This thing is making huge waves in the beekeeping world and so I wouldn’t be much of a bee blogger if I didn’t mention it and say a few things about it. You can check it out and look at all their pictures, videos and information on their own site here.
I saw their info in early February, before they formerly launched their crowd funding campaign and signed up for their emailing list as well as liked them on Facebook. as a result I’ve been able to follow the Flowhive folks during much of their exciting journey. They initially set a funding goal for $70,000 for their kickstarter (which they moved to indigogo right before launching their campaign). They met their goal within 477 seconds and went on to become the most successful crowd funding project ever.
So what is the deal? It makes beekeeping look extremely easy and painless. And their marketing certainly does push this aspect of their product, where you no longer have to put on the bee suit, light a smoker, tear the hive open, take out the frames and then extract the honey from the comb. Basically you get the honey with only a fraction of the muss and fuss of how people normally go about stealing the honey from the bees. In fact the bees don’t even realize the honey is being taken from them until it’s already gone.
when this was first announced, the more grizzly old beeks had absolutely nothing good to say about this, and called it the world’s biggest scam. Many of them on the backyard beekeeping group that I follow thought is was a foolish waste of money and that it simply was not possible for this thing to work as advertised.
However, judging by the response to their crowdfunding efforts, this is not a universal sentiment. The response has been rather enthusiastic albeit the folks buying into the venture are slightly less vocal than the detractors. I’ve seen the pictures, the patent application, the plans and most of the videos the Flow hive folks have put out. I would enjoin anyone interested to do their own research and make their own decisions. This site has several nice external links about some early opinions on the flow hive.
I’ll give you my opinion, but keep in mind this is from someone who has studied all about bees and beekeeping without actually keeping a hive.
One of the first things that grabbed my attention is that these bees are not building their own comb at all, but merely inserting the nectar into the plastic cells and then capping it when it is ready. Even without the Flow technology, this strikes me as a rather big deal since much of beekeeping involves managing comb in the way of frames, foundation, providing guides for the bees to draw along, and making sure it stays straight and facilitates inspection and extraction. If plastic cells are such a good idea, why hasn’t this been done before? I’m not talking about plastic foundation, I’m talking about entire plastic cells where the bees don’t have to expend so much energy drawing wax. Why not just have plastic frames with plastic cells of whatever size and not fool with foundation at all? All they have to do is fill and cap. I could find some info hinting at such a thing, but there has not been wide spread adoption of this technology so that limitation might stand in the way of the Flow’s acceptance and use among many beekeepers.
As far as getting the honey easily, it’s hard to argue that this would be a lot less trouble for beekeeper and bee if it truly works advertized. Many beeks don’t like this as it seems to get in the way of relating to the bees in the way of traditional beekeeping. And there’s some concern about more less informed and lazy people getting into beekeeping. There is a very real potential for casual beekeepers to emerge in the early days of the Flow only to abandon it when more work is required.
I can see the revolutionary potential of this invention but can’t say whether there is a net good or net evil to it. Plus the things cost over $50 per frame or $600 for a full box with the frames installed, The Australian inventors of the Flow Hives have taken the time to release many education videos about honeybees and deserve some recognition for this. This leads me to believe it is a bit more than about the money. But they will have an abundance of it for a very long time as long as their invention works even moderately well. I have a few friends who have already ordered one and I’m anxious to hear/see how they work.
However I’ll have to wait until next year, since they won’t start shipping until this December (2015) and it’s for this reason, along with the relatively high cost that I’ll wait this one out before investing any of my own money. Overall, I have a positive impression of the creators of this invention and of the Flow Hive as there is considerable promise of this to change how bees are kept. I could see commercial beekeepers getting into this, as the way they tear hives up as they extract the honey at the present time can be time consuming and labor intensive. And it can look almost violent at times. When I saw the way the American Commercial beekeeper extracted his honey from the hives, in More Than Honey, it really did turn me off from any ambitions of going big or commercial I might have secretly harbored. It was downright ugly and disturbing.
For those who are into raising bees, like the Fat Bee Man, they might benefit from more people buying bees as they get into beekeeping. You’ll never see him spending that much money on a frame, though.
Australia has a relatively benign habitat for honeybees, where they don’t have mites or Africanized bees. It will be interesting to see how these hives work in the U.S. and whether the operation of manufacturing these frames becomes scalable enough to bring the costs down. So while I’m a bit excited I’m also cautious about sinking any of my own money into these.
Meanwhile, there are some other innovations that are already proven that might be a better fit for commercial beekeepers than what they are already doing that might be beneficial either by themselves or in tandem with the Flow Hive technology.