My Flow Hive: Three Years In
Is the Flow Hive Better Than the Langstroth Hive?
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Many people are familiar with the look of a common Langstroth beehive. They can easily recognize the classic white stacked (or sometimes colorfully painted) boxes forming a tower and capped with a telescoping cover. But not so many people, both beekeepers and non-beekeepers alike, are familiar with a Flow Hive®.
A Flow Hive, which is a relatively new invention, takes the brood boxes of the Langstroth hive setup and combines them with drainable honey frames. These honeycomb frames are kept in a separate box called a honey super and are comprised of cells that can shift, releasing the honey with just the turn of a key. This concept is said to be less invasive to the bees as the hive doesn’t need to be opened in order to harvest honey and the bees do not become agitated, thus no smoker is necessary.
The Flow Hive is Controversial
Some folks feel it’s a hands-off solution to harvesting honey, thus enabling laziness on the part of the beekeeper. However, many modern backyard beekeepers love the ease with which they can harvest their honey. Some find that beginning their journey into beekeeping becomes more approachable when using a Flow Hive and that this system helps to reduce the steep learning curve. They can focus on gaining knowledge in the art of hive inspections, pest management, and hive behavior before tackling the manual labor of retrieving honey with an extractor.
I, myself, started beekeeping only in recent years. I found the idea of a Flow Hive to be a sensical option and decided to purchase a Classic Flow Hive kit as my first hive — you can find my Flow Hive Review here.
I’m often asked which hive system I like best and the honest answer is, at the risk of sounding acquiescent, I have no preference.
The Flow Hive honey super frames host plastic honeycomb cells, which the Flow Hive website states, “…it’s not only BPA-free, but it is not manufactured with bisphenol-S or any other bisphenol compounds. Third-party labs have tested this material and have found it to be free of estrogenic and androgenic activity. The center frame parts are made from a virgin food grade polypropylene which is also free from any bisphenol compounds and is widely accepted as one of the safest plastics for food contact.”
Honey on Tap with the Flow Hive
In my experience, this plastic comb took a bit of elbow grease to unlock with a key. The bees had glued the spacing within the cells together so well with propolis that the comb was difficult to crack and shift. When the cells do shift, though, the honey drains relatively slowly into your sterilized food-safe jar. The honey is incredibly clear and fully filtered. When manually taking honey with the use of an extractor we do quadruple filter our product, however, the Flow Hive honey is exceptionally clear and completely free of any debris or residue in comparison.
How Does the Flow Hive Hold Up?
As for the durability of the Flow Hive, our hive has been in use for three seasons. The plastic honeycomb that is the Flow technology is only in use when the honey supers are in place on top of the hive. When not in use, the comb cells can easily become misaligned from storage during the “off-season” as they are merely holding together by rubber band-like wires. It does take a bit of time to realign the comb and its cells within the flow frames before use. The key can be turned at the top of the frame, just like when harvesting honey, to aid in bringing the comb back into alignment.
My Classic Flow Hive boxes are crafted from cedar though I believe that there are several options for material available at this time. I will confess that I do not like to paint my boxes as I personally prefer the look of natural wood in my apiary, though I know that I am sacrificing the longevity that painted boxes offer. After three years of employment, the unpainted Flow Hive and Langstroth hive units are holding up equally well. There is occasionally a slight warping at some of the corner joints of both hives.
I can honestly say that using one hive system over another does not provide me with more or less opportunity to learn about beekeeping. The Flow Hive nor the Langstroth hive does not appear to endure the use or the elements better than the other. To me, both systems are effective, require a passion to learn honeybee management and behavior, and still require diligence in working the hive and running through a beehive inspection checklist in order to be successful. And though the Flow Hive is more “hands-off” when harvesting honey, both methods offer plenty of opportunities to be stung.