Flow honey harvest in the rain

It was a rainy morning here, but that didn’t stop Cedar from harvesting a frame full of delicious honey. A lot of interesting questions were asked, about honey density, aggressive bees, winter preparations and when to get started in beekeeping.

 

 

Video transcription

Honey harvest

Hi, we’re here at Flow HQ and we're looking into the window of a Flow Hive and looking at the cross-section view of the bees making honey. Isn't it beautiful? You've got different colours, different flavours, and you can actually watch them getting down the cell and depositing the nectar and going through their process of creating honey. We're doing Q & A today, so if you've got questions, put them in the comments below and we'll get to answering those. And we might even do a bit of a rainy day harvest just because we can. It's typically not a day you would harvest honey in any conventional beekeeping, because pulling apart the hive right now, it's quite a cold day and we've got rain coming and going as well. So fingers crossed we won't get rained out. We might just set up while you're thinking of your questions to harvest a little bit of honey from this frame here.

Now I'm looking at these frames trying to choose one to harvest. Typically, you might decide to wait a little bit longer because you're seeing quite a lot of uncapped cells here. But if I go around to the side window, I can see the bees are doing a nice job of capping some honey in the side. So I'm going to take a guess that we've got some honey in this frame in the centre, and let's have a look at what comes out into the jar. If you wait a bit longer, you'll be more sure that your frames are full when you've got more capped honey at the back here. The capping is a little wax layer they put over the top of the cell to say it's ready to store and lucky for us, they store a bit more honey than they need. And we can share in some of the spoils as well.

I’m taking out that top cap here, all I'm going to do is put a key in the top and give it turn and that'll start the process. Now if it's a bit too hard to turn in one go, insert it a little way and turn it to a 90 degree like that. And what you'll soon see is honey starting to flow down into this tube at the bottom and out into your jar. Look at that, isn't that wonderful? Just watching it come down. Beautiful golden honey. 

Now in the centre of the hive, it's a bit warmer. If I chose an edge frame, because it's quite a cold day, then it would go a bit slower than this. So I'm going to go ahead and turn the key a couple more times just to harvest the entire frame. We could choose to harvest just part of a frame like we did last week. In this case, I'm going to go ahead and harvest this frame of honey. And look at that, it's a beautiful thing, watching honey flow out of this hive. I'm going to have to just have a little taste of that and see what it's like. It has the flavour of the nectar they're bringing in, which is the paperbark honey. And it's got this kind of almost burnt caramel kind of flavour, which when the bees are bringing it in, has this overpowering kind of smell that wafts right through our office here. And it's quite amazing to have that sense of the bees dehydrating their honey, just wafting up through the office. 


Beekeeping Questions

I’ve got a Hybrid Flow Hive and when I did an inspection, the comb on the wooden frames tore. What can I do to avoid this?

The Hybrid hive is one where we've got conventional wooden frames that the bees just fill with their own honeycomb on the edge and the Flow Frames in the centre. Now, the question is when she pulled out some of those frames to harvest the honeycomb, or just to do an inspection, the comb tore. Now that's typical if their bees have gone a bit sideways and they've joined combs together. So the way to avoid that, and it's not entirely possible to completely avoid, but the way to avoid that is to get your hive tool down and cut any pieces that are going crossways. And look, it doesn't matter too much. If you rip the honeycomb a bit, if you put it back in, the bees will get in there and fix it up. They're really good at repairing honeycomb when it's torn. So you can either take it away and harvest that honeycomb, or you could just put it back in. The bees will repair that torn comb. 


Do you use an entrance reducer when the temperature gets colder (less than 10 degrees)?

So here we don't get too many colder months, where it gets as low as 10 degrees. We do get a little bit in the middle of winter, but still the days heat up warmer than that. And we really don't need to use the entrance reducer so much here. Unless we're moving a hive, or we've got a weak colony that we want to stop robber bees robbing the colony. So they're the two reasons that we would use them here, they're popular in a lot of areas of the world where they do get quite cold temperatures and a lot of slow months. And you might want to keep mice out or wasps out and things like that. So entrance reducers are more common in those colder regions.


Is it normal to find some dead bees at the front of your hive?

It absolutely is. And it's a nice thing to get out really early in the morning before the bees have cleaned the dead bees away. So the undertakers are doing their work in the hive. It's one of the many jobs in a beehive and they will take the dead out. Early in the morning is the time when you'll see what's going on in the hive, and it can be useful to detect early infestations of say the small hive beetle, because you might see a whole lot of larvae that has been ejected before it's ready and you'll see that on the landing board. Whereas later in the day, they would have cleaned that all off. 

So it's quite normal if you think about it. A hive like this could build up to potentially 30,000, 50,000 bees. And to maintain that population, if the worker bees are getting worn out and actually dying after four to six weeks, then there's going to have to be quite a big changeover, quite a lot of new bees emerging from their cells to keep up with a population like that. So it's pretty normal for quite a lot of dead bees to be at the front. However, if you see a carpet of dead bees, then something might be amiss. You could have an insecticide issue or something like that.


There is some water and mould in the pest management tray of my Flow Hive 2. Is this normal? (Michigan, USA)

It is pretty normal because it's not actually inside the beehive. The bees don't get to service that area, it's a collection tray underneath. So what happens is debris falls through, some pollen falls through, some water might go through the mesh and then you've got driving rain coming in the entrance. And that can be a perfect climate for a bit of mould, a bit of scum to build up. So just get your hive tool, the one that comes with our jacket kits, and just give it a good clean out. Put some oil in it if you're catching beetles and put it back in. If you're not catching beetles, then you've got a few choices. You can either just clean it out every now and then, and put it back in. Or you could even decide to run it upside down to save from debris collecting in the tray. Or you could remove it altogether if it's in those warmer times and give your beehive a lot of ventilation.


Does honey get thicker the longer you leave it? Or is the viscosity determined by temperature? 

The temperature has a big effect on it. Also your bees, at what moisture content they reduce the honey to. So ideally they’ll get it to about 18% or 16% somewhere in there, that'd be a nice thick honey. That'll keep forever on the shelf, provided the lid is on. But if it's up around 20% and above, then depending on how many colony-forming units of yeasts are in your honey, it could then ferment and will likely ferment. So the viscosity is one measure. But I can feel this honey is very warm here now because it has come from the centre of this hive. But it'll be much thicker and slower on the sides of the hive on a cold and rainy day like this. 

But yes, keep an eye on the viscosity. If it looks quite liquid, then you can let it cool down and see if it still performs like honey or whether it still feels a bit liquid. It still feels a bit liquid, it’s not the end of the world, it just means you'll need to consume that before fermentation might occur. You can keep it in the fridge, that'll prolong that time. Or you could just go straight into making some nice honey mead. But if you do want to check, there's a thing called a refractometer, which is a device you can put the honey on and it'll tell you the moisture content.


Drone bee

I'm just going to taste some mint and honey. So yummy, a garden delicacy.  Check out this drone, right on the window. The drones are a bit bigger than the other bees. They're a bit more Teddy bear shape than a queen bee, which has an elongated abdomen. And just look for the eyes that touch together in the middle. That's the telltale of a drone if you're just starting out. They're good ones to pick up because they don't have stingers. So if you've got kids and things, don't hand them a worker bee, hand them a drone bee to play with. They don't have any stings. It's very dark that one and it looks like it's pretty new to the world. The way it's moving is kind of slow and it's just working things out. If you see that it must have emerged from its cell, it's just giving it sort of wings go as it gets ready to perhaps take its first flight. 


I harvested honey today for the first time, and a lot of the bees were hanging around outside for the whole day. Will they go back in at night? Do you think they stayed outside because we harvested?

If you've harvested and you've got a very busy hive like this with a lot of bees in it, they'll need to clear out in order to repair the cells and also to get the humidity in the hive right. They'll actually need to make space in the hive. If you've harvested one frame, you probably won't notice much difference. If you've harvested all your frames, you'll probably find there's a bit of an exodus, especially if it's hot. The bees will get out of the way and allow that work to be done. And if there are any spills to clean up and things like that, they'll need some space to do that. 

If you've got a freezing night ahead, it could be a good idea not to harvest all your frames at once, because those bees might end up out the front of the hive during the night. And it could be a bit too cold for them. So it's the same with conventional harvesting. You end up with a lot of bees out the front if you're ripping off the honey boxes and replacing them with stickies and you'll end up with a whole lot of bees out of the hive for some time. They'll just go back in, yes is the short answer.


How long should it take for the bees to fill the brood box?

So it really depends on how strong your colony is and what kind of nectar and pollen sources are available. If you've got a good virile queen, who's ready to lay and a stimulus of the nectar coming in from the flowers, she will then get to work laying eggs and that will really increase the population and it can happen very fast. And typically in the springtime, you'll get that happening quite quickly and your box will fill up really fast, within weeks. But if there’s not a lot of nectar and pollen available, then it could take months and sometimes you'll get a little colony doing not much for a whole season. And then they might do really well the next season. So for that reason, it's a good idea to have more hives than one. So you can kind of benchmark it and work it out. And that way will increase your chances of storing some honey.

It's really interesting, this hive is bringing in honey, but the others around it aren’t. So it's lucky we have this hive because we get to harvest a beautiful amount of honey. So each colour is kind of different and depending on, I guess the genetics is how far they'll fly to get the nectar source and so on. So there's no one answer to that question, but if things align, you've got good genetics, good laying queen, nectar, they'll breed up very quickly. But typically it'll be months before you're putting your honey super on top. It's called the honey super that our box that's used for honey collection.


We have had bees for five months, and we inspected every one to two weeks, they were great bees, very calm. Then we went on holidays for five weeks, but since we returned the bees have become quite aggressive. We put the super on, but even when we smoke them, the bees are getting really cranky. What could have changed?

So it sounds to me like the queen has changed. Where you've got a gentle colony that's beautiful to open up and work with, they're not aggressive and then they change into an aggressive one, what's happened is they've either lost their queen and they don't have one currently. And that can put them into a more aggressive phase. Or what's happened is they've raised a new queen and the old queen has died or been superseded. For whatever reason, the hive has decided that they want to nurture and raise a new one. And that new queen will go and mate with whatever drones are in the area and during that mating will then she'll collect sperm from 30 or maybe even 60 drones. And all of that genetics will go into forming the new temperament of your hive.

So what you need to do to fix that is first ascertain whether you have a laying queen, so you get into your brood box or your brood inspection. And if you do find you have a laying queen, that’s an opportunity to change her to one with more calm genetics. That's if it bothers you, sometimes you've got an aggressive colony that's performing really well, producing really well, it's not really bothering anyone and you can handle it. Then you can leave it like that. But if it is bothering you and you want to get back to those calm genetics, then by all means go about the process of ordering a queen with known genetics. You'll need to take away the old queen and 24 hours or so later, put the new queen into the hive. Which will be in a little queen cage with about five or so escort bees to keep her alive in the post. The bees will chew away the block of candy at the end of her little cage, she'll be released into the hive and a month or so later, you'll have a different temperament in your hive. If that all feels a bit daunting, then get some help. There's plenty of beekeepers around that are really comfortable with doing that kind of work.


I found a lot of black and white pupae in the bottom of the tray and also hanging from the metal grill in the Flow Hive 2. It looks like the bees were pushing them through the grill. Is it too cold to check them now? And could this be chalkbrood?

Okay, black and white pupae, let me think. If anyone's got a good answer to that question, put it in the comments below. Normally the pupae will be white, but I guess they could be black if they're just starting to form their eyes and form their winged parts. So when you see that kind of thing, then something's a little bit amiss. They've gotten a little stressed. Let's say if you've locked them up for a few days, moving or something like that, or even even a day, sometimes they can get stressed and start rejecting the brood. Another reason could be small hive beetle could have laid in some of the brood frames and damaged some of the brood and the bees will eject them. But there could be other reasons. 

Chalkbrood looks like little mummies. They look like a little block of chalk. So that's quite easy to tell if it's chalkbrood, which is something you get when you've got that pathogen around. And then you get a damp cold climate in your hive. So if you're unsure, just keep an eye on it. If it still keeps on happening, then you might want to get some help to diagnose what it is.


During the winter, when the sun is out, is it okay to take off the side viewing panels of the super and leave it for a few hours to warm inside the hive? Or do the bees not like direct sunshine in their super? (Melbourne, Australia)

Solar heat the hives? I wouldn't be doing that because the sun can be quite strong. It's okay to take it off for half an hour or so, but I wouldn't leave it off for hours. You don't want a whole lot of direct sunlight coming in through the windows, or the temperature inside your hive actually might get too high. It’s best to just let the bees do their amazing job of air conditioning their hive. They disengage their wing muscles and they vibrate to warm the hive. They collect water and use evaporative cooling to cool the hive. And they're really good at getting the temperature right for their brood. So just let them do it. They're a European honeybee, so they're used to really cold conditions. They’re used to keeping their hive warm, even up to six months in snow. So they shouldn't need any help from solar heating.


I’m a newbie to Flow and have four hives. How many brood boxes should I aim for on each hive?

So it depends a little bit on you as a beekeeper, and you'll find that some beekeepers will really suggest you have to have multiple brood boxes and other beekeepers will go, no, a single brood box is fine. I'm of the opinion that a single brood box is fine, simply because to me, it's easier when you want to go to find a queen or do your brood inspection. There's only one box to look through the frames instead of multiple. And I find in this area, when you put a second brood box, what you get in it is mostly honey stores anyway. And I would rather them store honey in the Flow Frames so we can harvest in this gentle easy way without having to go through the conventional method of harvesting. So the way I like to do it is a single brood box and one or two honey supers on top of that. However, in those colder regions, lots of beekeepers will say it's important to have a couple of brood boxes. So it really is a bit location specific. You might want to find out from your local beekeepers, get more than one opinion before you make up your mind.


I've got the Flow Hive and just got a nuc. It's early winter and I have installed a frame feeder. How long before spring, should I replace it with an empty frame? (Queensland, Australia)

Probably just as you see the bees getting nice and busy. Spring can come a little bit early in this area, so it might actually come in the last month of winter. Keep an eye out for what your bees are doing and what going on. And if they're getting busy and there are flowers flowering etc, a nice early spring, then take away the feeder, they don't need it anymore. A lot of beekeepers will actually stop feeding over the wintertime. 

However, in Toowoomba, it doesn't get it doesn't really get so cold there. So you find there will be times in the winter that your bees will be foraging. So you can probably keep on feeding them during the winter if you really wanted to give them a helping hand. The general rule of thumb is feed them prior to winter so that they can get some stores and then leave them alone during that wintertime, and then open them up and check in the spring. So that's what beekeepers in those colder regions generally do. In this more subtropical kind of region, then you could feed them in winter if there was no forage for them. And yes, take it off before the spring. You don't want any honey stores polluted by sugar syrup.


What sort of bees do you keep?

These are Apis mellifera, which is a European honeybee that humans have dragged all around the world with them because they're such incredible pollinators. It's hard to believe, but a hive like this could pollinate 50 million flowers in a day, which is absolutely extraordinary. There is no other insect on the planet that can form a colony and do this amount of pollinating work. Plus they make this extraordinary thing we call honey. So Apis mellifera, the European honeybee is an amazing species. And that's the one generally kept in Flow Hives. In Japan, there's, there's Apis cerana japonica, which is an Asian honeybee and it needs a slightly smaller hive. So we have actually done some trials, modifying the Flow Hive, making them smaller, and they can use the Flow Frames with that other species. There's also the Cape honeybee in South Africa that has also been trialled and has successfully been used to store honey in the Flow Hives. But generally it's mainly for European honeybee. 

But if you're asking about what the actual breed is, then within that beekeepers will breed their favourite kind of breeds. And there'll be Italians, Caucasians, Carniolan, etc. And they're very similar and you find that you've got a mix of them in your hive. But breeders will swear that they're better at one thing or another. So the Caucasians for instance, are said to be able to throttle the size of their hive better to the nectar available and therefore last longer through the lean times, and also forage a little bit further. So you hear these things, but typically what happens is you get a bit of a mix because there's genetics from the drones. There might be 30 to 60 fathers and you'll find light bees and dark bees and all sorts in your hive.


Is the Flow Hive suitable for Asian bees?

The Asian honeybee has been successfully trialled. They produce a lot less honey than the European honeybee. However, it's a delicacy in countries like Japan, and you need to provide them a smaller size colony, a smaller size box than this. And you can shorten the Flow Frames they're made to be adaptable to fit that size. And yes, it has been successfully trialled with that Asian honeybee.


Now that it is getting a bit colder, I’ve noticed that the bees are migrating more to the middle of the Flow Frames and are not visible through the windows anymore. They're still really active during the day. Is that normal in winter? (Australia)

It is. What happens is your bees will form a cluster in the centre of the hive and they do that so they can keep nice and warm. They bundle together in those colder times, they disconnect their wing muscles and vibrate, and they keep themselves warm enough to survive. Honey is their fuel. So they will consume the honey in the bottom box. And then they will actually move up to another box if there is one and consume that if they need to as well. So for that reason, you want to remove the excluder before you've got a long winter ahead. And that way your queen might be left behind, below the excluder if that ball moves up into a higher box on your hive.


Does it matter whether you have a second super or a second brood box to get through the cold winter months? (Central USA)

It doesn't matter. If you live in an area where beekeepers are generally advising you need multiple boxes to get through the winter, then you can have a second super or second brood box. Now, some people prefer to take the Flow Frames off for the winter in those colder regions and other people will leave them on. Now, if you've taken your excluder out and left your Flow Frames on your hive for the bees to consume the honey, then you'll need to make sure come springtime, that you shake all the bees down to the bottom box and put your excluder back in place so the queen doesn't start laying in the Flow Frames. Some queens will some queens won't. So if you decide to run without an excluder altogether, then you'll need to find out whether your queen is one that lays in the Flow Frame cells. Getting back to your question of another brood box or another super it's really up to you. If you do another brood box, they will be storing a lot of honey in that, that can be used for getting your bees through the winter.


I have a spot where I'd like to put my hive, but in summer it will be in sun all day. Is it better to have the hive in the sun or the shade?

So here we get some pretty cracking hot days in the summer and these hives don't get any shade. And our bees are fine. Depends exactly how hot it gets, but here we get 40 degrees Celsius days. We get some really hot afternoons and our bees are great at keeping the hive cool. They're amazing at collecting water and doing the air conditioning. So generally bees will be fine in the sun. However, if you can give them a little bit of afternoon shade in those hot summer months, then that will help them out with the air conditioning of the hives. If you have a choice between full shade or full sun, I would go for sun. Pathogens like chalkbrood will take hold in the cold and damp times. And one method of getting rid of chalkbrood is moving your hive into the full sun. So ideally,l shade in those hot afternoons or even shade throughout the summer. But if you can't get that, then full sun is preferable over full shade. But if you can't get that, then still a lot of people are keeping bees in the full shade as well. 


How can you tell if the middle frames are properly capped if you can't see them from the side windows?

So you can't a hundred percent know unless you pull them out. But what we've done is designed it with windows here and windows there. And after a while, you'll get a fair idea of whether they're capped or not. If you want to do some learning and you're unsure what's going on, then pull some frames out and have a look. But after a while, the concept is you should be able to look through the windows and make an educated decision on what you're seeing as to when your honey is ready to harvest. Sometimes you can get into a situation where it looks like this all the way across. It looks really nice and full, but your bees are actually in a hungry time and have eaten some of the honey away, directly above the brood nest in the centre of the hive. So that can happen.

And typically in the early springtime here, you'll see that kind of pattern where you can get missing uncapped honey in the centre above the brood nest. But looking through the side windows and looking at this rear window tells a bit of a story of what's going on. And what we're seeing here is a pattern of filling when you've got a whole lot of cells like this, that's a filling pattern. When you've got a really patchy pattern with it all the way full and capped, then missing, then all the way full and capped, then missing kind of randomly on the frames, that's a hungry pattern. So when the bees are a bit hungry, it's not a good idea to harvest. And it's good to wait till you see a filling pattern again, and watch that for a little while. And if that filling pattern has been going good, and you've seen some nice capped honey, then it should be ready to harvest.


I recently took some honeycomb from the brood box to eat and I’ve noticed that since then, the super has dropped drastically in bee numbers. What would cause this? Are they building up the comb in the brood box again? (Brisbane, Australia)

I'm not sure. So if it's a great idea to keep an eye on the bee numbers, it's one of the early warning signs of something going amiss in your hive. So what I do is, I've got about 40 or so hives at home and each day I drive past and I just have a look at the entrances. And if I see that one hive has really not much activity compared to the others, I'll take a mental note to look at that hive. So looking at the entrances at different times of day will tell a bit of a story of what's going on. Also looking into the windows, as you say, keeping an eye on it. And if the bee numbers are dropping, take off the top box and do a brood inspection, just make sure you do have a laying queen. You can get into the situation where your hive has swarmed for instance, and you want to make sure they have actually successfully raised a new queen so they can keep going and make sure she's starting to lay. Or perhaps they're dropping for, for some other reason. And you might need to check for any signs of disease in your brood box. So bee numbers dropping, make sure you stay on top of things like hive beetles as well. Put some oil in that tray at the bottom if you've got the small hive beetle in your area.


I have the Flow Hive Hybrid and it’s my first year. Once they fill the brood box, should I add another brood box for the bees to fill for winter or just use the Flow super next? I’m worried about leaving the Flow super on over the winter times. 

I think it’s better to put the super on early, get them used to it. What happens if you go one box and then another box, and then the Flow super on top of that, there'll be a long time before you're collecting any honey in it. You'll probably get a bit impatient. And what you actually want to do is get them started on the Flow Frames first, before you start adding more boxes and that way they'll get in there and cover them all in wax and start the process of storing honey. Once they've done that, then go ahead and add another box if you want to or need to. But your question of the winter coming, that's a bit of a harder one to answer. You might want to ask your local beekeepers how much storage of honey your bees need to survive the winter ahead. And if they do need a lot, then as you say, you might decide to just add a conventional box and let them store in that rather than put your honey collection box or the super it's called on top.


I have 2 Flow Hives, both hives are really strong and until recently had lots of bees in both of the supers. Recently, as winter is approaching there are less bees in the super and they are more in the brood box. If I leave the super on over winter, will it cause any problems? (Adelaide, Australia)

Possibly, it's quite common for beekeepers in the colder areas to take their supers off for winter. Ask your local beekeepers, find out whether they would take off the supers for winter. Typically beekeepers harvesting in a conventional fashion might have multiple boxes and they might just bring it down to a hive size like this, with one brood box and one super, or a couple of brood boxes to survive the wintertime. So it may be the case that it's quite okay to leave it in this configuration with two boxes. What you're really trying to avoid is too much space in the hive for the bees to keep warm. You're just reducing the size of the hive, making it a bit easier for your bees during those cold times. So you could go either way, I think in your area. But getting some advice from local beekeepers would be a good idea.


What part of Australia are you in?

We're here just south of Byron Bay and it's a subtropical region. So we actually get quite good honey flows in the winter. We're in our wintertime here. Now it’s a bit of a cold rainy day and we've noticed the bees are still bringing in honey into some of the hives, but not all of our hives. Down in the valley below you can see macadamias and you can see sugarcane. Beyond that., you can see a lot of paperbarks on the swamp lands that produced quite good honey over the winter.


Do you continue to provide a water sugar mix once the brood box is built out and the super is on?

No. When you feed it's typically because your bees are very hungry. As soon as they show signs of bringing in their own nectar, then you'd take the feed away and let them do it themselves. Sugar is used as a bit of an emergency relief when there are not enough honey stores in your hive. But it's better if they collect their own nectar, that will actually be better for them. Having said that, if your bees are starving, feed them, it's better to feed them sugar than it is to let them starve out.


Should I see eggs and larvae consistently throughout the season? In my last hive inspection, I saw very few larvae or eggs. Could this be an issue with the queen or can this problem be temporary?

So it can be temporary. If you saw very few, it means you saw some, so there are a few reasons why you might get a less virile brood pattern, and one could be your queen is actually getting a bit old and just starting to lay less. Could be the time of year, she could be responding to the reducing amount of nectar. So where you are in the world might help you answer that question as well. They could be downsizing their hive to have less mouths to feed, during the winter ahead. But generally if you've got other hives that are really showing a good brood pattern, a lot of new young bees emerging, a lot of brood in the frames, and you've got one hive that isn't, then you want to keep an eye on that. You might need to replace the queen to one that is going to lay a lot more eggs.


What would you recommend as the best Flow Hive to get started? (UK)

So generally in the colder areas, people go for the larger size hive. I've just said there's a little bit more storage in the hive for that wintertime. So this is our Flow 6, which fits nicely with the 8 frame Langstroth hive size. All boxes vary a little bit, but generally there's two main sizes of what we call the Langstroth hive. So there's eights and tens in the brood box. This is an eight on the bottom, but matches up to a Flow 6. This one here has seven Flow Frames in the top box. It matches up with 10 brood frames. 

When we were inventing the hive, we did a lot of math to work out the exact size we wanted that would match both the eights in the tens, the two commonest sizes in the world. So that works quite nicely. And the reason why the Flow Frames are wider than standard brood frames is that when bees make honeycomb away from the brood nest, they'll do really larger size cells and longer cells. And for that reason, we gave them comb sizes that are more suited to honey than brood.  And you might find that if you've left the plug out in the inner cover, they'll build a whole lot of comb under the lid. So in the UK, you might choose the larger size, which is called our Flow Frame 7.


There is a rose garden 750 metres away from my hive. Will the bees fly that far to forage on those flowers? (Victoria, Australia)

They will certainly fly that far. In fact, bees are so incredible, they can fly up to 10 kilometres, six miles to get forage and bring it back to the hive. They generally will stay a lot closer, three kilometres, a couple of miles, that's a comfortable foraging distance on a day-to-day basis. But if they're hungry, they will fly far. And if you add up all the bee flight, it could be a couple of laps of our entire world. It's incredible how good they are at flying.


Did you know that bees have great value in the religion of Islam? And there are various miracles that bees can perform.

I have heard amazing things about honey and I'm actually 80 years old. I just look a bit younger because of all the honey I ate.


Do I have to pull out the Flow Frames to inspect them?

Yes, you can. But it's designed so that you can harvest honey like this without going through that process of pulling apart the hive. But certainly for your own education, get in there, check them out, see what's going on, pop the cover. We've got videos showing you just how to do that. Lift the Flow Frames out, just have a look, watch the bees working those cells, covering them all in wax and producing their honey. That's a wonderful thing to do.


What's your favourite flavour of honey?

So my favourite thing is to have multiple flavours of honey, and it's such a joy to be able to share that with guests when they come because it starts an incredible story about bees and their importance to our world. And the enjoyment people get out of tasting all the flavours is wonderful. If I could only get one flavour, then it would probably be the lighter, brighter coloured one. It's probably because we get a little bit less of that here. In the springtime, we get these light, very floral, very upper-palate flavour bursts when you taste the honey. You get that from some of our eucalypt species and you get it from some of our rainforest species in this valley below also.

In the wintertime, we get the darker honeys and at my place we even get honey, that's so dark, even in a small jar, you cannot see through it, it's pretty much black. So it's incredible, the range from almost water clear, right through to completely dark and black. And it's wonderful to taste and look and smell all of those flavours and to see them coming into the Flow Frames. And also to be able to isolate them. I'd really recommend harvesting frame by frame like this, rather than mixing them all in one bucket because you get the joy of this flavour versus what's in this frame over here. And over time, you'll get all of these different, beautiful colours and flavours on the shelf. And that's a beautiful thing to share and taste those flavours from your neighbourhood. 


I have just started a garden, and I’m about to start planting vegetables, flowers and an orchard. How long should I wait until I get a Flow Hive?

You don't need to wait till you have planted flowers for your bees because bees forage in up to 10 kilometre radius. So even though you can plant flowers like this, this won't do much for their honey stores. But it will help a lot of the native bee species in really giving them stepping stones across the urban landscape. So we plant flowers to help primarily a lot of the native bee species. It's wonderful to learn about them and to bring them into your garden as well. However, you have to plant quite a lot if you want it to affect your honey stores. And there are people that successfully do that by planting out an acre or so of forage for their bees. And they can really then get those flavours into their hive as well. And people plant medicinal species and so on. 

But jump right in there, start your beekeeping journey. One way to start is have a look at TheBeekeeper.org. We've got an online training course, which is also a fundraiser. Have a look at that for some really in-depth training material. Or you might decide just to get your hive, put it together in preparation for getting your bees. I'm also here most weeks to answer questions. 


So tune in same time next week. Also let us know what you'd like us to cover, and hopefully we can show you something that's of value. And thank you to all of you that are pitching in and answering questions that people are asking.


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