. Well that depends on your area that you are beekeeping. Most people who get involved with bees for the first time, seek the advise of others and join groups.

  • I wholeheartedly agree, Rusty! When I first learned about this, I was skeptical and I remain so today. Harvesting honey isn’t even a priority for me! If I get some, great, but I didn’t want to keep bees for the honey. I wanted to learn about this fascinating insect and see what I could do to increase pollination in my community. And the more I learn, the more I want to learn, not just about honey bees, but about all of the native pollinators. My mission in life at this point is to do all I can to help pollinators have a good life. 🙂

  • Gee, hives on my roof with a honey tap in the kitchen! No need to look at the bees more than once or twice/year? I’ll wait for the electric drone bees that will go with it.Solar rechargeable of course.

  • I have stated several times on the sites that I frequent that this device, as it has been pushed on the public, is likely going to cause more dead colonies than any beekeeping invention in recent history. The masses apparently think this is all they need to have honey on tap. The advertising in the video is borderline false and it appears to be marketed at non beekeepers. It does not say that opening a tap of honey on a hive will attract every bee in a three mile radius or cause robbing to the draining hive As well as general bee husbandry you mentioned above. Their price point keeps it out of commercial hands (as well as mine) so hobbiest will be the main market. I am afraid that a lot of training first time beekeepers will gravitate to this under false assumptions and they will lose their bees and interest in the hobby.

    A unique idea for sure but the marketing was done wrong in my opinion.

  • I agree. For me harvesting is not a dreaded job, it is a time of celebration. I love pulling out a full frame of honey and admiring the beauty and aroma. Why would anybody want to bypass that?
    David Williams

  • I too saw how quickly “The Flow” racked up an unbelievable amount of money in a few hours. Having a target of $70,000 then getting 2000 times that in funding and orders is fantastic for them.

    There website states that getting in on the ground floor with an order will give the investors a break on the pricing. Well, based on the initial pricing of the product, it will be out of my reach financially.

    There idea of using the “Flow” is a little flawed to me. It’s like, well, the price is high but the system is so great that you really don’t need but 1 or 2 of them to gather all of your honey. I don’t see that happening with beekeepers that have at least 15 or more hives and heavy nectar flows. Especially where I live. In TN, we have a 4-6 week nectar flow window. There is no way I can keep up with extracting honey using their system immediately after capping so that I can reuse those expense frames over and over. I am not sure if it would work with 10 hives in a heavy flow without losing some of the nectar flow because I wouldn’t be able to keep ahead of the bees using 1 or 2 of these 1 super outfits.

    That’s why we put on more supers than they need many times when we can’t get back to each hive within a week or so because of having more than 1 apiary.

    Time will tell how it works out using the “Flow” system. But like you, I spend most of my time caring for my bees and a small amount of the total time harvesting honey.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I agree with most of the comments.
    The “invention”was made by two Australians in Australia. We don’t have varroa. In my case I never have to feed but take honey off 8 to 10 a year from each hive. No Africanised bees here.
    I did not order a FLOW hive.
    I’m actually a bit worried that people will be encouraged to get into bees believing that it will be a matter of turning a tap.
    I’m concerned that people will not check for SHB or AFB and create Epicenters of these problems .
    On the other hand I’m amazed by the enquiries for nuc’s and bee gear ( I sell both) in the last two days. I also offer bee keeping workshops. Each contact will give me an opportunity to make people aware that there is more to bees than the promotion told them.
    Keep up with you great work

    max ( Australia)

  • Well said Rusty. I can see everyone getting a super new Flow hive and producing litres of painless gorgeous honey … my first thought too was for the checking of the hives and brood. Too many eager honey collectors not waiting for the frame to be capped, not leaving enough honey for the hive for winter, oh I am sorry to sound negative as The Flow would help deter bee stings and encourage more people into beekeeping which is a good thing, but I fear for the hive as a whole entity.

  • Well put. I teach beekeeping classes here in San Diego, CA. Personally, I think my business will be booming after all these new beekeepers get this hive (thinking they won’t have to do any work) and lose their colonies accordingly.

  • I’ve been waiting for someone else to say what I was thinking but was too scared (as a beginner beekeeper) to say out loud. I bit my tongue as friends (non-beekeeping) enthused about it and asked when I would be getting one. Also, no-one has mentioned comb honey. All that just to get the supermarket option.

  • Rusty,

    Pretty sad when “ease and convenience” become criteria for all our choices. However, the friends who keep posting it on my FB page and saying, “Pretty cool huh?” or “Looks like the way to go!” have without exception NOT been beekeepers, or else are beehavers who, to my knowledge, have not yet successfully overwintered one hive.

    When I point out that the video shows a super on top of just ONE Lang brood chamber, and ask if they think that small a brood nest should be supered and harvested, they’re like, “Oh…”
    Don’t worry, you are not out of a job. It’s bleak Winter, and what all of us beeKEEPers want – we have jars of honey sitting around, right – is to SEE our bees.

    Shady Grove Farm

    • Nancy, the video was taken in Northern NSW – a very mild, subtropical climate where we only have to use one brood box. In this climate (I’m a few hours North) we harvest honey pretty well all year round. Where they are there is no snow, no frost. This is banana country!

  • My question is what are the beehavers going to do when they extract the last of the honey before winter? We know what the bees are going to do and who’s going to move in.

  • This is what I want to know: Everyone keeps saying that with the Flow, you can harvest honey without disturbing the bees. Why do we assume that finding the pantry drained by an unseen force is not disturbing?

    If someone breaks into my house and steals the canned goods, I can see what happened. The cause is obvious. If a creature (man, racoon, bear, mouse) breaks into a beehive and steals the honey, the bee understands that. They will try to sting the intruder and get rid of him.

    But how do bees respond to a suddenly empty comb when they know damn well it was full an hour ago? And they saw nothing? I, for one, would be disturbed.

  • This is what I want to know: Everyone keeps saying that with the Flow, you can harvest honey without disturbing the bees. Why do we assume that finding the pantry drained by an unseen force is not disturbing?

    If someone breaks into my house and steals the canned goods, I can see what happened. The cause is obvious. If a creature (man, raccoon, bear, mouse) breaks into a beehive and steals the honey, the bee understands that. They will try to sting the intruder and get rid of him.

    But how do bees respond to a suddenly empty comb when they know damn well it was full an hour ago? And they saw nothing? I, for one, would be disturbed.

  • The “flow” me-thinks is gonna be mostly the green dry stuff moving into their account.

    Re end of careers, I’m see room for opportunity too. Assuming for a sec that many of these investors are newbees hooked by the golden promise of honey on tap, it may not be long until hundreds or thousands of these newbees may need folk like us to catch and rechannel their interest in bees on their way down from unfulfilled dreams – to the real issues you laid out. As in, “Struggling with the bees and your Flow system? You are not alone / we’re here to help.”

    The Flow folk do mention getting involved with local chapters. I hope buyers DO take that step.

    Bee Well!

    • Thank you so much the article, Rusty! My husband and I totally agree with you! Sorry to hear that there are selfish people out there only in the beekeeping business for the money and not for the health of the bees! We live in Jacksonville, Florida and have been beekeeping for 3 years now. It’s a tough beekeeping in Florida with all of the many pests! Thank you for your wonderful site and we love to be able to support such an important website! I have told others who aren’t educated in this area to go to your site! Thanks again!

  • I think one of the big tests will be how they overwinter in one of these. If the bees need to cluster around honey and brood but the honey is far from the brood because the long flow cells do not get layed in…

    • Bill,

      I don’t imagine they would be left on the hive. I imagine the (new) beekeeper, will just drain the honey, remove the super, and let the bees figure it out. But maybe not . . . maybe they (some) will leave them on. Who knows? It’s all new territory. I’m sure we well hear.

  • In my opinion this Flow hive is an exquisite object to demonstrate on a local farmers market, a local organic market or on a local bee or honey market whereby the local beekeeper is selling his honey ‘straight from the tap’, showing that his honey cannot be produced more fresh this way…

    Doing so it all looks even more ‘that little bit more exclusive’ than tapping the honey straight from the honey riper or the honey barrel…

    I wouldn’t use the Flow hive in my apiary for myself as it shall provoke honey robbery by the bees themselves, mine or my neigbours…

    And besides all this I believe that our dear Rusty is more than right when she puts forward that we beekeepers have far more other concerns on our mind than just turning on a tap…


  • Amen Rusty!

    I don’t understand how a true beekeeper could possibly buy into this idea. And to make the beehaver understand what this is equivalent to, would be to tell them, “Go out and work hard everyday and earn your paycheck. Also take time to take great care of your family and home. That includes providing food and anything you all may need to survive, especially for the long winter months coming, because you will not be able to go out during that time to get these things.”

    Then let them know there will be access for another family to take whatever food and necessities they want, whenever they want, without a concern for you and your family. Because this will be easy for everyone all around 😉

  • Don’t know a lot about the “Flow” . 1st year last year. Didn’t harvest any honey last year except for our own use. I am adding 7 new hives-8 frame mediums-4 brood chambers this year. I’m 65 and this is my retirement project. Trying to keep the boxes lighter. Top openings. Anybody got any thoughts?

  • I know a man who thought that this device would allow him to safely keep bees despite his severe bee allergy and phobia. When I told him that he could not have a hive without interacting with bees and taking a chance on a sting, he was very disappointed. Even more so when I wondered whether removing honey with this thing might either upset the resident hive and risk provoking aggression , or attract thieves from other hives. He was not all that interested in their behavior after all it seems! Because I haven’t heard from him since. It’s going to be important to inform people about the…. Beekeeping! Just as you say.

    Love your blog, learning so much!

    • Robin,

      It will be interesting to see how all this plays out. I’m not surprised that someone who saw the video might think they could avoid interacting with bees. They don’t say that, of course, but it certainly gives that impression.

  • 100% correct Rusty. There is one plus I can see with the Flow Hive. It may possibly attract people to beekeeping who might otherwise not do it. Once they realize that the Flow Hive is just a gimmick, they may give up, but I think that others will stick with it. I may be overly optimistic, but having been approached by several people about how to get started in beekeeping because they saw the ad for the Flow hive made me think it is possible. Bad habits and practices can always be unlearned.

    • Kris,

      I think you are correct. Some will give up when they find there is work involved, and some will fall in love with bees and become excellent keepers.

  • What I need someone to invent is a stacking system that works like a file cabinet…so I don’t have to lift off boxes to check the ones below, just slide out the box, inspect frames, and slide it back in.

  • I’m really surprised at the number of negative comments about this method of extracting. I watched the videos and did not get the impression that all I had to do is throw some bees in a box, turn a handle, and – viola – honey. To me it was clear that honey could now be extracted in a new way without harming bees. Nothing in it led me to think everyone now gets to shirk their other responsibilities. Extraction. It’s about extraction. Not that I keep Langstroths anyway, but with this, I might add a couple of Flows to the bee yard and see how it does. Actually, I think it exciting that someone came up with something new – and if it proves less than perfect, adapt it until it is. Ontspan, mense, relax, people.

    • Lorraine,

      It is unclear to me why everyone assumes bees die in the extraction process. I use escape boards, the supers are empty when I remove them, and nary a bee dies. I think the assumption that huge amounts of bees die during extraction has been hyped enough that non-beekeepers have a totally warped idea of what actually goes on.

      On the other hand, I believe many more bees will die of starvation than ever before because watching this contraption work will trump leaving adequate stores for winter. I think this will be especially true in northern climates (most of the US) where we don’t have the long nectar seasons that the inventors of the Flow enjoy. All beekeeping is local, and what works for some may not work for most.

      A skilled marketer—whether he is selling cars, liquor, or washing machines—sells an image. A person sees himself in that image and buys the product. This extracting hive is being heavily promoted to people who want to “save the bees” and the scheme has worked fantastically well. Chalk one up for ingenious promotion. But will it help save bees? I don’t think so.

      Writing this reminds me of some great marketing textbooks I had in school. The best one had case histories of famous marketing strategies that made piles of money. This is definitely one for the books. These guys are nothing short of genius.

  • Thanks for your thoughtful response. On the other hand, I think they are totally genuine, that this Flow Hive is not a marketing get-rich-quick scheme. These people are stunned and surprised by their success.

    I for one was warmed to see the father turn and smile with pride and joy when the honey flowed, and his son reach out to embrace him. You don’t fake that easily. Also, they are third-generation beekeepers and call it a hunch, but I think they brought that experience and knowledge and love with them to the design process (and in general) when considering what they are doing. These are people who care for bees.

    Will some people abuse their invention and bees and take too much honey? Of course. Will others get it right? Of course. The investment in this hive is quite substantial and that alone sets up entry barriers, which helps weed out people. Those newbees who are bad will leave early (and I bet some will never even get to fill that hive with bees), while those who are dedicated will continue to work with bees (and learn all they can).

    I went ahead and “donated” and am keen to start. Overall, I see more positive than negative. Like Michael Bush, I am optimistic. Hopefully we will all be inspired by this to improve hive design and beekeeping with further innovations.

    Good on you, Cedar Anderson and Stuart Anderson (as the Aussies say).

  • I’m with Lorraine on this. I don’t recall how I stumbled onto the Flow hive website but once I watched their video, I wanted one. Before then I never thought about beekeeping. It should be here Dec and I’ll be ready to go spring 2016. While I would have liked to have started this year, the long wait has allowed me to read everything (well almost everything) I can about bees and there’s a lot to know/do. There also seems to be many opinions on managing a hive(s). The Flow hive original promotional material stated numerous times that normal hive management still needed to be done. Since then they have added many how-to videos and FAQs. I don’t see them as used car salesmen at all but I do find it funny there’s so many comments in this chain like (I’m paraphrasing)… “no real beekeeper would use this”, “you’re robbing the bee’s honey, they’ll all starve”. For someone who doesn’t even have a hive yet, it sure looks like the Flow is just a honey super. If you need another brood box, you one add one (I bought one already). If the honey super is full, you just turn the key and let the honey Flow. If needed, I’ll use your sugar water/cake recipes to get them thru the winter.

  • Hi Rusty,
    I love your blog. Thank you so much for all of the effort you put into it. My husband and I between us have around 30 years of beekeeping experience (most of that in Europe), and we are going to try a Flow Hive in Southern California in Spring 2016. Please don’t hate us, we are just curious!

    We love caring for our bees – inspecting for wax moths, mites, beetles, foul brood, chalk brood, queen cells etc. We even requeen fairly regularly (required in our area). In fact, caring for the bees is the major interest for us, as my husband doesn’t like honey, and I can’t eat much because of fructose intolerance. We are not commercial beekeepers. However, we are both feeling our age, and carrying a 50b full super to the extractor is getting to be a painful experience for several days afterwards. That only gets worse after bending, lifting, uncapping and filtering. I know we have to pay for the sweet reward, but this method is worth a thought.

    We will still run our hive on 2 deeps, especially as the Flow Hive is only an 8-frame Langstroth. We are going to start with 5-frame nucs, “hygienic” queens and really baby them for the first year. We will be doing all of the routine inspections, at least monthly, and more often when needed.

    We will let you know it goes once our girls have settled in. I certainly like the idea of the Western Cedar being used for the hive, and we already have our Tung Oil ready to apply. At least if we don’t like the flow frames, we can throw them out and put regular Langstroth frames in their place! 🙂

  • Just very curious about bees, but live in northern Minnesota with long cold -30 to 40 below winters.

  • You might want to consider just how the bees ended up being such dependent wards of the state, seeing as how they can survive on their own just fine with absolutely ZERO human input.

    But then, if you INSIST on following the industry standards, (set by those having an interest in you being dependent on THEM,) then it shouldn’t be surprising that a Flow Hive apparatus – that reduces hive disruption by 90% – would be unwelcome by those tied to said practices.

    By eliminating the need to open the hive to add and remove supers, arrange frames, treat for pests, introducing foreign substances, and generally giving the bees an emotional complex, they are left to do what they do best – which is raise new bees, manage all hive operations on their own, and accumulate enough honey to last them through the winter. The reduction in stress alone will add vitality and emotional health to any colony fortunate enough to have it.

    YES, if you insist on doing things to industry way, you will need to invest industry care, expense, labor, and significant time, (with the knowledge that it is a sinking-ship effort.)

    So why not let leave them alone and use a device that extracts surplus honey, (the evidence of a healthy colony,) with virtually no emotional impact at all? Put the unit on, let them fill it up, and extract into a simple mason jar without even putting on a bee suit.

    I think you should seriously rethink the paradigm before criticizing something that doesn’t continually prop that up.

    • J.R.

      I assume you’re not a beekeeper. There is nothing about the Flow hive that eliminates “the need to open the hive, to add and remove supers, arrange frames, treat for pests, introducing foreign substances, and generally giving the bees an emotional complex.” The honey super in a Flow hive is unique, but every other aspect of beekeeping remains the same. I urge you to check their website for details.