A new technology in beekeeping has hit the internet and is causing a lot of buzz, mostly among non-beekeepers. It is called Flow Hive. It is basically a frame with plastic cells that separate, allowing honey to drain to the bottom and then out of the hive through tubes. They call it “honey on tap”. A father and son out of Australia developed it and they have launched an internet campaign to help fund manufacturing, this campaign has surprisingly raised over 2 million dollars to date. Many of my friends on social media have been sharing posts about it with me and asking questions. Here’s my thoughts: I think Flow Hive is a novel idea. Honey on tap, that’s just neat. Props to this father and son team for brainstorming and working on this idea until it became a reality. That’s where my admiration ends. It’s a great novelty.
I do have a few concerns related to it though. My greatest concern is in the way it is being promoted. “Honey on tap”. They are leading people to believe that you can purchase this magic box and it will become a honey producing machine at the turn of a nozzle. That is simply ridiculous, and frankly insulting to the ancient craft of beekeeping. Again and again they communicate this idea of harvesting honey without disturbing the bees. Sounds like a great idea but it is not really a relative issue in the reality of beekeeping.
Beekeeping is not easy. keeping bees healthy, even alive, has become a difficult task requiring much knowledge, continuous learning and skill. There are so many pests and pesticides that are absolutely wrecking honeybee colonies these days. Maintaining healthy honeybees is the number one challenge of every beekeeper. If you start beekeeping, you are going to encounter problems: queen problems, swarming problems, laying worker problems, varroa mite problems, small hive beetle problems, wax moth problems, nosema problems, foulbrood problems, robbing problems, ant problems, pesticide problems, and just when you think you have seen it all, you will encounter a new problem related to the health of your honeybees.
My point in all this is to say that harvesting honey is the least of my problems as a beekeeper. In fact it is the second most fun and rewarding part of beekeeping, the first being the simple joy of opening a bee box that is overflowing with happy, healthy bees. The honey harvest is a ceremony that celebrates the great accomplishment of being a good enough beekeeper to allow your bees to not only survive, but also produce a surplus harvest of honey.
What is more, harvesting honey can be done with very little disturbance to the bees. Larger operations use fume boards with bee escapes that empty the honey supers of most of the bees before they remove them for harvest. I simply shake each frame of honey and then brush any remaining bees off with a gentle bee brush. They return to the hive entrance no worse for wear. The frames are then brought to the uncapping tank. Here the beautiful wax capping are removed with a hot knife and left to drain of honey. These wax cappings are the finest quality of wax in the hive. We use this wax to make candles, lip balms, soaps, lotions, and also sell it in molded bars. Flow Hive completely neglects this beautiful and valuable product of the bees. After the wax cappings are removed, the frames are placed in the honey extractor. Honey extractors work great! They operate with such a simple concept, using centrifugal force to fling the honey out of the cells and then into the bottom of the tank. The honey in the frames is completely removed in a matter of minutes and the frames are ready to be stored or placed back in the hive to be refilled. Harvesting honey this way is a great experience that I look forward to each season!
Here’s my final thought on the subject of Flow Hive. Don’t start beekeeping because this new product makes it look as easy as turning a knob on a spigot. You will spend a bunch of money and then after your first season you will have an empty box with a spigot on it. You will wonder what happened to your bees because you didn’t understand the challenges of beekeeping, or perhaps didn’t even look inside the hive to see what was going on. If you want easy honey, go to the grocery store, or even better, your local beekeeper, and buy some. The real reward of beekeeping is in the work, not in honey coming out of a tap. The joy is in the knowledge and experience you will gain as you encounter problems and work through them. As you encounter defeat and even death, and then rise to start over and be a better beekeeper. Only after you have failed and even lost colonies will you begin to appreciate the value and beauty of a healthy colony of bees. Once you begin to experience the real challenges of being a beekeeper, a new gadget that automatically drains honey out of a hive may seem like a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist.