Should you go with the Flow™ hive? Should anyone? Before I begin, let me say I tried to avoid writing about this as long as possible. In fact, I wanted to ignore it altogether. But I’ve gotten dozens—maybe a hundred—e-mails asking what I think of it. In order to get on with my life, I need to answer the question.
So what do I think of it? Not much.
If there is anyone out there who hasn’t heard of the Flow™, it is a special kind of hive where, instead of extracting honey in the normal way, you just turn a key and collect the honey as it flows out of a spigot. The inventors have surreal videos showing their mason jars magically filing up with crystal clear, ready-to-eat honey straight from the hive.
I have no idea if it actually works. According to what I’ve read, the plastic frames are designed to shift vertically along the center (or midrib) of the honeycomb. You put the frames in your honey supers and wait for the bees to fill the cells and cure the honey. Once it’s capped, you turn a key that shifts the midrib (where foundation would normally be) and tears open the cells. The honey drains out and is captured in a trough that leads to a tube that drains into your jar.
Once the comb is drained, you turn the key again which shifts the comb back into its original position. Supposedly, the bees then rip off the cappings, repair the cells, and refill them.
Whether it works or not is anybody’s guess. If you uncap a frame of honey and hold it upside down, not much happens, so I imagine it is the heat of the hive that makes the honey runny enough to flow. So if you have a cold hive, or especially viscous or partially crystallized honey, I imagine you could have trouble with this.
Now I have nothing against innovation, so if that’s what these folks want to promote and sell, they’ve got the right. But honestly, I see nothing good about it for the bees.
In fact, of all the honey bee-related problems in the world, how to get the honey out is not high on the list. The promoters say the system is good for bees because you can harvest the honey without stressing them. But does that mean you take honey without evaluating how much remains for the bees? Are you keeping bees without checking for diseases or mites? Can all good beekeeping practices be ignored?
I spent some time reading random comments on Facebook and on a few blogs. I read that the system “is good for people who want their own honey but are afraid of bees” and “It’s a great way to get started in beekeeping without all the bother.” I also read “You can get all the benefits of a bee hive without having to deal with bees!” I saw nothing about managing mites, Nosema, moths, beetles, viruses, mice, or foulbrood. I guess all that nasty stuff just goes away.
Apparently, the inventors are beginning a crowdfunding campaign next Monday to raise money to bring this invention to market. That’s fine by me; I wish them well. But if you want to learn beekeeping, you start by learning about bees—how to collect their honey should be the last thing on your mind. Unless you can raise large healthy colonies that make honey in the first place, no amount of invention will help you remove it.
My crystal ball tells me the project will get funded, the hives will get produced, a few people will extol their virtues, but after a while the mania will Flow™ away in favor of the next great beekeeping invention.
And that, dear readers, is my humble opinion.