{ Fair Share Honey's Perspective on the Flow Hive }

alOha Friends : )

   We've been hearing a lot about the "Flow Hive" over the past week or two, and people want to know what we think. 

   We were considering just saying, "Anything that gets more people interested in bees and beekeeping is good by me" but then we kept thinking .. and here's our thoughts. 

   The short answer is .. we're not into it.

   But here's more .. 


A Note to new friends visiting *** I know this article is being passed around to a lot of people who don't know or follow us, so here's a little background on what we're up to.

   We're p&j (peter & juwels). We're beeswax candle makers and small scale beekeepers. We offer free wild hive and swarm removals in the community, and all the hives that we keep are started from wild bees, not mail order.

    Here's a short bio video on the pollen arts family: 

You can also find us on instagram. 

And Facebook : )

.... continuing on


    As with most of their marketing, it's all about the honey .. 

   I'm seeing kids carrying Gallons of honey, and big bottles being drained from small hives. It feels a little like a gold rush, enticing people's greed and amplifying excitement through their lack of knowledge. Because when it comes down to it .. if you're going to leave any honey for the bees and the bee babies, you don't get nearly what they're showing.  

   This pic shows a 5 gallon pail coming out of a two stack hive ?? A thick hose tapped into every frame : ( 

   Looks a little Orwellian to me. The box below the one that's being drained  is called the brood box, "brood" is babies .. hungry babies, nurse bees, workers & the Queen.

   First of all, you can't get 5 gals out of a single box - that's just marketing -  and secondly, if you did drain it ... what would the colony eat downstairs ??

    This product seems, to us, unnecessary, misleading, more disruptive, and especially dangerous in the way that it's telling New-bees that hives need no care, and that, like a soda fountain, you can just turn on the tap whenever you want.

   This is not the way we should be selling people on beekeeping. I'm seeing a lot of people spending a lot of money only to have their hives starve, swarm away, or be taken over by moths or beetles or mites while the lazy beekeepers twiddle their thumbs and waits for the flow.

    There are many potential problems and heartaches when it comes to keeping bees .. but harvesting honey is not one of them. 

   Here's the pitch video for anyone who hasn't seen it. The whole premiss of the product is that we don't have to open the hive and "stress the bees" but then they claim to have a symbiotic relationship with the bees ... how do you do that without opening the hive? 

   Any good beekeeper's going to open the hive, and maybe with this gadget you don't have to open the hive on that one occasion to harvest the honey, but this process, rupturing thousands of cells while be bees are at work, causes a lot of destruction and chaos in the hive, and it's only easier for the beekeeper, not the bees. For somebody who truly cares about the bees and wants to treat them well ... you'd be better off doing it the old fashion way and putting in the time to do it right.


   The flow hive claims not to disturb the bees, but the way it's designed, when you turn the crank, it actually breaks apart thousands of artificial cells in odd places inside each comb, and then the bees have to clean up the mess and produce more wax to sew the whole thing back together. (If you're confused about this, watch the pitch video up there and skip to 2:11. There you'll see how the inseam breaks, and these are constantly re-broken during harvest ..)

   When you harvest traditionally, only the caps are shaved off the comb and then they're spun in an extractor. When the comb goes back in, the walls are all fully in tacked, and the comb only has to be filled and capped, not laboriously sewn back together like the flow design. 

   Which seems more disturbing to you? This thing's being sold like it's better for the bees, and that's just not true ..     

   With a first-year hive,  in these days of drought, your biggest issue will most likely be How to keep your bees alive when they're running out of food, not how easily to take their food away. We live in the desert, and nearly All of our first-year hives ran out of food, and we had to find the healthiest way to get them through the winter and keep them from dying or swarming. (We used organic evaporated cane juice rather than the less-than-food-grade corn syrup which was suggested to us.) So how much worse would this have been  if we had this honey on tap, and just cranked the lever every time we saw comb filling?

   If and when you take honey from the hive is a thing that should be done with love and care .. not through the drive through window. You -have- to go in the hive, and the bees are surprisingly mellow about it.

    Here's a video of a Huge 5-year-old bee colony that we removed from a barn wall before the just owner sprayed them, and you can see the neighborhood kids, without suits or veils, eating honey from the comb and playing around. These are wild bees who aren't farmiliar with the hand of man. Do they seem disturbed? And this is with us cutting the whole hive up and moving it around. So how disturbing do you think it is during harvest time when the beekeepers just slide a few frames out and brush them off?

   As long as the bees have enough food, they don't fret too much on sharing ... but this invention seems to advocate taking without first looking in to see they have the stores to spare. Seems a little grabby to me ..  .

    **** Skip to 8:35 to see into the hive : )   

      So in my eyes, this doesn't seem to save the bees any heartache, if anything it just facilitates lazy, greedy beekeeping, and these guys are laughing all the way to the bank.  

    For people who don't know much about beekeeping, staying out of the hive all together is a bad idea. You need to peek in there to make sure they still have a Queen, that she's laying well,  to check for mites (and treat naturally if so ... garlic powder is a good way) also, wax moths can destroy a hive, and when we have the pleasure to go looking around in our hives, we know just were to look for moth cocoons (normally in the grooves under the frames) and we pull those little intruders out of there with a flick of the hive tool.

   Staying out of the hive is neglect, period. And ... besides the benefit to the bees, looking around the hive and seeing the Queen laying, the nurse bees feeding, and the new-bees chewing their way out and emerging from the capped cells is a kind of bliss and meditation for us. We loVe gently moving through the frames and seeing into their world, and if you're keeping bees, you should too.

    Another thing that jumped out at me the moment I saw the design, was that you never want to harvest a frame of honey unless the bees have capped all the cells. The way honey works is that the bees move the flower nectar into the cells and then certain bees have the job of fanning the nectar (which is more watery than honey). This pulls the moisture out, and when the nectar is thick and dry and now technically honey, the bees will cap the cells for storage. With the flow design, all you can see is a tiny portion of the frame edge, but you don't know if there is still uncapped nectar farther down the frame. If you just tap the honey and too much nectar (watery nectar) mixes in, you can have problems with mold forming in your honey. Their drying process is very important, and they monitor it to a fine calculation, and we'd never harvest honey without first seeing that it's true blue honey, and you can't do that without popping in for a friendly visit.

   Honey harvest is fun if you've had a good year and built a strong hive! Have you ever seen somebody slide that hot knife through honey comb and watch the golden goodness flow out? It's as satisfying as popping bubble wrap ... honey filled bubble wrap, so why would you want to rob yourself of that experience? 

   A novice beekeeper (which is the only kind I'd see wanting this product) should want to cut that wax .. or crush and strain that comb. It's your big payout and prize for raising healthy bees and having a good year. A big beekeeper would never use this ... they have methods to cut and spin combs by the hundreds. It's barbaric the way the big guys do it .. but they do it fast and cheap, and I just don't see them sitting there watching a trickle run out ..

   I had to laugh a little when they started talking about all the "back breaking" labor involved in honey processing. It's the same way that all those infomercials start, "Are you tired of breaking your back to open that jelly jar???" ... insert the house wife, all red and perspired and hair frazzled like she's been mauled by a bear, and she's nodding her head to this disembodied voice, "Er Herrr !!" 

   But real beekeepers know better.

   The media men always invent a problem and then claim to fix it. Going into the hive is not a problem, it's the solution to problems. And now that you know you have to go in anyway, pulling a couple frames of honey is not a big deal .. and it's exciting : ) But if you do what this product suggests, your bees will most likely be battling something inside the hive while you're out there drizzling their hard earned honey on your pancakes. You need to go into the hive for many reasons, and a big one it to make sure that there's enough food before you start collecting rent.

   Anyone who's ever had honey out around beehives ... or even left a can of pop out at the end of the season when the bees need food, will know that bees will team on that sweetness. I'm at a loss to know how you could have thirty thousand bees in the hive and have a jar of honey trickling out back, and they don't seem to notice. Honey harvesting should always be done off-site. It's our shared don't-ask-don't-tell with the bees. We sneak the honey away and process it back home, but the bees don't want to see it going on right there under their sweet little feelers. 

   Another issue I see with this design is that it lacks ventilation .. these flow frames extend all the way out to the clear plastic sidewalls (your little TV screen inspection station) .. and in any other hive, there would be open space on both ends of the frames. Bees walk around that space, and air can flow to cure honey and help reduce the occurrence of mold. This thing is glued tight to both ends with no breathing room. I've never seen bees build themselves in like this in the wild, or in a standard hive.     

   A couple side notes that will probably seem finicky to people who don't keep bees - bees don't like plastic. If you give them empty frames where they can build their own comb and also frames with plastic foundation, they'll always leave the plastic for absolute last. They'll build everywhere else before they touch that plastic. 

   We let our bees build their comb how they'd like, and some bees will build smaller comb (depending on their breed) and some will build larger .. or mix it up in a way that we can't pretend to understand. Plastic doesn't give them this choice. We bought a hive from a swam guy down south, and he had a sheet of plastic foundation starter in there, and the bees actually hung a new sheet of 100% wax comb out in front of the plastic so they didn't have to touch it. They know what they like, and they don't like plastic ... if you give them no other choice, they'll build off it, but they might also be making plans to move out.

   Bees are very smart ... they talk through pheromones, communicate through dance (in the dark), and they will notice that something is wrong with this strange comb ... that the honey is slowly disappearing  from within. This is going to stress the bees for a longer period of time rather than if you just snuck the frames away and replaced them with empties. I'm thinking they'll figure out that something is wrong with this comb and stop using it. The product only works if and when the bees go in and seal up the slots in the plastic comb where they're broken during harvest, and I just don't see them doing that over and over. Einstein's definition of stupidity is .. doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Bees will only put honey in those magic combs so many times, only to find them broken and empty and in need of repair, before they say F this man .. Bees are not dumb. And this is a lot of work/ stress for the bees to do over and over.

   Another note on plastic. The bees keep the hive at around 95 degrees, even in the winter, and with those observation windows it's going to get even hotter in there ... do you really want your honey cooking in that hot plastic? Even if the jokers at the FDA declares some type of plastic food grade, it's still made from petroleum which is toxic. 

   I don't know if the guys mention this, but the only way to make sure that those fancy frames have only honey and no bee larva inside, is to segregate the box with a queen excluder so the queen can't get up there and lay (a queen excluder is a sheet of metal grating that's too small for the larger queen to fit through.) This upsets her because she feels like she can't move around her own hive and lay where she wants .... (we give our queens free reign of the whole hive, and she lays upstairs, too.) And one of the main reasons for bees to swarm away (which is a thing that the queen suggests to the colony) is when she feels like she's running out of room to lay. So this product, and the segregation that is needed for its function, will up the chances that your bees will move out on you ... 

   If you don't use an excluder, you'd have no idea if there's be larva in the frames before you crank that metal mechanism and spill all the honey (and the bug juice) down onto your pancakes .. yum : )

    Have you ever seen bee larva? They're basically little white maggots full of puss like goop. (some people eat them as super food .. ewwww) I don't know about you, but I wouldn't want that white mess crushed and running blindly down into my honey .. not to mention that it could cause mold : (

   Sorry to rain on anybody's parade .. I love innovation, but this product feels a lot like telling people they can keep chickens locked down in their kitchen cabinets to enjoy Fresh Eggs.

   People need to be informed and loving if they're going to raise any kind of creature, esspecially when You're sharing Their food source .. and the marketing here talks nothing about being a good beekeeper and everything about take-take-taking away. 

   In the beginning of the season last year we only took a small sampling of honey from our biggest hive, but we had a happy time caring for them and learning more about these fascinating creatures. 

   We won't be using the Drain Hive in our apiaries ...


{Pollen Arts}  &  {Fair Share Honey} 

my queen bee working with her colonies : )



  1. Love the awesome way you bring attentions to the important aspects of having a respectful, skillful and kind relationship with the bees! I also didn't take honey from my hive last year (my intuition told me not to) and found out that my neighbor who gave me his hive when he moved didn't either. For me, it's about kind, compassionate and skillful relationship with the bees.

  2. The Flow hive in the picture is in sub-tropical Australia where there is no dearth and bees never starve.

    1. ... and for all the people who are watching these pitch vids and buying flow hives outside of sub-tropic Australia : ?

  3. It seems that most of problems with the Flow hive derive from the two box set up in the photo rather than considering the system itself. I am happy beekeeping my own way but it doesn't stop me from admiring their inventiveness and enterprise. I can just hear some skep owner predicting the sky would fall when the langstroth came on the market.

  4. As I said (in detail) .. the system is destructive, breaking thousands of cells down the middle and then expecting the bees to sew it all back together and refill. And this is supposed to be kinder and less disruptive? Traditional harvesting leaves the comb fully intact minus the caps.

    This system won't work without a queen excluder .. unless you don't mind drinking bug juice, and so that keeps the queen from traveling the hive and laying where she wants (this inspires swarming) .. and the whole marketing campaign seems to promote the soda fountain approach to honey harvesting, but bees need care. It's not disturbance, but love and care. This system is an expensive unneeded gadget that promotes bad practices, and makes way more work for the bees and less responsibility for the lazy beekeeper.

    There's much more, but I've already wrote it once up there. ..

    1. After the honey has been harvested, the cells are returned to their original intact position so the bees don't have to "sew it all back together".

    2. Take a closer look (@ 2:11 on the "full reveal video on youtube) .. the only way those cells can move up and down is due to two splits in the plastic (top and bottom) in every single cell.

      Those cells won't hold liquid unless the bees go in there and sew every cell together, top and bottom, with real beeswax. Once they do that .. and then fill them with nectar, cure it to honey and then cap every cell, they're pretty proud of their work and feel good knowing they've got savings ... and then the operator of this "kind system" throws the lever, and breaks apart all the seams and wax patches that the bees closed up (that's where the honey flows down through).

      So in a place where the bees just had complete cells full of capped honey, with the flip of a switch, the bees now come back to find frames inexplicably void of honey, caps all broken apart broken, and all the seems broken and needing repair again.

      If I was a bee, I'd rather have the beekeeper just pull the frames, shave the caps and spin the honey out .. at least that way the comb comes back in tacked.

      This is a mess, and these guys are lying if they say this is easier on the bees. Easier on the lazy drive-thru beekeeper maybe.

      Too bad so many people are buying in on good intentions.

    3. Youtube Vid:

  5. I'm with you on this...I did not feel good about "harvesting" the honey with plastic tubes and a tap system. I want to give bees respect, and kind~nurturing care. The comb is such a work of he~ART, that breaking the cells is broken & destructive. New to bee~keeping...working towards a gentle, mindful, intuitive, & attentive nature working with bees, xo~ Ambuja