Don't Go With the Flow, Go With

the Wax: A Take on the Flow Hive

The difference in cell sizes that occurs when honey bees are allowed to create their own comb is glaringly obvious
(image courtesy of Christy Hemenway)
The difference in cell sizes that occurs when honey bees are allowed to create their own comb is glaringly obvious
(image courtesy of Christy Hemenway)

Over the past several years there's been a steadily growing awareness that a problem exists with our honeybee populations. Although not quite a household term, what has been called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) has evoked enough concern that a chorus of observers have suggested in various ways that if honeybees go the way of the dodo bird, so do us humans.

These warnings stem from what I'd say are two main understandings of the situation. First off is the fact that honeybees are used to pollinate about one-third of the food we eat, be it directly by pollinating vegetables, fruit, and nut trees, or by pollinating plants such as clover which get eaten by herbivores and so indirectly supply us with meat, milk and other animal products.

Secondly, there is the more general "canary in the coalmine" interpretation that posits that if we can't manage to live in this world in a manner conducive to the existence of our honeybees, what does that ultimately say about our chances? That is, if our honeybees can't live in the toxic milieu we force them into, will we ultimately be able to?

But although a raising of awareness has certainly been going on, one can't be blamed for wondering if what have often essentially been value-free campaigns – save the bees! – has actually resulted in more harm being done than good. What I'm talking about here is the unprecedented response to, and financial success of, the Flow™ hive.

The Flow™ hive, if you haven't yet heard about it, is arguably one of the biggest Internet sensations to date. With a campaign launched on Indiegogo back on February 22nd, not only did it garner $40,000 of its $70,000 goal within the first five minutes, but with a few days left in its two-month campaign it has racked up over $10 million in sales, more than 100 times its stated goal – not exactly chump change.

But although a perusal through its website may result in the uninitiated seeing a veritable miracle in beekeeping, the seasoned beekeeper concerned with holistic beekeeping practices should be easily able to see through the marketing spin and decipher what the Flow™ hive is really all about.

But before I get to that, here's a very quick rundown of the shoddy conditions that honeybees in the industrial food system must attempt to survive under, quite possibly a more destructive force than CCD on its own could ever be.

1) The honeybees' two sources of food are nectar (which they transform into honey for storage purposes) and pollen (which is their excellent source of protein and other nutrients). But because honey and pollen can command a pretty penny on the market, many beekeepers – particularly the larger ones – actually remove all their stores of honey and pollen. Since this leaves the bees with nothing to survive on over the winter, their nutritious pollen is then replaced with soy patties, while their nutritious honey is swapped for a sugar syrup if not high-fructose corn syrup. It should go without saying that this is having horrible effects on the health and immune systems of our honeybees.

2) Because the majority of our food is grown in monocultures, these massive "farms" are essentially floral deserts for most of the year and so cannot support pollinators, save for the few short days or weeks when the particular crop is in flower. Because of this, millions of beehives, which do not like being jostled with, are literally trucked across continents from "farm" to "farm" and bee-slum to bee-slum, pollinating the long list of monocrops and swapping all the diseases that their wretched food sources and living conditions make them all too susceptible to.

3) Not only then must honeybees cope and live amongst the insecticides necessary for monoculture "farms" and golf courses and suburban lawns and such, but because of their poor health, strips of insecticides are also commonly placed inside hives to kill off Varroa mites and other plagues, which honeybees are now too unhealthy to ward off. In case you need me to spell it out, insecticides kill insects, and yes, honeybees are in fact insects themselves.

Yours truly eyeing a foundation-based frame from a Langstroth hive

And that's just for starters. But suffice to say, the fact that our honeybees are dying in unprecedented numbers should come as no surprise to any seasoned beekeeper, except for those with dollar signs (or honey or wax or pollen or propolis or bee venom or royal jelly) in their eyes.

Yours truly eyeing a foundation-based frame from a Langstroth hive

That being said, it's unfortunate that with all this (value-free) awareness-building that more holistic ventures are relatively ignored, while more of the status quo is not only sold as being good for the bees, but is praised with massive amounts of media attention from the likes of Forbes, Fox, Wired, and so forth. When it comes to the latter, I'm talking about the Flow™ hive.

First off, the Flow™ hive's claim to fame is the stunning manner in which one can turn a key and out pours honey through a set of tubes into a receptacle of one's choosing, no fuss, no muss. But really, and with the problems honeybees currently face just listed, the ease of honey extraction is – or at least should be – the last thing on the mind of any beekeeper concerned with the health of our honeybees.

Secondly, the Flow™ hive's feel-good selling point is that it reduces disturbance of the bees and avoids the squishing and possibly killing of a few of them when frames are removed and replaced for extraction purposes. However, this is little more than sleight-of-hand marketing PR since beehives must be checked throughout the year for a whole gamut of reasons, including for diseases such as Varroa mites, wax moths, hive beetles, foulbrood, etc., possibly resulting in the unfortunate squishing and killing of a few bees. The Flow™ hive can't avoid this, unless the idea is to be as shoddy of a beekeeper as one can possibly be.

But most disingenuous of all is the claim by the Flow™ hive's creators that its purpose is to minimize disturbance of the bees. In truth, and putting aside the logic of using petroleum-based frames which inevitably off-gas toxic chemicals (regardless of how "eco" the plastic is claimed to be), the Flow™ hive actually takes modern-day invasive practices to a whole new level, and is actually the epitome of what it claims to not be. What I'm talking about is its use of plastic frames to facilitate the ease of honey extraction.

To understand this, one must realize that a hive and its honeybee population is essentially a superorganism, and that the wax comb that the bees build via extrusions from their body isn't simply a widget that can be nonchalantly replaced, but is rather an essential part of the wholeness of the hive. In fact, research by Jürgen Tautz of Wurzburg University has shown that wax comb plays a vital role in the honeybee's communication system, and as many-a-beekeeper may have noticed, when given the choice, honeybees prefer to build their own wax comb than to shack up in pre-built plastic interlopers.

To risk belabouring the point, for the Flow™ hive's creators to claim that little disturbance is parted upon the bees simply due to gimmicky extraction methods is a deceit of the highest sort, since the hive's replacement of its wax comb with a prosthetic plastic comb is quite possibly the largest disturbance that the honeybee superorganism can experience. In essence, the Flow™ hive is the continuation of perceiving nature in a mechanistic manner, with the honeybee as machine that can be manipulated at will. The estrangement of beekeeping from actual honeybees is taken to a whole new level, with the Flow™ hive essentially transforming the honeybee into the latest incarnation of the Chia Pet for the Toys "R" Us crowd.

Is there an alternative to this beekeeper-centric form of beekeeping, one that would place the health and "beeness" of the honeybee before what are essentially short-sighted goals of rapacious resource extraction?

A healthy comb on a top bar (image courtesy of Christy Hemenway)

There most certainly is, and it doesn't entail reverting back to skeps (which actually destroyed the hive for extraction), nor simply downgrading one step to conventional, Flow™ frame-free Langstroth methods (Langstroth hives being the commonly recognized stack of hive boxes whose very purpose with their introduction some 150-odd-years ago was to usher in convenient-for-the-beekeeper, extraction-centric practices in the first place). No, the alternative I'm talking about is none other than the very unassuming top bar hive, or a bit more specifically, the non-use of foundation.

A healthy comb on a top bar
(image courtesy of Christy Hemenway)

In short, foundation is a sheet of wax secured in a frame (generally with wires), imprinted with hexagons on both sides of which the bees are thus guided to build their cells out from. This is where the problems start. One issue is that the cells are sized, relatively speaking, perversely large, the original motivator for this sizing being that bigger bees would harvest more honey and thus produce higher profits for the beekeeper. Organic beekeepers on the other hand have recently countered this with foundation that has smaller sized cells. While this might be an improvement, it unfortunately sidesteps the greater issue of whether or not we should be imposing on honeybees how we think honeycombs should be made. For really, while the initial stated purpose of inventing foundation was said to be to give the bees a helping hand in getting started, the underlying purpose was to standardize the whole process so that honey production could be maximized. But the problem with both of these approaches is that we are imposing upon honeybees a homogenous array of cell sizes, the monocultural method being, of course, the darling of industrial agriculture. For when honeybees – be it in the wild or with a top bar hive – are given the chance to create comb the way they think comb should be built, they create comb with a diversity of cell sizes (see the photo at the top of this page).

Hives that allow for what is referred to as "natural cell" comb-building are commonly known as top bar hives and come in a variety of setups – from vertical top bar hives (the Warre hive), horizontal top bar hives (of which a variety exist), to methods that allow for a Langstroth hive to be adapted into a top bar hive. This implementation of natural cell comb is a welcome situation for the honeybees for a variety of reasons, and probably some that we aren't even aware of.

While different cell sizes enable the queen to lay her eggs for different sized bees in the appropriate cells (the male drones are noticeably larger than the female worker bees), it also means that the hive is able to raise larger bees who can collect more stores over the busy months, and smaller bees who eat less during the more barren months. An increasing amount of evidence is also showing that honeybees who are able to create and live amongst their own comb are healthier and/or have the resilience to better deal with Varroa mites, hive beetles, and other modern bee plagues.

Returning to the Flow™ hive, probably the only good thing it's got going for it is that it costs so much, which means that it's not ideal for large-scale, migratory beekeeping, but rather for those of the small-scale or backyard set (and who have a bit of money to burn). Likewise, the fragility of top bars (they're not held in place with a frame or wires) don't lend themselves to being bounced around on the back of a truck to go from monoculture field to monoculture field, which is actually a blessing in disguise since what we need to be doing anyway is moving towards small-scale, localized, and sedentary beekeeping where honeybees are allowed to become adapted to the place.

Where the Flow™ hive and top bar hive really differ though is that while honey comes out of the Flow™ hive with the "push of a button," in a top bar hive the comb must be crushed to squeeze out the honey, or sold whole as comb honey. Although this is often decried by conventional (Langstroth) beekeepers as a reduction on honey harvests since honeybees must expend resources to continually create new wax comb, this may also be a blessing in disguise. Since the conventional method with foundation-based frames is to extract honey with centrifugal spinners and re-use the comb for years if not decades on end, this ultimately leads to a build-up of unsanitary (if not disease-ridden) conditions imposed upon the bees. Fresh comb doesn't have this problem.

What we should be realizing is that beekeeping is about the bees (that's why they're called beekeepers, not honey-extractors), and that the condition of the comb – or more specifically, the wax – should be at the forefront of our minds. As Christy Hemenway of Gold Star Honeybees likes to put it, "It's not about the honey, Honey – it's about the bees!" Furthermore, top bar beekeeping is by no means "easy" beekeeping, and nor should it be, and is probably part of the reason why Hemenway named her excellent book on the topic The Thinking Beekeeper.

To sum it all up, if we can become the good stewards that our honeybees need, and allow them to create comb the way they see fit, then I see no reason why the collapse of our honeybee populations needs to continue. However, if we jump on the bandwagon of the in-between-commercial-breaks style of beekeeping that the Flow™ hive allows for, then the updating of an old saying seems highly appropriate: only dead fish Flow™ downstream.


Full disclosure: Although I have no affiliation with Gold Star Honeybees (besides being given a few images to use upon my request), I did attend a course of theirs back in 2013, which was fantastic. That being said, since there are a few top bar hive designs on the market, and since this style of beekeeping can be even more finicky than the Langstroth design, the top bar hives designed and sold by Gold Star Honeybees are both the best quality I've come across as well as the most effective setup for both the bees and beekeeper.

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Comments (36)

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David
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Apr 2015
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I was taken by the pictures of barefoot young girls collecting clear but unfiltered honey in big glass jars just by turning a crank. The backyard chicken crowd wants bees too! But what about the suits and face mask? Chickens don't sting. Rather than sign up for a Flow Hive, I bought a copy of Dewey Caron's Honey Bee Biology and actually read a good portion of it. New respect for Bee Keepers and Honey Bees but plans for the backyard hive are on hold. Apiary equipment is really expensive and so is a new Queen Nuc delivered to your door.

How many of the Indiegogo Flow Hive contributors have zero beekeeping experience and believe the pictures.
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Allan Stromfeldt Christensen
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Aug 2014
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David: Glad to hear about your hesitance as the Flow™ hive does make it all seem a bit too simple, doesn't it? As you can tell, I'm not really a fan of turning a beehive into the equivalent of a bread maker (or as others have put it, a beer keg).

And thanks for the book reference. I hadn't come across that one and will have to check it out.
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Mike
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Apr 2015
Thank you for a great and useful piece I can bombard my well intentioned but easily confused friends, with when they keep sending me that dam flow video!
Well said!
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Allan Stromfeldt Chtistensen
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Apr 2015
Mike: Haha! Glad you liked it! Let's spread this info around, eh?
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Dunja
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1
Apr 2015
I am a backyard poultry owner, and would like to add bees to the mix. I have a lovely mason bee house, which is now home to some carpenter bees. We had a crazy winter in Portland OR, and I watched my plum tree bloom way early, with nothing there to pollinate her. I think honey is nice, but I would like to do my part in helping bees. What would be the first step after reading everything I can? In Portland there are a lot of resources, but I would like to do this right.
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Allan Stromfeldt Christensen
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Aug 2014
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Dunja: Hmm. Well, if you just want to help bees (and other insects?) then one thing that can be done is to plant natives to supply nectar and pollen for the wild pollinators. As a plus, perhaps such plants could end up with similar early bloom times to your plum tree and attract said insects to your area to assist with pollination? Just a guess. A good resource on that (for just North America, I think) would be Attracting Native Pollinators by Storey books.

Other than that, I would say to get in touch with the local resources that you mention. I used to be a part of the Toronto Beekeepers Co-operative, and there was plenty of people there willing to help, and who had knowledge catered to the specific area. Beekeeping can be a whole other thing in comparison to backyard chickens, so I tend to think it's best to get some initial exposure and experience before committing to your own hive(s).

As a side note, and not that the honey was my reason for joining up with the Co-op, but I still find it hard to believe that the honey we got from our first round of extraction was the best honey I've ever tasted. I was told that it was probably because of the wide range of plants that people kept in the city and which the bees fed on, as well as because of a wild area nearby which provided for a diverse collection of natives.

I hope that helps.
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Pam Smith
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1
Apr 2015
Thanks for your article that I fully agree. So sick of seeing that Flow Hive advertisement and people that know nothing about bees saying- but it's 'cool'. When I try to bring out some of the points that you have, I get, you need to move with the times, blah blah blah. They have no clue about taking care of honeybees....
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Allan Stromfeldt Christensen
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Aug 2014
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Pam: There's certainly no shortage of people who believe in that myth of progress, is there? Although I read all the "print" material, if by "advertisement" you mean one of their videos, I actually don't watch film or video so haven't seen the advertisement you might be referring to. Probably saved me from smacking my hand against my forehead.
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Paul Wood
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Apr 2015
Great article - another voice for the bees!
https://www.facebook.com/BrisbaneBackyardBees
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Allan Stromfeldt Christensen
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Aug 2014
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Paul: Sweet! Those look like some nice top bar hives you've got there!

And if you recall, I was the stranger who almost paid you a visit a year and a half ago. Perhaps next time!
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Annie
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Apr 2015
Hello, thanks for this. I linked to it with a little commentary on my blog Kitchen Counter Culture which I'd like to show you. Thanks!
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Allan Stromfeldt Christensen
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Aug 2014
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Annie: Wow, those were some very pointed words. Glad to see it resonated with you. As well, I hadn't thought about it all in the way you touch on, but which certainly makes sense.
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quipsa
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Apr 2015
What a great article all humanety should plant flowers and trees that feed the bees. If you like the bees and are concerned plant things that feed the bees thanj you so much for this article what would be the easiest way to start a bee hive :) I want to help by becoming a bee keeper
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Allan Stromfeldt Christensen
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Aug 2014
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quipsa: Great to hear your interest. If you'd like to get started though I'd say the best thing is to get in touch with a local beekeeping group where you can get a bit of exposure to things before dedicating yourself to your own hives. Beekeeping can be pretty involved and it's not the kind of thing that you can easily teach yourself, even with a big pile of books. Sometimes you can find a beekeeper who is willing to teach a bit for some volunteer work. All the best.
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heidi herrmann
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1
Apr 2015
Thank you, Allan, for this lucid piece. Have posted it on our fb account; very grateful to have someone else's article to draw attention to. Our own blog post brings together some of the voices heard when the contraption first appeared. Would be happy to add yours.
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Deb Aycock
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Apr 2015
Thanks for the great info. It completely changed my thinking, on the possible use of the Flow hive.
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Allan Stromfeldt Christensen
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Aug 2014
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heidi: By all means, go ahead and add it. It's licensed under Creative Commons anyway (the CC is at the bottom of the page), so all I ask is a link back to the original article.

And thanks for your link as well. Those are some very interesting hives you have there.
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Allan Stromfeldt Christensen
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Aug 2014
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Deb: Glad it could shed some light. All the best with your future beekeeping otherwise.
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Clark Center
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Apr 2015
I gave a lot of thought to beekeeping when I retired, read everything I could, and attended meetings of the local beekeeping group. Haven't actually made the first step yet. Still, my first reaction to this notion is that a lot of people are going to think this is so easy and end up starving their bees. An appalling device.
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Jase Stefanski
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Apr 2015
Still it would seem the writer should buy and test a flow hive prior to being a expert reporter of one. Harm can be done by starving any hive or neglecting them due to the complicated extraction process. To assume the added desire for families to own their own hive will only lead to poorly managed and worse conditions than exist today is extremely narrow elitist point of view. More folks working to understand and fight the harmful sprays while learning how to promote healthy bee reproduction cell size, etc can work along side a flow hive. Embrace at least some of the positive for the bees sake.
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Allan Stromfeldt Christensen
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Aug 2014
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Clark: That's the way to go – not only read up on bees, but attend meetings with your local beekeeping group. Kudos. As well, I'd never even though about people over-extracting and starving their bees, but I guess the thing will come with, like, a manual? Perhaps we're going to see a bunch of these Flow™ hives stashed away in closets or showing up on eBay in a few years.
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Allan Stromfeldt Christensen
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Aug 2014
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Jase: Very true, a bad beekeeper is a bad beekeeper, and just because you have a top bar hive or some equivalent doesn't imply good stewardship practices. And technically, you can have a Langstroth-adapted top bar hive and stick some Flow™ frames in there for easy access to some honey, but most (if not all?) top bar beekeepers aren't in it for the honey. And granted, perhaps my "Chia Pet for the Toys "R" Us crowd" comment was a bit over the top, but just the same, I think it's a big mistake to think of honeybees as the equivalent of a pet dog or an addition to the family goldfish, and I think it's a mistake to dumb down the whole thing in a cutesy family manner. Regardless, I think the crux of the article was that bees need diverse cell sizes which they design themselves as they see fit, and secondly, that bees are benefited by living in their own wax comb. The Flow™ hive allows for neither of these.
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Su Smith
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Apr 2015
Hi, thanks for your point of view. You have really helped us see several different aspects of this current debate. I have invested in one Flow hive. I have never kept bees before. I want to see how this hive works out. I will then have a first hand opinion to give. I have a neighbor down the road who is willing to let me shadow her with the traditional hives she owns. This will give me the experience I need to try the Flow hive out. My family invested in one for several reasons, but we just thought it could turn into something really beneficial eventually. Think of it as a beta testing. This product will evolve over the years and hopefully become the best it can be for the bees. I don't really think there is that much difference in what bee keepers do now and the Flow hive, so why not see what it can do and give feed back to help it become something beneficial for the bees. It might not work out but it is worth a try to see what it could become. It is clear from the response and support they received, that many people care about the bee population. It is up to the people of this technology to be responsible and help people properly manage bees with their system. I believe they are taking steps to do that. Many people are researching how to keep bees now, are more aware of the declining population and in return will plant flowers etc to help them. Most of us know, bee keeping isn't really about saving the bees, but we will do all we can to help them along side our attempts to keep some for honey. So for all those out there, plant whatever you can to help the bees, no matter where you live. Let that be the first really good thing to come from all of this. Cheers from Canada. Su.
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John
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Apr 2015
Anyone found a physical address for the company yet ?
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Allan Stromfeldt Christensen
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Aug 2014
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Su: Well, as much as I don't like the Flow™ Hive, especially the way that it gives the impression that anybody can have bees and that it's all a piece of cake, it's good to hear that you'll at least be shadowing your neighbor for a while.

"I don't really think there is that much difference in what bee keepers do now and the Flow hive."

I suppose that's kind of why I say that it's not an improvement on the current situation, as it's pretty much the Langstroth hive on steroids. The Langstroth's original intention was to maximize production (or at least allow for that). On the other hand, top bar hive's are about maximizing the bees' health (or at least allow for that). Although one can be a great beekeeper and have relatively healthy bees in a foundation-based Langstroth hive, and one can be a horrible beekeeper and have very unhealthy bees in a top bar hive, I think the best of both worlds is healthy bees who are allowed to create their own comb from scratch, which I believe allows for the healthiest bees possible.

"It is clear from the response and support they received, that many people care about the bee population. It is up to the people of this technology to be responsible and help people properly manage bees with their system."

This concerns me a bit as well, and is why I mentioned there being a fair amount of value-free awareness raising going on (which nary mentions holistic beekeeping practices). If people have so much concern about honeybees, why has there not been droves of people running out to get regular Langstroth hives (never mind top bar hives) the past few years, and why have all the financial whiz-bang websites and newspapers not been pouring attention on Langstroths the way they have upon the Flow™ hive? (I'm talking about Forbes, Business Insider Australia, entrepreneur[dot]com, etc.) Answer being, the Flow™ hive is a techno marvel (and techno gadgetry is glorified in our modern society and in financial circles), and, simply put, the Flow hive has the aura of ease to it, virtually guaranteeing large sales and a feel-good entrepreneurial story that profit seekers can extoll about. And if "their system" is defective in the first place, I wonder how much "the people of this technology" can do to remedy that.

Regardless, I wish you all the best in your beekeeping ventures.
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Allan Stromfeldt Christensen
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Aug 2014
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John: If you're implying that the Flow™ hive creators are going to run off with the money, I don't see why one would have that impression.
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John Dub
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Apr 2015
As much as I agree with most of what you say, you seem to be missing the revolutionary aspect of the Langstroth. That is the removable frame, which then allows the beekeeper to "manage" their hive(s) which includes thorough inspection(s). Like what you do before turning on the spigot (which I too don't recommend) or extracting the surplus. Prior was the skep, which as you mentioned was not good for bee keeping. Langstroth's hive has stood the test of time and still works very well for those who desire that system. What doesn't work is the current situation of mono cropping, blending all the ****cides, and mismanagement by beehavers, etc. A healthy hive is a well supplied hive with nectar and pollen that the bees themselves bring in. The size and or shape matters little. I had a swarm squeeze into a 2 inch space between two hive body storage sheds (ignoring three separate bait hives I had in the sheds). And the swarm proceeded building their comb in the 2 inch X 40 inch X 7 foot high space. Just a side note about about honey bee health in this area, I don't know where this swarm came from but the queen is unmarked. I know of two wintered over feral hives I hope throw a swarm into bait hives placed near them. There seems to be a correlation to hive die offs and that is man's intervention. So, yes, I agree we need to pay attention to how the bees do and yet still talk them into sharing some honey with us. Just saying.
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Allan Stromfeldt Christensen
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Aug 2014
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John: And I have to agree with pretty much everything you're saying as well. Particularly when you say that the main problem is monocropping, what one might just call industrial beekeeping. As well, I think it's correct to say that size and shape of the hive aren't overriding factors as bees seem to be quite able to adapt themselves to whatever they can get access to in the wild.

The Langstroth was definitely revolutionary in the manner you describe, and the reasons you give are the good ones. What I don't like so much is the foundation, another aspect of the homogenous, monocropping notion we both mentioned (that is, homogenous cell sizes). That's why I brought up in the article the fact that Langstroth hives have been adapted by some to allow the bees to create their own comb from scratch, what I think to be a fair compromise.

About the honey, I can't disagree there either, so long as we take only the surplus. That being said, if there's one thing I particularly covet from the hive, that would be the propolis. Gets completely rid of my strep throat the odd time I've gotten it, and has done wonders for various other maladies that friends of mine have had.
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Nathanael
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May 2015
Wow. This is a really fascinating article on beekeeping. All makes perfect sense ecologically.
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Allan Stromfeldt Christensen
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Aug 2014
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Nathanael: Bingo!
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sue norris
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Jun 2015
A very informative article. I have top bars, which I like very much for many reasons. I have seen videos of the Flow hive and wondered how it worked, but more importantly how do the bees fair with it? I rarely wish failure on someone, but I really hope the Flow is a flash in the pan which will die a quiet death soon. We need to realize that instant gratification always comes with a price.
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Allan Stromfeldt Christensen
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sue: I agree with you all around. I do wonder whether the more holistic beekeepers out there are going to have to pick up the pieces and introduce better beekeeping practices to these Flow™ hive people once the "flash in a pan" dies out, or, whether these people will simply realize that "real" beekeeping just wasn't for them in the first place. Time will tell.
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Cally Alvarado
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Aug 2016
Thank you for the article.

I've been wanting to get into bee keeping for a while, and when I saw the Flow Hive, I thought it may be a great way to start.

But since it has come out, there has been quite a bit of backlash in the bee keeping community.

I eventually (With in the next few years- Im 27) want to have my own little homestead going, and bring in a hive to help with pollination, as well as welcome the bees to a great source of food. I don't plan to use a fertilizers or pesticides, so I figure it will be the best thing for the bees anyhow. Trying that 'super organic' route.

(I'm looking at it through the side of, "Save the bee's, and maybe get some honey on the side".)

See, I'm terrified of buzzers. (I refer to bee's, wasps -anything that 'buzzes', as a buzzer.) I'm confident that with enough time I'll become used to it. Especially if I start out wearing all of the protective gear, and slowly, as I become more comfortable, be able to be around them with less and less gear on.

I can't decide on whether on want a Landstroth or a Top Bar, to start off it. I would like to just have a couple years building the hive. Adding a brood box each time one gets full, and taking my time with the process, before even thinking about adding a box for honey extraction.

There are no bee keepers in my family, so I'm still just doing research. Articles like this make things clearer and clearer for me, so thank you!
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Allan Stromfeldt Christensen
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Aug 2014
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Cally: Glad to hear you found the post useful. And I think your attitude of "maybe get some honey on the side" is the best to have. Honey's great, don't get me wrong, but a lot of beekeeping ends up being the honeybee equivalent of the chicken battery cage trying to pump out as much honey as possible.

I've heard many people say that Langstroth hives are best to start with as they're easier than Top Bar hives, but Christy Hemenway (author of The Thinking Beekeeper) begs to differ on that one. She's up in Maine and gives excellent workshops on keeping Top Bar hives (I took one a few years ago). She also does out-of-state lessons, so it's worth contacting her if you're interested -- Gold Star Honebees.

And although honeybees are great for pollination, there's probably more to be said for native pollinators actually. They're generally better pollinators, and good to have around those "super organic" homesteads. I recommend the books "Attracting Native Pollinators: The Xerces Society Guide, Protecting North America's Bees and Butterflies" and "Farming with Native Beneficial Insects: Ecological Pest Control Solutions," both by The Xerces Society. Your local library can probably get them via an Interlibrary-Loan if you're interested.

(If I have to list my one stand-out beneficial aspect of honeybees, it's for the medicinal properties of the propolis that they collect.)

All the best with the homestead!
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Charlotte Anderson
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Jan 2017

I do use Langstroth hives with wax foundation. However, I could not agree more in regards to the flow hive. You just turn a level and the honey pours out ? Right ! And no bees outside the hive bombard that open jar of honey? I am skeptical. Time will tell.

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Allan Stromfeldt Christensen
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Aug 2014
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Charlotte: As you can tell, I'm quite skeptical as well. I'm waiting till enough of the wannabe beekeepers realize that beekeeping isn't just a matter of turning a key and so end up dumping their "hives" on eBay. Then I'll do a review of the whole thing, possibly with some interviews. We'll see.

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