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Go with the "Flow"? Or no?

 
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I'm about to invest in hives. This is a completely new venture, for us. If we go with Langstroth, we will go for the 8 instead of 10 frame boxes, because... well, we ain't getting any younger. But, before we go that route, I want to explore other options. Due to the windy cold of our winters, I've already been strongly advised against horizontal hives,  by locals, so sadly, those are off the table, for us. Drawing them to a hollowed out tree requires a decent sized hollowed out tree - an accommodation my hunts in our woods has not proffered. I do NOT want a plastic one, and can't find an affordable food safe barrel, locally.

Enter the "flow hives". The appeal is obvious::
1 - easy harvesting of honey, with minimal disturbance of the bees (though I'm not sure how that applies to/ affects the harvest of the wax, which I'll also need, eventually)
2 - windows that allow hands-off inspection of inner workings of the hive
3 - peaked roof, to prevent the weight of snow & discourage is use as a comfy hangout for our abundance of bee-eating critters
4 - comparable initial cash outlay

So, the pros look great, but I know I'm missing the cons. Can you, pretty please, with honey on top, help me weigh it all out?
 
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From. beekeeping-with-horizontal-hives/
"While Langstroth hives are vertically stacked boxes, horizontal hives are single story hives that expand the width of the box in order to hold many more bars or frames.
When on a hive stand, horizontal hives sit at waist level, making them easy to work on.  
The biggest benefit of horizontal hives is no heavy lifting. In traditional Langstroth hives, you’ll need to lift boxes that weigh 50 lbs or more to access the frames underneath.
With horizontal hives, the only thing you will be lifting are the frames.  "

As a beekeeper for 60 years I can say I know of no reason to not use a horizontal hive if thats your bent.
I use Langstroth because thats what I started with.
I would ask the naysayers for more explanations about their own thoughts.
If you are going commercial they may be awkward to move around, if its a domestic situation I believe they would be good.

Flow are ok for small production I have one , but have never set it up!

Sloping roofs can be put on conventional hives
What bee eating critters do you have, I am intrigued ?
 
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I get the anti-plastic approach, but they are emphatically the best commercially available hives that you can buy, from the point of view of the bees. The additional insulation rating they provide is significant year round, and the materials will last at least as long as wooden hives.

I have used wood and polystyrene and will never go back to wood.

Flow hive is unnecessarily expensive and complex. For a single colony or two you can do perfectly will using crush and strain techniques for free, and you still need all the other hive equipment, and regular inspections.
 
Carla Burke
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Plastic is not an option, because I am doing everything I can to reduce/ eliminate the use of plastic on our homestead.

Our use wouldn't be commercial, though I do use both honey and beeswax in many of my herbal preparations, which I do share with family and friends. So, more than just what the two of us would consume - but, I don't sell my herbal stuff, either.

The bee-eaters are actually more like honey eaters - other than the insects (dragonflies, wasps, and I think, some birds), which of course wouldn't 'bee' put off by the roof shape. Honey eaters, on the other hand, I probably wouldn't stand a chance against, regardless of the roof shape, lol - namely raccoons and black bears. I guess other than visual appeal, the real advantage to the peaked roof is weather/moisture resistance.
 
Michael Cox
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Ok, if you are dead set against poly then you probably want to consider a log hive variant. I'm not a fan of the Kenyan style top bar hives in cold climates. I've tried it and had poor success. You can hollow a log with minimal tooling if you are happy to take your time and apply some effort.  This gets you the added thickness (insulation factor), without much expense. A commercial hive will easily cost £150+. Tools to make a log hive may cost £100 - you just need logs of sufficient diameter and time.
 
Carla Burke
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We're not building. We're not carving. We're not burning. We ARE disabled, and are truly doing our best to find the most do-able, practical, permie way to be as self sufficient as possible, in the long run. Maybe I would be better off in rephrasing my question? So...

The appeal of the Flow Hives are obvious:
1 - easy harvesting of honey, with minimal disturbance of the bees (though I'm not sure how that applies to/ affects the harvest of the wax, which I'll also need, eventually)
2 - windows that allow hands-off inspection of inner workings of the hive
3 - peaked roof, to prevent the weight of snow & discourage is use as a comfy hangout for our abundance of bee-eating critters
4 - comparable initial cash outlay

So, the pros look great, but I know I'm missing the cons. Can you, pretty please, with honey on top, help me weigh it all out?

 
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The idea behind flow hives is interesting but they don't make much sense to me.

Commercial beekeepers are in it to make money & the flow hives are double or more the cost of others. They seem to be well made out of very nice wood but the extra cost seems like it would work against commercial keepers goals. Unless something has changed I think the flow hives have nonstandard footprints so it wouldn't be possible to add onto them with commonly available boxes. Since a typical full sized colony needs two deep 10 frame boxes for bees plus one full 10 frame super for winter food the 6 & 7 frame single brood box flow hives seem too small & therefore inadequate for the bees needs.  Commercial beekeepers often keep adding on several supers until honey harvest time. Since the flow hive boxes & the supers are smaller than typical that seems like it would be an expensive logistical problem. It seems like the beekeeper would either need to constantly capture swarms or make splits.

The same limitations apply for the casual beekeeper with just a few colonies. Since it's generally considered to be a good idea to have at least 2 colonies that immediately doubles the expense. So, for approximately the same cost one could buy a single undersized flow hive or enough standard equipment for 2 complete colonies. In theory harvesting the honey might be easier in terms of not having to lift heavy supers. What I sometimes do though is harvest 3 frames at a time since that is what will fit in a 5 gallon bucket.

It takes minimal effort to remove a few frames, slice the caps off the honey, then replace the wax & frames. The bees can start using that comb again almost immediately. I've wondered how long a harvested flow hive foundation might sit idle after harvest. How long does it take the bees to realize it's empty comb since it's still capped? How much extra time & effort does it take them to repair the split down the middle of the comb?

The windows might be somewhat useful but they're not going to provide a complete look deep inside. There are going to be times when you just need to pop the hood for a closer inspection. Horizontal hives make that easy.

The cost comparisons above are with basic pine boxes. There are better woods available for greater cost but I think still cheaper than flow hives.

As far as keeping bees alive in winter goes I strongly recommend this book written by an experienced beekeeper from an extremely cold climate. Translated by Leo from the horizontal hive company mentioned above. The book has detailed plans. So does the website & they also sell completed boxes.
Staff note (Pearl Sutton) :

Dr Leo's website https://horizontalhive.com/

Staff note (Pearl Sutton) :

Dr Leo was on permies, put "Leo Sharashkin" in the search box at the top of the page to find his posts

 
Mike Barkley
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Plastic is not an option



I think you posted this while I was writing the reply above. Flow hives have plastic foundation. The tray that catches the honey is plastic. The windows probably are too.
 
Carla Burke
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THAT is exactly what I needed to know! Thank you SOO much, Mike! I'll pass on the flow hives, and make myself a bigger pita to the local apiarists, until they give me more solid reasons to avoid the horizontal hives, because Langstroth truly holds no appeal, to me. I just know that if I'm going to get this project started for this spring, I've gotta get off the fence, and get it done, now.
 
Carla Burke
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Mike Barkley wrote:

Plastic is not an option



I think you posted this while I was writing the reply above. Flow hives have plastic foundation. The tray that catches the honey is plastic. The windows probably are too.



Ugh. For some reason, I was thinking glass. Ok - yet another major con, to the flow hives!
 
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Thank you Mike, for writing my concerns so well!

As for an observation window, one could insert them in hive bodies yourself. Here is a lady doing it with plexiglass. It wouldn't be much more trouble to make a recessed rectangle to fit real glass instead. I however would only do that to one box per hive. Just so much work, when you are going to need to open the hive aanyway.

 
John C Daley
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Carla, at the end of the day it has to be you decision.
Pros and cons of each have been explained.
In my opinion a single hive would be enough until you learn more about bees.
I am concerned you have wiped out plastic, Langstroth[ Langstroth truly holds no appeal, to me.]
You cannot build them.
So will you be able to work them?
can you make something actually work for you?

 
Carla Burke
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John C Daley wrote:Carla, at the end of the day it has to be you decision.
Pros and cons of each have been explained.
In my opinion a single hive would be enough until you learn more about bees.
I am concerned you have wiped out plastic, Langstroth[ Langstroth truly holds no appeal, to me.]
You cannot build them.
So will you be able to work them?
can you make something actually work for you?


Thank you, John, for your concern - even if it's only about my grip on reality, lol. If I can find a way to get it set up, I'll be able to do it. The reason I can't build, is more a time factor, than anything* - but, I *could* build from a pre-cut kit. Hollowing out a tree, on the other hand, would be more than I could physically manage - like lifting the supers, in the Langstroth. Burning one out is beyond my skills.

* My disabilities slow me down, often make things more difficult - but they don't stop me. Starting a build now would make me miss yet another year, and I REALLY want to get it started this spring.
 
John C Daley
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Carla, I dont share or understand your situation BUT.
Is there another way to achieve what you want, can you change the way things normally happen to ensure the change helps you make it happen.
For example, you said you cannot lift a super, why cannot something be designed and built so you do not need to lift one?
I guess that is where a flow hive may work, but mechanical devices can do lots of things.
https://beekeepingwithdisabilities.com/
Adapting beekeeping for disabled people
All sorts of things are done so beekeeping is possible, lifters, modified hives etc etc
 
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Horizontal hives, is built right, are just as insulated as any decent building. Make it double walled, with insulation between them. The window, just like any window in a house, is a cold air leak, the R value of glass is under 2.

I'm wondering what they have against horizontals, because with wind, they have their center of mass closer to the ground, I'd say they are no more likely to blow over than any. Please keep me up on what they say, as I'm in your climate, and I'm planning horizontal, for the same reasons  you are looking at, not strong enough to lift stuff, or to climb a ladder some days.

I second the book Mike Barkley recommended.
It's EXCELLENT. The author did a giveaway here, and talked a LOT here, search here on permies for Leo Sharashkin and read what he said. He's in MO too, and he has no problems with his hives.

:D
 
Carla Burke
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Wow! John, thank you for those links! It never even occurred to me that an organization like that existed. I'll dig into that, this afternoon!

Pearl, I've been digging through all of this since before we bought our place, so I was pretty frustrated and confused - and skeptical, when the local beekeepers (not as an organization, just people I came across who said they kept bees) said horizontal hives wouldn't work, here. They all said they weren't warm enough, in the winter. But, I think I've found a way - and, I think it needs its own thread! So, soonlyish, I'll start that thread - maybe today. But, the flow hives are out the window, as far as I'm concerned. Before I start that thread, I want to jump into the rabbit hole John showed me,  and see what that produces in my head, draw up my new ideas, including possibly meshing what is bouncing through my gray matter and what I find in those links, then see if I can make it all make sense for someone else, lol. A hint - I'm thinking of starting with a kit.
 
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If warmth is the concern, can you just wrap it with insulation for the winter? My husband went with Langstroth since he bought two hives that someone gave up on. That’s what he did on the advice of a couple beekeepers and so far at least it has worked.  We are only in second year with bees.  We went from two to four hives and had several swarms.  Still learning…
 
Carla Burke
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Tina Hillel wrote:If warmth is the concern, can you just wrap it with insulation for the winter? My husband went with Langstroth since he bought two hives that someone gave up on. That’s what he did on the advice of a couple beekeepers and so far at least it has worked.  We are only in second year with bees.  We went from two to four hives and had several swarms.  Still learning…



Yup - and just how I plan to do it is going to be in the other thread, that I haven't started, yet. The day ran away from me, and I've still not read anymore, but it's coming...
 
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The natural way that honeybees grow their hive is from the center out and the top down. That is the main reason that horizontal hives are harder to manage. In the horizontal hive, you are attempting to force them to grow their hive laterally. It is unnatural to them and for you, it is a whole new different system to learn. Remember the adage: Don't try to get milk out of the bull? It applies here.
The flow hive has been much hyped as something that is super convenient and does not disturb the bees. Don't believe it
1/ crushing the comb to let the honey flow downward is super disturbing for them.
2/ you can still catch a few honey bees that were walking on the frame[s] you are disrupting.
3/ Even with the glass window installed properly in one of the walls, it is hard to see if you are getting only "capped" ripe honey.
If you tap in honey that is not ripe, it will spoil. How many times I have gotten a box which I thought was "ripe", only to discover that this beautiful honey had not been capped yet!
Going with shorter frames will make your lifting easier.
The main reason that the langstroth hive is so popular is that a lot of people found this equipment easy to handle and it was mass produced first: They've taken great care in manufacturing the boxes so that everything is interchangeable. You can, however make your boxes any dimension you choose. If you are looking for not having to lift 60 Lbs, there are 2 solutions:
1/ harvest frame by frame. To do that , smoke the hive, open it up and choose the fullest frames that are completely capped [Usually in the center]. You can then rearrange the frames, putting the ones that are almost full to the center or uncapped to finish them faster. [You will have to do a certain amount of rearranging anyway, especially after you harvest some frames, at the end of the season, in case of using a dead out to help another hive etc. you might as well learn how right off the bat. Yep, it is disruptive because you will have the hive open for a long time. Just make sure to respect the bee space between the frames! and put the boxes back in the same order.
2/ You might want to look at the Warré hive, which was built in France by a bishop who was dismayed that we were forcing the bees to live in un-natural hives. The boxes are square 12"X 12", closer mimicking the roundness of a tree.
Here is a site to help you gauge if it is for you:
https://www.perfectbee.com/your-beehive/beehives-and-accessories/a-detailed-look-at-the-warre-beehive
     a/// It respects the natural tendency of bees to grow top to bottom. This means that you have to add the empty super at the bottom. If you do not have a hive lifter, you could lift each box one by one, add the empty over the floor, then put the boxes back in the same order as you found them. That is what is discouraging to a lot of people and a little more work. But you could take this opportunity to weigh each box to approximate how much honey you will be able to extract later on. Or, as one beekeeper suggested: Just put on all the supers at one time, but install a thin board that you can just remove between the boxes. The bees might have it glued to that board, though, but it might not be too hard to remove if you used say a thin Plexiglass?
You can make bars and let them build their own comb. If you have a good flow, that is preferable, as the wax they will secrete is better for them than purchasing foundation [that is costly!]
     b/// In this respect, I would prefer to copy the langstroth that has separate frames: The tendency of bees to glue everything means that if they don't have separate frames, they will glue the edges at the ends to the box itself, making the harvest more time consuming and weakening the comb before extraction. Also, by having your own frames, the extraction process will be easier.
You will definitely have less honey per box since the box is smaller,  and the frames are only 11-13/16"X 7-15/16",  compared with Langstroth 19"X 9-1/8" minus the bee space so it will be also lighter to lift. But you may have more boxes. Also, there is always a box of "mixed" brood and honey comb. Having less, small mixed frames means more honey.
     c/// I also love the exterior handles of the Warré: they are easier to grab and you can be assured that every wall will be at least 3/4" :The langstroth handles, recessed, are only 1/4"thick!  When the weather is -40F, you need a lot of insulation to make up for that measly 1/4"of wood!! (By the way, I do not use the "cozi" for winter protection: It is plastic, so it favorizes condensation/ mold mildew.
     d/// there is also a special roof for ventilation, which was missing in the Langstroth. In winter, this roof can be arranged to add insulation, or to feed the bees a feature with is not there in the Langstroth.
I have not worked Warrés because I started with Langstroth. But I had to add all the features missing from the Langstroth, like the insulated roof, the bottom floor and the handles. As I'm growing older, I too am looking to make it easier to work the hives! I wish I had started with Warrés!
This is the only store I found in the US that sells Warré hives, and they are pricey. But if you are handy and don't feel like you have to use expensive cedar, you should be able to make perfectly good equipment yourself. https://www.thewarrestore.com/products/
 
Carla Burke
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Skipping my ideas for modifying a hive kit. I went with this one, from https://horizontalhive.com/

Screenshot_20220101-192644_DuckDuckGo.jpg
[Thumbnail for Screenshot_20220101-192644_DuckDuckGo.jpg]
 
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