01 May The new Flow Hive at Goodwood
The Flow Hive – Revolution or Passing Craze?
Having been involved with a number of “start-up” companies, my mailbox is regularly hit with the latest funding “opportunity”. Most things get instantly filed into my cerebral rubbish bin. However when the Indiegogo crowd funding of the FlowHive appeared in my Inbox, I was naturally interested. Like most crowd funding deals, there is little chance of serious investment success but by backing an early idea one gets a chance to try out new technology before the masses.
The Flow Hive is a new method of harvesting honey from a hive without disturbing the bees within the super. It was invented by a father and son team – Stuart and Cedar Anderson in Australia.
The idea summary:
Based on the Langstroth hive, the business of the Flow Hive resides in the super. Instead of traditional frames, the super is filled with 6 oblong “cartridges”. Each cartridge comprises of two banks of food grade plastic honeycomb cells side by side, each bank angled towards the centre – so arranged in a “V” pattern if seen end-on. Each bank of cells is again split into 2 halves, which can be moved apart using a long lever inserted along the top of each cartridge. The secret is that even when pushed together, the cells still need the bees to work on the structure and use wax to complete the join and create a cell. This last piece of work encourages the bees to take ownership and then use the cells to store their honey.
Progress is monitored using end and side windows. When the honey is sealed and ready to harvest, the two foot long lever is inserted along the top of the hive and rotated through 90 degrees. This forces the two halves of the cells apart at the wax join and allows the honey to flow into the “v” and drip down to the bottom of the cartridge which in turn is sloped to the back of the hive. A tube is inserted through a window at the back and the honey drips out into a sealed collection unit.
Well – that’s the theory!
Having made the decision straightaway to back the Andersons, I pressed the button and joined the early Funders in return for a complete FlowHive – it was a very good deal and cheaper than the cost of a new National – a No-Brainer at the time . Little was I to know how the concept would turn viral…
An initial quest for $70,000 turned into £12.5m as the story got picked up around the world. It went crazy and a massive backlog developed as the Andersons struggled to answer the new challenge of high growth business management!
Having been an early backer, I received my FlowHive from Australia at Christmas time. It really is a high quality piece of kit. Beautifully finished cedar with stainless steel screws to hold it together. The cartridges fits snugly within the super and all the apertures open and close with a satisfying feel of precision engineering. All I need now is a colony of bees! My initial thought was to use it to house my first swarm as all my other colonies are on Nationals. But then as this is – for me – a fascinating experiment, I wanted to give the concept a real proper test-drive. So to mitigate any risks, I have asked Ricky Wilson to create a Langstroth nuc for me. I hope to be installing the nuc in the middle of May and hope for a fast build up in June to be able to put the Flow super on in time for the Bramble and Clover.
The FlowHive has attracted bucket loads of criticism. Many beekeepers are unhappy as it may appeal to people who see it as a short cut to bee keeping. – the “a dog is for life” argument. Many are critical of the use of artificial comb, others worried it will prove hard to clean and spread disease. Others simply laugh and say it will never work and is destined to join the scrap heap of bee hive inventions which has grown through the last few hundreds of years.
Who knows? But simply mocking from a distance is ignorant and lazy in itself.
I have a feeling it will prove useful if only to get people interested in beekeeping. I see it as a novelty rather than a revolution, and if it works I hope it will provide us with some honey “ on – tap” to complement the traditional 20 -30 Nationals we have here at Goodwood. It will be fun giving it a whirl at any rate, and hope to share its progress with the Pembs Bee Keeping Association and this site over the course of this season.