Rainy Day Q & A

by Flow Hive 31 min read

It was a rainy day here at Flow HQ, so instead of going out to the hives, we moved inside to the boardroom for the Q & A. Before the questions started, Cedar gave an intro to the new features of the Flow Hive 2+ and showed off some beautiful 2-tone honey. We got a lot of great questions this week, on preparation for winter, taking a cut-out from a wall, favourite flowers for honey flavours and Cedar explains the boardroom brood wall.


Video Transcription

Flow Hive 2+ and 2-tone honey

Hi, we’ve got a rainy, windy day outside. So it’s not suitable for getting in and doing some beekeeping. So we're here in the boardroom. This is the room where we gather around and make decisions and talk about design and so on. So welcome. And if you've got questions, put them in the comments below and we'll get to answering those. Trace will read those questions out and we can answer them live. Also, let us know where you're tuning in from in the world. It's really interesting for us to know whereabouts you are. 

So this is our Flow Hive 2+ which you probably know about if you're on the list. But if you're new, this is our latest release, which has a few upgrades. So down here, you can see the ant guards, which just help stop ants from getting onto your hive. However, you do need to remove the foliage from around your hive, or they'll use that as a bridge to get on. This one actually has a little bit of oil in it already from a previous show-and-tell, and that just provides a liquid barrier for the ants, making it hard for them to cross over. You can set the height of the cap, if you’ve got big ants, you’ll need to set it a little bit higher. They might just step right across this area, but for the little ones, you can have it nice and low. 

Then we've got the solid aluminium legs here, which are just a bit more sturdy. We’ve upsized the bolt here and moved it out towards the corner, which adds more stability. And the whole thing is solid cast aluminium.

Moving up the hive, we've also got an upgrade here with the pest management tray. We've gone for 100% recycled polypropylene now instead of the acrylic ones, which are stronger, more robust and just all-round a bit better. 

This is a really interesting selection of honey. I was noticing that one’s got a 2-tone and that could happen when you've harvested part of a frame. And then they refill it with another type of honey and then you get a two-tone coming out. So you get that beautiful lighter colour on top of the darker one. It's just amazing looking at all the properties of honey, but that also means that the density of the honey is different when they lay it like that. You've got more dense honey below and a less dense one on top, and the flavours will be different too. As you go down through your jar, that's a beautiful light one that we've harvested. One of the things that is amazing, and it was unexpected in the development of the Flow Hive was to be able to isolate the flavours frame by frame and really enjoy that process of sharing the flavours of honey.

Q & A

How do I prepare my hive for winter? (Australia)

Okay. So if you live in the Southern areas of Australia or you’re in the Northern parts of the Northern hemisphere, you're going to get some cold winters here. We don't have to worry about it too much because we're in a subtropical region and we can actually harvest honey all year-round. And we can leave the hive in this configuration all year. But those places that have a long cold winter do need todo some preparation. And there are different schools of thoughts on it and how cold and how long your winters are will also affect your strategy. But the number one thing is you're trying to get your colony through that long, cold wintertime. And that means they need enough honey stores to do that. And the best information you get is from your local beekeepers as to how much honey you'll need to leave them in order to survive the winter.

If they don't have much honey, then you may need to feed them to build up some stores in order to use that, to survive through the winter. Because bees use honey to warm themselves, to stay alive through that wintertime. They disconnect their wings and vibrate and even in the harshest of colds where there's snow up to here, they can keep themselves warm enough to survive. So enough honey is the number one. 

And if you want some instructions on how to make a quick feeder, we've gota video on our YouTube channel. And you can use this area under the lid to feed your bees, should you need to build up some stores for the long cold winter. Again, find out from your local beekeepers whether you really need to build up stores, but this is an area where you can put a feeder. You can buy a round top feeder, which fits good enough under the lid or you can make your own using jars. 

The next thing to think about is the queen excluder. Bees will form a bee ball in the winter in those cold regions to keep themselves warm. And as they consume the remaining honey in the hive, they will move usually upwards. So they’d be clustering down here to start with and they'll move upwards. Now, if you've got an excluder, which is this grid here, which is designed to limit the queen from getting up and laying in your honey collection areas, that will also limit the queen from moving with the ball of bees up through the hive and your queen could be left behind and perish underneath the excluder. So to mitigate that, you can take the excluder out and that will allow the ball of bees to move through the hive.

Now, the next question is how big to leave your hive during the winter and storing it in a nice cold place over winter. So that if there is honey in there, it doesn't go off. You'd be keeping it away from vermin. If you've got a chest freezer, you can put the frames in there over winter and put them back in in the springtime. Or you could make sure they're dry and have no honey in them to store them over winter. So it's up to you what strategy you choose. 

Beekeepers will try all sorts of things. You could leave the Flow super on for the bees to consume any honey in it over winter. Then in spring, shake the bees down, put the excluder back in and away they go again. Just make sure that the queen is down in the bottom box before you start your season, you don't want her stuck up above the excluder and laying in your Flow Frames. Some queens will lay in Flow Frames and some won't. It seems very queen specific. I've had hives for years with no excluder. If you do want to experiment with that, make sure you check a number of times to make sure she isn't a queen that's going to lay in the Flow Frames. 

Fred Dunn's joined us and he's answering lots of questions in the YouTube chat.

Fred has made some great videos that are part ofTheBeekeeper.org If you want to have a look at that, there's in-depth training made to take you from square one, right through to a very in-depth scientific knowledge with beekeepers from all over the world. And it's also a fundraiser for habitat regeneration and the protection of our pollinators. So take a look at that if you want to really sink your teeth in and, and jump ahead with your beekeeping.

Will the new pest tray for the Flow Hive 2+ fit in the Flow Hive 2?

Yes, absolutely, you can swap those trays over. So not a bad idea. And I think they'll be available soon. People can check our websites for that. 

What do you think of wax-dipping the hives?

We have experimented with wax-dipping a bit, and if you've got some experience with wax-dipping, then do let us know. My experiments weren't so good. We had a couple of issues that happened. One is perhaps the wax was a bit dirty and the finish didn't look that good. The other one was we actually had some issues with the panels changing size due to the extremes of wax-dipping and it made some of the fitments not so good. So perhaps you've had a better experience and can share that, let us know.

I’m just about to add a super to my hive. I’ve been doing brood inspections every two weeks. Should I keep this up, or how often should I inspect?

Look, it really depends. It's fantastic learning if you are able to get in there and have a look at the bees, you'll be learning a lot faster. But certainly here in Australia, you can go for many months at a time without inspecting your brood box. So you can make up your own mind there. But if you're not inspecting your brood box, then you should at least be keeping an eye on the bee activity, looking in the windows, making sure there's a lot of bees in there, and also checking your tray. Sometimes you might find if you've got the small hive beetle in your area, for instance, you might find a young small hive beetle larvae, and that'll alert you to the fact that the beetles are taking hold and then you might get in there and inspect and see what's going on and so on. It sounds like you've had a fantastic start and you're really getting in there and learning, and now you can probably put the super on it and move to some more outside observations as you watch them grow.

Does the queen continue to lay eggs in the brood box through winter?

That depends on how cold it is. So what happens in the extremely cold areas is the colony will raise what's called fat bees and they have a little bit more body mass and they're able to survive a long, cold winter. I'm not an expert in the winter because we don't really have one here. But in the extremes of cold, they will actually stop laying because they want to reduce the amount of resources they need to feed the larvae. It takes one frame of honey and one frame of pollen approximately, to raise a frame of brood. So that's quite a lot of resources. And if there's nothing coming in, your colony will soon run out. So they're very clever at throttling to what's going on. If they notice there's nothing coming in the door that will slow down the egg-laying and that way they can survive through the wintertime.

I have a Flow Hive that was abandoned. It is cold and honey has hardened inside the Flow frames. How do I get it out? (California)

Okay, so it sounds like your bees absconded for whatever reason, some bad luck there. For getting the honey out, waiting for a warm day might be a good idea. There are a few options you could do here. You could actually choose to just keep the frames in a freezer and put them right on to your colony when they've built up and they're ready for a super. 

Or as you say, you could harvest them and that can be done on the bench. However, it's a bit harder when the frames are cold. I recommend probably using two keys in the top slot and turning them like a butterfly and doing it section by section, if you are harvesting the honey frames off the hive. So you could go either way, if you do have freezer space available, that's probably the easiest thing to do. Put them back on the hive when they're ready and away you go.

I’m in an area where it gets cold during winter. Should I close the bottom vents in the hive? (Armadale, Australia)

It wouldn't be a bad idea to close off ventilation. So if you have a look here, at these vents, if you spin that around by undoing these two L-screws, turning it over and putting it back in, what happens is this area here, connects with the tray and just limits the amount of ventilation that's going up above the tray and the screened bottom board. Make sure this is pressed all the way in against the tray. And that will be a good thing to do in the wintertime and help your bees. 

The other thing we've just released is the entrance reducer, so that could be another one. At the moment it's in the entrance-closed position. That wouldn't be a good idea. So we will take that off and turn it over and reduce your entrance size down. It can also be done with some wood or whatever, just to close up the entrance a bit and give less ventilation to your hive. It also helps your colony defend itself from robber bees and other intruders.

I’m cutting out a colony of bees from my shed to put into the Flow Hive. Should I fill all the brood frames with comb or leave some empty?  

Okay, great question. That's amazing, it's no easy task to do. It's called a cut-out and it's definitely a bit more advanced., So do get some help if you're new to beekeeping. My advice with that would be, if you've got the small hive beetle in your area, don't put any honey in the brood box. The small hive beetle will take advantage of when everything's a big mess. Like it's going to be a bit when you're taking parts of frames out of a wall. You don't want to leave a lot of honey for the hive beetles to lay their larvae in. So just take sections of brood only. And if you've got enough to fill the whole box, then great, go for it. That means there's a big colony, try and get as many bees as you can in there. Obviously, you need to get the queen if you want the colony to move into your new box. 

But the way I would suggest is using the rubber band technique. So basically grab a brood frame. I'll just take this box off and show you what I mean. And you’ll be cutting out sections of brood from that cut-out and placing it in here and putting some rubber bands, elastic bands around here and here just to hold it in place. The bees then will have a chance to connect to the sides and top and hold that brood in place. They’ll eventually chew away those rubber bands, and they'll fall to the floor of the hive and you'll then have a nice frame of brood. So go ahead. But if you've got small hive beetle, make sure you are not taking any honey or pollen. Just the brood is the best recipe, I've found.

There is some honey collecting in the round section of the super where you put the collection tube, but I haven’t turned the Flow key yet. Is this okay or have I done something wrong?

Some bees, when they’re sealing all the parts, will do a better job than others. And sometimes you'll get honey just seeping through the Flow Frame parts and into that trough area. So what we did to help that was, we made what's called a leak-back point and I'll show you what that is right now and what to do about it. 

So if you have a look at the back of the Flow Frame here, and you take out one of these little caps, you’ll see that where the yellow part meets the clear, there's a little gap. And that's designed so that any remaining honey after harvesting will flow back into the hive for the bees to reuse, and that way you don't have to stand around for hours waiting for the last dribbles of honey to come out into your jar. It also will work to let any dribbles that come through into that trough area. If it is building up, that is a pathway where honey can flow back to the bees. 

Now bees will be bees, and they'll block up that area. So what you'll need to do is unlock it. Now, if it's been sitting in there a while and you're in a more temperate climate, you'll find that fermentation might occur in that area. Taste the honey. If it tastes like there's fermentation, then rather than letting it go back to the bees, put your tube in and just drain that fermented honey away and discard that. But once it's cleared, the honey that does drip into that area is fine to go back to the bees. 

So there are a few ways to clear that. Sometimes just turning this cap around can do it. The other one is this tag here when you're harvesting is made to automatically unblock that leak back point when you do your harvesting process. So most of the time, you don't have to think about it until they block it up and you see the honey arising in that area. So another thing you can do is get the Flow key, the metal harvesting key, and just poke it down in that area with a stick or a twig or whatever. So you take the cap out and block it and put this back in. Provided the honey is not fermented, it's fine to go back into the hive for the bees to reuse.

When is it too late to harvest honey? (Northern Rivers, Australia)

So in the Northern Rivers, if you're in the coastal areas, you can get some good honey flows all through winter. We've got a lot of rain at the moment. So the Melaleuca and the paperbarks will be flowering and we're expecting some good honey coming in over the wintertime. If you're inland a little bit, then it's amazing. Just an hour’s drive inland from the coast can mean it's better to leave some honey for the bees over the wintertime, because there might not be as much for them to forage on, and then start harvesting again, come spring. If you're unsure, the great thing about a Flow Hive is you can take just one frame or even part of a frame and leave the rest for the bees.

I've noticed some green spots inside the hive, maybe caused by rain or humidity. Should I cover the hive during the rain?

If you do have the opportunity to keep your hive under cover, then everything will last longer. You have to do less TLC to keep the wood looking beautiful and so on. However, they are built to be outside in the rain. If you are having trouble with water comingthrough your roof, then you might need to give it another coat of paint and really seal up all the cracks in that roof area, or you could even use some silicon as well. And the idea is you want to keep your hive dry if you can.

In winter, we can get really cold temperatures in the winter frost and then sunny through the day. How did the bees cope with rapid changes in temperature? (Northeast Victoria, Australia)

The European honeybee, which is the one that humans have dragged all around the world with them because they're such extraordinary pollinators and honey producers, comes from Europe where the temperatures are extreme, and they are incredibly resourceful. They're amazing at air conditioning, their hive, whether it be for warm or for cold. In extremely hot times, they will collect water. They use evaporative cooling techniques and fanning to make sure their brood is staying at the perfect temperature. In the cold times, they will disconnect their wing muscles and vibrate to warm the hive. The honey is their fuel and they can again keep their brood at the right temperature. So the bees will be fine in the extremes of temperature, whether it be in extremely hot arid climates to the cold snowy areas.

Will the entrance reducer work on the Flow Hive 2? 

We do have those for you and I have tried to design it so that it will fit both the Flow Hive 2 and also the Classic. If you come around here, I'll show you how that works. These wing screws can screw into any of our hives. And we've got a littleinstructional video to show you just how to do that. There are a few different holes here, which you don't really need to use unless you really want to fasten it down. Perhaps you're doing a show-and-tell, and you want to make sure that there aren’t any gaps and you can then use screws to screw it down even more permanently. If you were to turn that around as a closure, for instance, then you could use these screws and one of these to really screw that down. But you don't really need to think about them if you're using it in a normal outdoor situation. It's just a case of putting your entrance reducer, making sure it's in the right spot, making a little mark. If you've got Araucaria wood, you'll need to drill a pilot hole, the Cedar wood, you can let it self tap just by pressing it firmly and screwing this L-screw in. And then you've got a nice entrance reducer, which you can remove and put back again, simply by turning the L-screws like that.

I’m installing a 5 frame nuc. What's the best way to do that, to ensure a successful first year?

So a 5-frame nuc is fantastic, that's the best way to start. You're starting with an already-going colony that already has a queen, which already has pollen stores, honey stores, and so on. So what you'll need to do is get in your beesuit, get your smoker out, watch ourhow-to videos. If you're nervous, get some help and install your bees into the brood box. Look after them and they'll grow. And the idea is that you wait till the remaining frames are full. If you've got this size, which has eight brood frames, you need to add the remaining three brood frames. 

And if there's a good abundance of nectar and pollen, they will quickly draw the wax on those and start using them readily in their hive. And your colony will be away. If there's not an abundance of nectar and pollen, it could be slow. You might have to be patient. If you find the hive is getting quite light in weight and they’re not really storing any honey, then you may need to feed them in this area. We don't need to feed them pretty much ever, but in other areas, people do feed them at certain times of year in order to speed up that process. And in extremes to also keep them alive. If you want to watch a video on installing a nuc, go to ourYouTube channel, or jump onTheBeekeeper.org, where we've got an in-depth training course for you.

How do I install a package of bees into my Flow Hive?

A package is basically an artificial swarm. You've got a beekeeper that has taken frames out of here, and they've shaken all these bees into a little box. And in there they put a queen in a little cage along with about five or so escort bees and a tin of syrup for the bees to feed on while they're in the mail. That then gets posted. In a number of countries that's allowed and you'll get some odd looks from the post person as they rock up at you with this buzzing box of bees. And what you'll need to do is, get in your bee suit, get out your smoker, wear your gloves as well. And you'd beshaking those bees into your brood box, putting in the queen in the queen cage. Look after them and they'll grow. 

What’s the difference between a Flow hive and a traditional hive?

Okay, so the brood box is a box about this size and it's usually made out of any timber, there are even plastic ones available. And what you have is brood frames in here, which also double as your honey frames. So what you could expect on a conventional Langstroth hive is a box like this, usually on a baseboard that is usually just a straight, flat bottom baseboard without the ventilation and so on. You'll also find conventional Langstroth hives with baseboards that have ventilation as well, but typically just a simple baseboard, a box, frames like this, then the next box will have frames like this as well. The bees will do their work, making and storing their honey and drawing their wax. Beekeepers will typically use a plastic foundation or a wax foundation, and if they're using wax foundation, they'll put wires through here. And that will mean that the comb will be nice and strong for spinning in a centrifuge. 

So the big difference is the harvesting process is taking out the frames full with the honeycomb and taking that into a processing area, using a hot knife to cut off the capping, putting those frames into a centrifuge, spinning it at a great speed to spin all the honey out and repeating the process for the remaining frames. And then taking those frames back to your hive again, which for me, when I was harvesting in that conventional fashion for many years, selling honey to the local shops, I thought there had to be a better way. And that's where the Flow Hive was born from an idea of company, just turn the tap and the honey comes out. And eventually, we were able to invent that after a decade of my father and I working away. And that's what the Flow Frames are. So a Flow Hive is a hive that has Flow Frames in it. Now we've added more features these days with extra pest management features and, and things down the bottom here. But basically, any hive with our Flow Frame extracting system could be called a Flow Hive. And that's the big difference.

I want to get into beekeeping, but I am terrified of bees, any suggestions?

If you're starting out, bees can be a bit terrifying, you've got a whole box of stinging insects and so on. And the best way to start if you are feeling a bit nervous, is to start getting used to the idea of beekeeping. Watch the videos, have a look atTheBeekeeper.org and then for your first inspections, go and do that with somebody else, whether it be on an organised bee course or with a friend. Keep space and just give yourself a gentle introduction, make sure you've got a good beesuit and gloves and protect yourself. Just get that sense of what it's like to pull out a frame of brood from the brood box and hold that in your hand and marvel at the amazing world of bees. And you'll probably find that it gets a bit addictive after that.

Have you seen much difference between the 8 the 10 frame hives, using a single brood, in terms of the swarming propensity in the Flow Hive?

So the bigger the hive, the more room they've got, and one of the triggers of swarming is the amount of room in the hive for the queen to keep laying. So having a bigger hive, whether it be slightly wider, like the 10 frame size Langstroth, that matches up with the Flow 7 frame, then that will be more room with less crowded activity as your colony expands. Adding more boxes is probably the way to go if you're wanting to use that strategy to reduce swarming. You could add another super, or you could add another brood box and come springtime, just make sure there's some area for the queen to lay. If you open the windows of your hive and you're seeing that there are so many bees inside there that you can hardly see the combs, that may trigger them to start raising queens and start the swarming process.

Typically in the springtime, they’re more crowded. At other times of year, they're less likely to swarm. But especially in the springtime, my favourite strategy is to take splits and keep the hives a bit smaller. That works for me in this region. However, in the colder regions, people tend to run the bigger size hives. The 10 frame Langstroth matches with the Flow 7 frame, and they also tend to stack another brood box or super on as well. And that just gives a bit more room when the whole nectar season is compressed into a short amount of time where everything is flowering at once. And it gives room for the bees to really build up like they want to, when there's a lot of forage around.

I caught a swarm and have them in a nuc box, they're slowly building their comb. Should I leave them in the new box until it's really full? Or should I just move it into the brood box now, before it gets into winter and really cold days? (NSW, Australia)

Okay, good question and well done for catching the swarm. That's a great adventurous way to start your beekeeping. I think you might be better off at this time of year, moving them into your brood box. The reason being is the nuc boxes don't tend to have a lot of insulation, so it'll just be a little bit easier for them if you move them into the brood box. Now having said that, if they're a really small, slow swarm, you can also get a half-sized box at a general beekeeping suppliers, that has more insulation than a nuc box. That typically is just corflute. Now, if you've already got one of those boxes, you can leave them and let them fill all of the frames in the new box first. If it is the corflute kind of material that the new box is made out of, then I'd recommend transferring to either one of these eight frame size boxes or a five frame nuc box that's built of wood or something more insulating.

There is a bit of mould on the inside of the inner cover towards the super. Is there anything you can do to prevent this? Is it an issue?

It's a very wet time of year here and well done for getting in there and having a look. That typically may happen when there's not a whole lot of bees servicing the super area. So if this area is largely left vacant, then the bees won't be getting around looking after all the surfaces. If that's the case and you find this is empty and there's not much going on, then I would recommend removing the super and then putting the inner cover directly on top of your brood box, so it can be maintained by the bees.

The bees are going really well, foraging and waxing up the super. Should I take the super off for winter? If I decide to leave it on, what could go wrong? (Melbourne, Australia)

Okay, good question. My sister keeps bees down in that area too, and she has been sending me some beautiful jars of honey as well. So the main thing you need to be thinking about is the queen excluder, which we have just removed from this hive. The queen excluder goes between these two boxes. And at the very least you should remove the queen excluder for winter. Some people also choose to remove the Flow super for winter. And then there's a choice that you might want to ask around the local beekeepers, whether to downsize your hive over the winter, or let them use the remaining stores in the Flow Frames over the winter. Either way, remove the queen excluder and make sure you're putting that back again in the springtime. Some queens will lay eggs in the Flow super, so if you are experimenting without the queen excluder come springtime, then you need to check the Flow Frames, and make sure the queen isn't using them for laying brood.

What flowering plants do you prefer for the flavour in your honey? (Southeastern USA)

My favourite thing is to have diversity. I love this honey, not because it's my most favourite flavour to have on my porridge every morning, but it's just so floral and it's such a burst. And if you're tasting this flavour against this darker one, then this one will be more malty and this one will be more, how do I describe it? It's like a flower burst in your mouth. So my favourite thing is to have multiple different flavours. And the great thing is that I'm still tasting new and different honeys. There are as many different different types of honey as there are nectar-producing flowers in the world. 

So in your area, you will get beautiful, different honeys that are very unique to your area, most likely. In urban areas, you also get beautiful honey from the things that people plant in their gardens and also quite a long extended season because of the variety of plants. The ironbark here is one of my favourites. It's a very classic Australian eucalypt flavour. This one here is the wild quince, or it also gets called crow's Ash, which is a very floral one. Some people don't like it because it's too intense, but I like it just for the difference in flavours. There are other flavours that I really like, the tuckerroo is a bit like a lollipop. It's such an incredible texture and that flowers in the springtime in our area as well. 

There are some flavours that I don't like as well. There's one called possum piss honey, which if anyone's ever had a possum living in the ceiling, they'll know what I mean when they smell this honey. And funnily enough, we actually have two possums living in this ceiling. That flavour is the red ash flower in this area. And it's very strong and it's not so desirable. If it's mixed with other honeys, in a very small amount, it can be quite nice, but it's very overpowering. But I love having that as well, because you can say taste this, and people are just really wowed out by the honey. And it's a beautiful experience to share that. And also the conversations that come up around tasting the honey are amazing.

I haven’t inspected the hive for over three weeks, should I just inspect the brood box or do a whole hive inspection? (Western Australia)

So generally when you're doing your inspections, you're inspecting the brood, that's it. You don't need to inspect the honey frames unless you want to really learn and see what's going on. So it's a matter of removing this top box, get some help if it's nice and full and heavy, and then you can have a look and see what's going on in the bottom box here. You might want to have a look atTheBeekeeper.org, do some training, do some reading so you know what you're looking at. Or get a friend that's been into beekeeping for a while already and can help you with that first brood inspection so you know what to look for.

I’ve just requeened the hive due to the aggressive bees. I went to check them about 10 days ago, and I found the queen out of the cage and she seemed to be doing fine. But because there were bees buzzing around, I closed up the brood box without searching for fresh eggs. Is it enough to spot the new queen? Or should I go in now and again, to look for new eggs?

Wow. Some fantastic beekeeping there. If you have spotted the queen in there, it's most likely that you're good to go. Sometimes it's hard to spot the queen. So you are looking for signs that she's there, the bee eggs down the cells and the young larvae. However, on a very rare occasion, you can get the queen that's not laying. So if you really want to be sure, jump back in there in another few weeks time, have a look and see if there's any eggs or young larvae, and that's a definite that you're good. But if you don't have time to do that, then there’s a very, very good chance that you're fine if the queen's happy in the hive and you've seen her.

The brood box is looking full, there’s lots of brood and comb and honey, but the bees are not moving much into the Flow Frames. Is it due to the cold or wet weather? Should I smear some wax on the Flow Frames? 

Generally, what I do is leave it and wait till the bees are ready to build up. And what happens is when the bees fill this box and you open the windows and you can see a lot of bees in there, and that coincides with a good nectar flow, which is usually why they're building up, there was a good nectar flow. Then you'll get the bees doing their work on the Flow Frames and storing the honey. It's up to you. If you're getting a bit impatient, you might like to scrape some burr comb off the top of the frames. Typically, if your hive is ready to put the super on, then you'll be getting a bit of buildup on top of here. When it's some burr comb, you can scrape that off with your hive tool, use a bit of smoke to get the bees out of the way as you scrape that. And then with your hive tool, you can just mash that wax into the surface of the Flow Frame, you won't break them. And do it in the window area where you can enjoy watching them recycle that wax. But again, it's not necessary. Some patience will get you there.

Why does the hive in your workshop have a flat roof?

So this is the inner cover, which adds a bit of insulation, and also provides the spacing of the Flow Frames, so you're less likely to get buildup on top of them connecting to the lid. So you need some sort of inner cover and then our gabled roof goes on top of that, like this. So it slides right over and down like that. And then there are these little wing screws on the side. During rough weather they will help hold your roof on. Generally, you don't need to use those wing screws, but if you've got a strong wind warning or you live in a particularly windy area, you could screw them in to hold your roof on.

When you do a split, do you requeen or let the colony raise the queen after the split? Or do you take the queen with the new split?

So you can go either way with that one. If you're allowing them to raise their own queen, then you just need to make sure there are eggs down some cells in both the parent colony and the one you split. So you may even decide not to bother looking for the queen in that case, as long as both of them have the resources, being young eggs to raise a queen from there. Chances are that the one without the queen will go and raise a new queen. If you're introducing a queen, you will need to find which box has the queen in it so that you can introduce it to the one without, and there's all sorts of different techniques. But what I tend to do is just put the split right beside the parent hive and I’ll typically move the parent hive over a bit to give the smaller or weaker colony the lion's share of the bees returning home. And that way you're giving the weaker colony a bit of a headstart.

What is the story of the brood wall behind you?

So this is all sorts of old hives. Wow, this box here was from a hive that I purchased off a beekeeper 20 years ago. Here are some of the first designs we had for making our Flow Hives before we moved on to the more fancy versions. There are all sorts of different examples here that were lying around and we thought, why not put them on the wall and add a nice backdrop for making videos. And also just a nice feature in our boardroom adding a bit of character here to the wall.

I’ve got some water containers with stones in them around for the bees, but am finding a few dead bees in them. Is there any way I can make it a little bit safer for the bees?

So the stones are a great idea, it gives them somewhere to stand. So bees will tend to prefer to suck on wet sand or stones, as you have it rather than just be drinking at the edge of the pool, because they can get accidentally immersed in that environment. It's normal to see bees at the end of their life around water, simply because at the end of the short life of a bee, four to six weeks or so, if it's foraging season, then you'll find that collecting water is one of the last jobs they do. So you'll find bees tattered and worn out beside the water's edge and taking their last job on as they finish their short life as a forager. So it wouldn't be too concerned about some bees dying by the water.

What do you put in the ant guards?

So this one here, we were making a little video. We already filled that up with some oil. So cooking oil is probably one of the easier things to use. It doesn't evaporate like water does. If you use water, you'll have to be topping it up every other day. Whereas if you use a cooking oil, then it'll stay in there for much longer. You can also use a grease like a white Vaseline, and we've included an area on the underside here to add some grease as well. If you want to increase the ant barrier, if you're having real trouble with ants still getting onto your hive, you can add some grease underneath here as well. And that way the ants will find it hard to get up onto your leg. You'll need to remove the foliage from touching your hive. If your hive is out in the garden, or there's a lot of grass and it's touching your hive, then the ant guards won't help much. So remove the foliage, a bit of cooking oil in there, raise the lid if you've got problems with larger ants stepping over, or screw it down lower, if you just have smaller ants. And that seems to work quite nicely.

What is the difference between the ant guards for the Flow Hive 2+ and the Flow Hive 2?

So the difference is the bolt size. So with the Flow Hive 2+ we have gone to this cast aluminium. And while we're at it, we up-sized the bolt and moved it out further to the corner for increased stability. We didn't really have reports of hives falling over due to the size of the bolts at all, but we thought it just looks more stable and feels more sturdy. So we upsized that. So that means we've had to go and make injection moulds for the smaller sized bolt as well, because we knew you'd ask and want some ant caps for your Flow Hive 2.

There is some propolis in my Flow Frames. Do I need to clean them before I put them back into the hive for the season? (Georgia, USA)

If they're really grimy, then you might want to give them a hot water wash, shake the water out. Do that when the frames are set to the open position, dry them out, make sure the frames are in the closed position, so the cells are formed. Give them back to the bees and they'll look after them from there. Mostly you can just put them straight back in unless they've got mould or things like that. And the bees will get in there and start the process of covering them in wax and making them ready for storing honey. 

So generally let the bees do the work where you can, but up to you. It depends, maybe vermin got into them and they need a bit of a clean, but if they've been stored in a nice cold environment or in a chest freezer and then they should be ready to go back on as they are. Have a look, make sure your cells are in the formed position, the best spot to look at that is along the bottom edge of the frame, where you can clearly see whether the parts are in their correct position. If you’re unsure, just put the key in the top slot and turn it and make sure those parts are pushed into thecell formed position.

What would be the best model for the Northern climate of Canada? Would I need to use extra insulation?

So for the colder climates, the larger size hive seems to be more popular. It not only suits what people normally do in that area, with the 10 frame sized Langstroth which is seven of our Flow Frames. It also just stores a bit more honey in the box and also potentially they'll store a bit of honey on the edges of the brood as well. Which means that you've got just a bit more stores for winter and also a bigger area for your colony to expand in the springtime when that real abundance of nectar hits in those colder climates. Then your bees will be expanding very quickly and wanting a bit of a larger hive. So I would go for our Flow Hive 7 in that case, in the colder areas. 

As far as insulation goes, some people tend to put some insulation under the lid during the wintertime. You can use an old polystyrene box and put insulation on top of here as an extra added laye. There are other things you could use also, but some kind of insulation, which just limits the amount of condensation that might form on the underside of the inner cover. It's okay for condensation to form on the inner walls of the beehive. Many beekeepers say that that's actually a good thing, because the bees can use that as a water source. But you don't want it dripping from the roof, wetting your bees. And that's the reason why a bit of insulation on top is a good idea. 

It's a controversial topic. Some people believe that you should really wrap your hive up for the winter. In the end, try and see what works for you. If you want to add a complete insulation wrap,, then have a look at how other people do it and follow suit. I'm no expert when it comes to snow and beehives and whatnot. 

Fred Dunn is on the thread. He's got some great training videos. He's also made some great contributions toTheBeekeeper.org, which is our online course. It’s very in-depth, with experts from all around the world and is also a fundraiser for our bees, for habitat regeneration and protection of our pollinators.

And have a look there for some more in-depth training material. 

Thank you so much for all your questions and let us know what you'd like us to tune in on next week. 

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