Flow Hive Review: Honey on Tap

A Convenient Bee Hive Plan for Beekeepers

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I never thought that I would be keeping bees. In fact, my healthy fear of them as a child had me spending warm summer days indoors and sprinting away from picnic tables in a screaming fit more than I’d like to admit. Yet, today I’ve found myself managing my very own backyard apiary. Having had absolutely no interest in beekeeping, it was during an online search regarding homesteading that I stumbled upon a Flow Hive review. It was then that the concept of beekeeping became more approachable to me; hive maintenance aside, even I could harvest my own honey with little disturbance to the bees. I could enjoy local liquid gold from a simple tap installed on the backside of the hive. I could contribute to the preservation of the honeybee population. I could actually accommodate my bee phobia and eliminate the need to open the hive entirely for honey harvesting. I was intrigued.

Over the course of the next year, I became obsessed with raising bees. I enrolled in a beekeeping course and invested some hands-on time in bee handling to conquer my fear. And of course, I researched different bee hive plans and apiary configurations. The Langstroth beehive seemed like a good choice for our farm and for the increased probability that the bees would survive our cold New Jersey winters. But I still longed for the chance to watch honey pour from the tap-like spout of the Flow Hive’s honey super frames. I decided to make the investment and purchase a Flow Hive Classic.

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How It Works

So what is a Flow Hive exactly? The Flow Hive is essentially a Langstroth beehive constructed with “drainable” honey supers. These honey supers are comprised of plastic honeycomb cells where the bees deposit and store their honey. When the entire frame of honeycomb is filled and sealed by the bees with swaths of wax, it’s time to harvest.

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A Flow Hive honey super frame. This image shows what the cells look like both aligned and misaligned. When a key is turned, the honeycomb cells shift causing the honey to drain down and through to the harvesting tube.

Each individual honey super frame has its own tap. When a long metal key is inserted into the top of the frame and turned 90 degrees, the plastic frame cells shift themselves asymmetrically, causing the honey to flow between and downward into a removable harvesting tube. The wax seal that the bees have created on the top of the honey cells remains intact; this causes minimal hive disturbance while allowing the beekeeper to harvest filtered honey. Once the frame has fully drained, the key can be turned to realign the honey super frame cells back to their original position. All frames can be drained simultaneously.

What Comes in a Flow Hive Kit?

The hive will arrive boxed in separate pieces so a screwdriver and a hammer are required to assemble the brood and honey super boxes along with the individual brood frames.Overall I found assembly to be quite simple and efficient. While some pieces needed a little more elbow grease to join together than others, the predrilled holes take the second-guessing out of construction. A square ruler or level is recommended for ensuring the boxes and frames align properly when building.

What’s Included in a Flow Hive Kit
Brood Box
Standard Brood Frames (8 qty.)
Honey Super Box
Honey Super Frames (6 qty.)
Honey Tubes (6 qty.)
Key
Inner Cover
Meshed Bottom Screen Board
Gabled Roof
Queen Excluder
Manual

It’s worth mentioning that many beekeepers prefer more than one brood box for their bees in order to prevent swarming. I personally ordered a second individual brood box to complete my hive. Both cedar and araucaria wood boxes are available for purchase on the website, though, any eight-frame standard Langstroth brood box will do.

Conversely, if one is content with their current Langstroth hive and is simply looking to incorporate the Flow honey technology, honey supers and their frames can be ordered separately from an entire hive kit.

Price

Let’s take a moment in this Flow Hive review to discuss dollars and cents. It’s no secret that the Flow Hive price is higher than those of its other bee habitat counterparts. A full Langstroth beehive, for example, can be purchased for as little as $125 while the least expensive choice for an unused Flow Hive is around $600.00 (at the time this article was written). Naturally, when folks find I’m using a Flow Hive in my personal honey bee farm, they tend to ask if the cost is worth it. I personally think so. For my Flow Hive review, I give it the thumbs up!

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Fresh honey draining through the harvesting tube, or tap, from the Flow Hive honey super.

Honey extractors are expensive and difficult to lug from place to place when sharing with friends, neighbors or a bee association. Alternatively, I’ve even taken to squeezing and pressing honeycomb by hand, which is obviously time-consuming and results in chunks of honeycomb left in the honey jar. The Flow method allows me to drain all six frames of honey at the same time without any additional effort (except for that of swapping out full honey jars for clean empty ones). I found the Flow Hive tap-style approach to harvesting honey to be incredibly simple and the quality of the filtered honey supreme. In fact, I’ve already ordered a second Flow Hive myself.

Beekeeping isn’t for everyone. But for those of us who feel they’re ready to take the plunge and add this element of self-sufficiency to their backyard, homestead or farm, the Flow Hive is a good first step; it allows the beekeeper to perform their routine hive checks and provide bee care while eliminating some of the headaches that comes with honey extraction. And for those of us more seasoned beekeepers who are looking for a new apiary experience or a more efficient answer to honey harvesting, the Flow Hive offers just that. To the souls who love interacting with their honeybees and are skeptical about taking a more hands-off approach to draining their honey supers, don’t fret. There’s still plenty of opportunities to bond with your bees and to be stung throughout regular hive maintenance.

Have you tried the Flow Hive yet and if so, do you have a Flow Hive review to share?

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Comments
  • Greg O.

    Interesting read, but I would need to do more research before I’d commit to this. My wife and I currently have five 10-Frame Langstroths (including 1 from an even split), two 8-Frame Langstroths (even split from 1 two weeks ago), two nucs (one purchased, the other from a split), and one Warre hive from a recently caught swarm. I’m also building a horizontal hive to take Langstroth medium frames that we will use to relocate some bees currently living in an abandoned mail truck at a friend’s ranch.
    I have not seen any good pictures or descriptions of how you inspect the honey super to ensure they are capped before harvesting. Nor have I seen or read whether a queen excluder is used to ensure no brood winds up in the honey (I would assume so since one is on your list, but don’t know.).
    Based on your description, the Flow Hive is based on the standard 8F Langstroth rather than 10F? Is this correct? So one could use existing 8F brood boxes (one or two, deep or medium) and add the 6 frame Flow Hive honey supers on top? My assumption is based on the typically greater spacing between frames in the honey supers since the bees prefer to make those cells a little deeper than brood cells.

    Reply
    • Hi Greg,

      First, I’m jealous of your apiary. Sounds like you have quite the bee yard–that’s awesome. With regard to inspecting the honeysuper, there are six honey super frames with the Flow technology. There are two ways to monitor them; one is to simply remove the inner cover and to individually pull each one of the six frames for inspection. The second option would be to look through the windows provided on the side of the honey super box or to remove the “door” or box side panel where one gains access to the honey taps. You can see inside the short end of a honey super frame. Obviously these last two options offer less visibility than a full inspection. To answer your question, yes, there is a queen excluder for use as well.

      The six frames that are in the honey super box are actually quite a snug fit; they do not follow the standard individual frame dimensions. Six of the Flow honey frames are wide enough that they sit tightly inside the box so there are no excess gaps between the sides of the box or the frames.

      And finally, in answer to your question on sizing and dimensions, six of the Flow hive honey super frames are compatible to fit within the dimensions of a Langstroth deep 8-frame box. You can find more information on incorporating Flow technology into your current Langstroth hive system here on the Flow Hive website: https://www.honeyflow.com/faqs/p/22?tag=25

      Keep us posted on how you decide to proceed, Greg! I hope this information helps. Many thanks for your comments and questions,

      Angela

      Reply
  • What happens after the honey is harvested? If the cells are capped with wax…what then?

    Reply
    • Hi Nola,

      Thanks for your comment. I asked the same question when researching whether or not to invest in a Flow Hive. I was told that the bees can sense if a honeycomb cell is filled with honey or not, even beyond the waxed cap. When no honey is sensed the bees refill those cells. I would love to know; have any other beekeepers heard the same?

      Best,

      Angela

      Reply
  • This invention is awesome, easy to use an anyone can have it at home. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply

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