beekeeping equipment

Patent for Flow-style beehive: 1940

Oh so fascinating! Someone just sent me a link to a patent granted by the U.S. Patent Office for a beehive that is eerily similar to the Flow hive but is made of metal. The inventor, Juan Garriga, lived in Spain and submitted the patent on August 8, 1939. The patent was approved on December 3, 1940.

The second and third paragraphs read as follows:

By use of the beehive cells according to my invention all the operations of extracting honey from the hive are greatly simplified by dispensing with manipulations in the interior of the hives with the result that the work of collecting the honey, which is long, fatiguing, and even dangerous, is converted into a short and easy operation, which can be performed by any person.

On the other hand the bees are not annoyed by the operations which have to be carried out in order to gather and store the honey, thus avoiding diminution in the amount of honey produced, all of which is to the benefit of the bee-keeper.

The hive works basically the same way as the Flow, by displacing the cells along the central plane of the comb and allowing the honey to drain out from both sides. When drained, the comb can be moved back into position. The diagrams even show tubes running from the hive into a container.

You may find this interesting; I certainly did. United States Patent US2223561


Related Posts:

Should you go with the flow?

Final thoughts on Flow


  • Are the modern patent owners comitting plagiarism then? Can they thus be halted? Can we find out what happend to the 1939/40 hive. Why did it not become more well known. I can only find Spanish notes as yet and I cannot read them.

    • Lindy,

      From what I can gather, patents granted before 1995 lasted 17 years, and after 1995 they last 20 years. So I think that anyone can use the information. Still, it doesn’t seem like an original idea, does it?

      • What seems unique in the flow hive is the trough under each frame rather than a receptacle below the whole box.

        A quick look at this patent leaves me feeling this is intended to be used as a single box hive? Patents are tough reading, but I have a reasonable understanding of how the flow hive is intended to work. This patent on the other hand leaves me a little baffled as to how it could work with hive designs I’m already familiar with.

        The overall concept might not be original, but maybe they improved upon some of the problematic aspects in the original?

    • No, but any patent they have could probably be voided so they couldn’t stop anyone else from making a similar hive.

      The idea with patents isn’t that no one can ever copy an idea, it’s that the inventor can have a head start to develop and market the idea without competition (or sell it to a company with the budget to do so).

  • Very interesting post. I have noticed recently on all the beekeeping forums folks are going crazy about the new ‘hive flow’ setup. Certainly looks like they got some of their ideas from this old patent. I will be interested to see the reports from beekeepers once this product hits the shelves. For now, I will stick with extracting my honey the old fashioned way.

  • Makes you wonder, wasn’t worth it then, why
    would 75 years later make a difference???
    And yet another attempt at re-re inventing the
    wheel!!!! Reverend Langstroth must be turning
    in his grave!!!
    Just sayin…..
    Tonybees 🙂

  • Hi,

    It will be interesting if anyone can find out why it didn’t take off back then. I wonder if we can dig up some old American Bee Journals with adverts for it.

    Then again maybe it never made to the “Shipping Product stage”.


  • It is not uncommon for different people to come up with the same invention (or even the same scientific discovery). And even if the Aussies had seen the earlier contraption, an abandoned invention is free game!

  • Hello everyone!

    Lindy if you email me the notes I can gladly translate them!

    My first thought of this gadget was !what the heck…? They’re going to kill the bees with this thing, what type of beekeeper would come up with something so stupid? Well there you have it, this [person] just copied it from another [person].

  • I think while the principle seems the same – taking honey without opening the hive – the application is quite different. Funnily enough when I heard of the flow hive first I thought it was going fo be manipulating the mid-rib, but differently to how it is shown here. I would be surprised if this product worked for 2 reasons. 1 would bees fill metal combs happily? 2 this solution does not break the capping wax and so the honey would not easily flow – which was also the problem with the solution I had in my head when I heard about hive.

    I would say Flow is not like this patent because the solution is so different. It would be like saying an electric car is like a petrol car – true solves the same problem getting from a to b – but under the bonnet its all different.

    Saying the idea of getting honey out without fuss is unoriginal suggests we should all go back to using skeps.

  • I was wondering what their patent looks like, and saw this:

    “The pair initially searched through global patents and discovered that no device existed. The closest was a device which someone applied for in the 1920s but it was never invented; in any case, according to Stuart Anderson, the plans were flawed and would not have worked.”

    Hmmm, so there’s _another _ version?

    The “Flow” does seem a bit different, though, this picture make it look like the part that holds the foundation splits into a bunch of smaller “slivers” rather than the whole central part shifting as one (but maybe I’m interpreting this picture wrong?):

    Still, the same basic concept.

    • Found their patent:

      They do make mention of some prior inventions, but it’s not clear how their design makes the honey viscosity not a problem.

      “It is known to build a hive of special design and to suck honey out of the hive using a suction pump. The mechanism is quite complex as each frame has a dislodgeable plate on which the bees make their wax cells. When the honeycomb is full, the plate is moved to break part of the wax cell wall. However, due to the “sticky” nature of the honey, the honey does not drain from the cells and into a honey trough. Thus a suction pump is required to suck the honey out. The cells of the honeycomb are not artificial and instead are made by the bees. Also the wax is quite fragile and the above method is unlikely to work without breaking the wax combs.

      “A more recent variation has a honeycomb formed with a backing plate closing off one end of the cells. Bees will fill the cell with honey and close off the other end with wax. The backing plate can be dislodged in the hive and in theory honey should flow from the cells by gravity and into collecting trays and pipes to flow from the hive. In practice, the honey does not readily drain due to the viscosity of the honey in the cell.”

  • Can I ask why Linda would want to stop or interfere with those currently moving forward? In my humble opinion the very small hobby beekeeper (or a very new one seeking an easy route to beekeeping) is the only one that would consider this concept as it is too slow of a collection system, avoids hive interaction/inspections. I myself have 15 hives – 4 of which are from “newbies” that “didn’t know it was so much work”… more people entering the hobby even if for a short time is good for those selling nucs, queens, the bees that might swarm and naturally survive… and for us that help those who quit! I personally love innovation, be it truly new or “resurrected”. The patent shows one thing…its a fad not sustainable by those serious in today’s age of high costs for starters, mites, and hive interaction.

  • Throughout modern beekeeping history original ideas have been used and improved upon. Thanks to the Kentuckiana Beekeepers Association for their Pioneers of Modern Beekeeping article:

    1789 – Francis Huber (Switzerland) developed the first movable frame hive called the Leaf Hive. Although is wasn’t practical.

    1848 – Jan Dzierzon (Poland) designed the first successful movable-frame beehive with the use of bee-space. Most modern beehives derive their design from.

    1852 – L.L. Langstroth (United States) – Made improvements to Dzierzon’s design by developing a Top-Opened hive. Dzierzon’s was Side-Opened.

    We should not be judgmental of Cedar and Stuart Anderson for using and improving on Juan Bizcarro Garriga of Barcelona Spain’s patent (If that’s what they did). There’s nothing wrong or illegal about it. If I would invent something I would consult earlier inventions as to not reinvent the wheel. Maybe in the 1939 because of World War II this never got off the ground? Plastic at that time wasn’t invented yet. Perhaps bringing this improved invention back into the world community at this time is the right time.

    It’s up to the individual beekeeper as to whether they will use their system. To each is own.

  • I think the latest iteration of the flow hive is a fabulous piece of marketing. The fund sourcing video is slickly produced. The child licking the honey adds the right touch for a smile. And the hive is a work of art. They will probably make a fortune. P.T Barnum would be impressed.

  • Thanks for the link. All those guys seem to have lived for a remarkably long time.

  • So ppl
    As a beekeeper I am horrified

    Some amateur can get a diseasein one of these hives and does not know it

    They can wipe out the whole bee population in an area !!!

    All they are interested in is the honey super NOT THE BROOD BOX !!!

    Bees cannot produce honey without a disease free BROOD BOX environment ie AFB, beetle let alone Hive collapse

    These guys are making money at the expense of those who are concerned care about bees in an disease environment and their future evolution

    These guys are “CROWD FUNDING” on a “GOOD IDEA” and can’t afford to fund it themselves (PAY NOW ANS SUPPLY !@ MONTHS LATER), this smacks of a “BREADMAKER” make it once or twice, Too hard, put it in the cupboard, however by leaving hives neglected other bees will “ROB” the hive and take the disease back to disease free hives


    • I see a lot if people saying it will ‘enable’ bad beekeepers with bad hygeine practices, but in my experience those happen anyway.

      They happen when someone wants a nice WBC to make the garden pretty, they happen when people bought the “Beehaus” plastic hive (in the UK). It happened when everyone was concerned for the plight of the bee and wanted to have their own hive significantly increasing the number of hobby beekeepers (67 in our group now vs 12 five years ago – I think that’s good – lots of people trained to do it well).

      My point is that there have always been bad beekeepers and there always will be, I don’t think this invention is going to change that much. At least with this hive costing so much people may think twice or consider how to look after that investment well – but maybe that is just wishful thinking.

      Considering how long it took me on extraction this year I would have much rather turned a tap – that has no effect on me inspecting weekly and treating for disease, I’d just prefer to have had those 30 odd hours to do something else like build the new hive stands and roofs I have promised my girls.

      • Hi PPL,

        Last weekend I had the opportunity of seeing one of these “FLOW HIVES” at an Amateur Beekeepers Forum.

        After all those in attendance had viewed the mechanism there was a lot of individual opinions expressed. The main being :-

        What happens if :-

        A young queen gets through the excluder and lays brood in the mechanism?

        What happens if the hive is a “DEAD OUT” from small hive beetle?

        How does the honey flow if you get “Jelly Bush ” or “MANUKA” honey?

        New inexperienced owners will harvest honey that is not capped and find the honey they harvested had fermented!

        How can you check for “AFB” without looking into the brood box and will inexperienced people know what it looks like?

        There were many other concerns tabled as well!!!!

  • Bob, Thank you for your reasoned approach. It seems many of the alarms bells being sounded may be from those who are criticizing the inventors without having dug a little deeper into the website. As you read through the website, these gentlemen repeatedly remind the reader that it is important to check your hives (including brood boxes) regularly. They recommend doing complete research before starting beekeeping. They recommend joining local bee clubs. They certainly do not seem to say their “Flow” product eliminates responsible beekeeping – just makes one of the tasks a little more convenient – in their opinion.

    David Newman, Thank you for doing a little research into the history of the beehive. While I did not take the time to research more thoroughly, I do remember reading that Langstroth IMPROVED the hive – he did not invent it. To me, it seems these gentlemen are attempting to do the same thing, make an improvement. One of the stated benefits is to allow less disruption of the bees – sounds like they are responsible beekeepers to me.

    It is doubtful that I will buy their product – way too expensive for me, and I enjoy being able to be more “into” the hive. Perhaps that makes me a less-responsible beekeeper for placing my enjoyment over being less disruptive to the hive. That being said, I wish them well in their endeavor. If they are able to make money from their invention – good for them! Perhaps they will be granted a bigger, louder platform to continue to teach responsible beekeeping.

    To those who dislike the product, no one is forcing you to buy it. In my opinion, these gentlemen are as concerned about the health of their bees and hives as are most beekeepers. Best of luck, Stuart and Cedar. Thank you for promoting responsible beekeeping!

  • There are few issues I see. 1. Flow is not a term that can be trademarked in my opinion, neither is hive. “flow hive” may be possible.

    2. The design in 1939 is basically the same. I think for patent issues, it must be more than 10 percent different…..I am not a patent attorney. The mechanism by which the two cell frames shift is probably not original either. Does the fram move up and down, or side to side? Regardless, they have made almost 6 million dollars in a few weeks. No one else is challenging their production, ie. patent infringement, so regardless of the patent, they are allowed to make as many as they want. I am confident that they will have cashed in long before others can be tooled up for production and they are not violating any existing patents. Good work to reinvent the wheel and profit so much from it. If anyone wants to copy the frame, there are ways around any patent. Again, their patent was just filed; it may not be approved and even if so, China doesn’t care about patents. If they go to a manufacturer in China, the maker will no doubt make the same amount, and undercut his price. Thats down the road….and part of doing business.

  • Hello from Colorado!
    We are starting our 2nd year as bee stewards (we are not even competent enough to call ourselves ‘beekeepers,’ the bees are lucky to survive our ministrations…lol!). We have 2 Top Bar Hives, bought in kit form from e-bay. We had one colony abscond in the fall, but the remaining colony is doing wonderfully, with new brood and drones merrily doing their ‘bee thing.’ We pick up a new colony box of bees this coming Saturday from Apis Bees to replace the ones that left us. I was told that 95% of first year beekeepers lose their bees, so the fact that one of the two colonies is thriving gives us hope that we are doing SOMETHING right…

    First of April, we splurged our Tax Refund and ordered a Flow Hive, to be delivered in December, 2015. When friends forwarded the Flow Hive vid to us via FaceBook, and in e-mails, we too, shunned the idea as being gimmicky, and against our basic principles of having bees.

    When the Flow Hive made the news for far surpassing their $70,000 crowd funding goal, topping over $11MILLION, with 4 days left in their initial funding period, I took a second, DEEPER look into it. These are the points that made us reconsider, and purchase a hive:
    1. The Flow Hive was field tested for 3 years before being offered to the public, after over a DECADE of inventing and improving on the concept. These are not novice beekeepers, nor are they ‘hobbiest’ beekeepers. Prototype Flow Hives were shipped and tested the world over. It’s not just a couple guys with an idea trying it in their back yard.
    2. The testimonials FOR the Flow Hive are from all types and backgrounds of beekeepers, including some VERY knowledgeable and experienced people, including Michael Bush, and other commercial beekeepers with decades (20+ to 40+ years) of experience, as well as bee researchers and educators. These people are not easily swayed by gadgets, and have enough beekeeping background, that when they say they have tried and TESTED the Flow Hives with favorable results, I gave their comments far more weight than all the ‘naysayers,’ who are offering opinions based on little more than a cursory glance at this invention.
    3. During the Indigogo fundraising, LARGE SCALE operations were making inquiries as to purchasing the Flow Hive frames in quantities of several THOUSAND for their commercial operations. I can’t help but feel that when a commercial operation expressed this type of interest, it is not because they consider it a ‘passing fad.’
    4. The Andersons address the Spanish patent question, and if one truly reads the description of the Spanish idea, it is not similar at all to the Flow Hive, beyond the diagram, which, while similar, is not sufficiently alike to presuppose any type of “idea theft.” The people who have been the most vocally negative about the Flow Hive have not sufficiently researched the device, as many questions and concerns have been asked and answered on the website and in interviews with the Andersons.

    So in 2016, we will be joining the thousands of people who helped fund this invention. I am excited, because we will be heading into our 3rd year with bees, and will be part of a very vast network of like-minded people on an exciting journey with ‘our girls.’

    As the old saying goes, “Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.”

    • Madeline,

      Your comment supports my point that the people who are successfully using the Flow Hive are experienced beekeepers. As I’ve said repeatedly, it will be an easy thing to use the Flow if you already know how to keep bees.

      You say of the testers, “These are not novice beekeepers, nor are they ‘hobbiest’ beekeepers.” My point exactly. You say “testimonials FOR the Flow Hive are from all types and backgrounds of beekeepers, including some VERY knowledgeable and experienced people, including . . . commercial beekeepers with decades (20+ to 40+ years) of experience.” My point exactly. You say, “LARGE SCALE operations were making inquiries.” My point exactly. Large-scale operations are not run by beginners.

      I will repeat myself by saying I believe the marketing was aimed at novices or non-beekeepers, but to use the product will require a beekeeper with knowledge. Plus, you said of yourself, “we are not even competent enough to call ourselves beekeepers” and yet you want beekeepers to take your advice? The Flow Hive marketing was nothing short of brilliant, as you also demonstrate.

    • Madeline,

      I’m with you. You bring up excellent points. I’ve purchased 2 – 6 frame flow frames and the boxes. I believe that the Flow Hive was marketed to the world. If you want to use them in your beekeeping great. If you don’t great. It’s like any other beekeeping item for sale. I don’t believe you have to be an experienced beekeeper to use them. In a couple of weeks the Flow Team will have the Flow Community Portal in-place. I look forward to meeting you there where we can have great discussions about the Flow Hive. In the meantime I’m on Facebook. My Facebook Page is newmiesbees.

    • Hi Madeline

      I live in Australia near where the Anderson’s live.

      I agree with Rusty, the marketing was aimed at WANNABE BEEKEEPERS.

      Some friends of mine pledged to the funding and then sheepishly approached me about their decision so I took them with me when I went to check my hives, and they could not believe what is involved with keeping bees healthy and happy. (Even showed them a slime out from beetle.)

      They thought that they would be able to “TURN ON” the FLOWHIVE (TM) and they would get Honey without doing anything.

      For their contribution ($600 US) they get 1 (one) super with 7(SEVEN) flow frames and they thought all they needed was a Queen and a few other bees.

      In my estimation they will need a NEUC HIVE, base board, brood box, 10 frames & foundation, beetle control as well as a Queen excluder and lid as well. Also, they will need a second FLOWHIVE (TM) when there is a honey flow to reduce the tendency of swarming. They would also have to purchase all the equipment as well, smoker, hive tool, bee suit and this adds up to quite a few $$$$.

      I, also indicated to them they could get the same complete hive setup including 2 honey supers and bees for around AUS $300 + their equipment etc. All they ” WOULD NOT NEED” is a de-capping knife and a 2 frame hand operated extractor for around AUS $450

      You indicted that large organisations were making enquiries. I would anticipate these organisations are the ones that keep their bees on semi-trailers and their primary income is from “POLLINATING” crops such as ALMONDS and the honey production is an inconvenience and is a secondary income for them.

      Anyway time will tell, my own thoughts are the FLOWHIVE (TM) will be like a bread maker – everyone wanted one and after a few failures (as you have experience with one of you 2 hives) it will be put in the too hard basket and sold on Ebay !!!

    • I’m reading this in 2023. Almost 8 years into the Flowhive adventure. Your comment was well thought out, especially compared to the knee-jerk reactions I still see in 2023.

  • Wow seems like a bunch of envious Aussies here. I for one am a buyer of this product. I’m a new bee to BK but have done a lot of research on the subject. I enjoy the time that I spend in my hive observing changes and improvements to my colony. By the time I spend the bucks for extraction equipment this product should pay for it self in a few seasons. At this point I’m not riding the negative Nelly bus that so many on here are on. I for one will wait and watch with great enthusiasm. As this product is released world wide.

    • Scott,

      I became a beekeeper so I wouldn’t have to eat extracted honey. Each comb has a different flavor, so why mix them together?

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