IamA We are Stuart and Cedar Anderson, the father-son inventing team behind Flow Hive. Our invention makes the honey extraction process easier on the beekeeper and easier on the bees. AMA!
My short bio: The traditional method of extracting honey is hot, heavy, sticky, time-consuming work that often involves being stung by bees and which requires space and specialised equipment. . Over the past 10 years, we've been developing the Flow Hive system which takes nearly all of the work out of extracting honey from beehives.
We recently launched a crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo hoping to raise $70,000 to set up for production. So far, supporters have pledged nearly $9 million.
You can check it out here: http://indiegogo.com/projects/flow-hive-honey-on-tap-directly-from-your-beehive
My Proof: Our proof: https://www.facebook.com/flowhive/photos/a.696180830480151.1073741828.691574840940750/734727576625476/?type=1&theater You can compare it with our pictures on our website here: http://www.honeyflow.com/ We’re looking forward to your questions!
EDIT: Great questions! We'll start answering them at 9am Australian Eastern Standard Time.
EDIT: We'll be answering questions for another 10 minutes or so. Great to see you on Reddit, and if we do another AMA, we'll let you know. Thanks for coming everyone!
EDIT: Thanks so much for all of your questions. We will be logging off to continue with our busy day. Thanks for spending the last 90 minutes with us!
Stu: Yes we tested in the US, principally with Michael Bush. The bees take to the Flow matrix readily. The Flow frames are designed to split the lower part of the cells while the upper, capped area hardly moves. We have not experimented much with using two Flow supers and think that this applies for very large colonies with big nectar flows. No, the bees cannot get to the ‘crank’ area. They will use propolis to glue the frames to the box, like they do in all hives however they do not use propolis in or on the comb itself.
Can you talk about the flow frames, any warranty once they are manufactured. Replacement parts availability? I guess more customer service side of the product then about the marketing side of it.
Cedar: We will look after our amazing supporters as best we can… we don’t have a formal warranty in place for this initial crowdfunding stage of Flow™. We are committed to delivering the best possible product and support.
We have designed the frames so every single part is replaceable, and will have replacements available (we haven’t had any parts break and need replacing the past 3 years of field testing).
Have you found that you've created a community of people who wouldn't otherwise have been bee keepers? I see a less excitement about this from the "old school" bee keepers. How do you deal with the skepticism?
Cedar: Yes definitely, its great to see a community of beekeepers growing around this. Our rough estimates are that 50% of our contributors are new beekeepers and 50% existing beekeepers.
Its been very interesting having the feedback from the sceptics, its a new paradigm for beekeepers (I suppose like the Langstroth was 150 years ago) and we don’t expect people to change overnight. People are free to keep bees any way they like.
Its been heartening to hear responses from people who aren't physically able to harvest honey in the traditional way anymore and now are excited they can still enjoy harvesting honey for many more years.
Hi FlowHive Team I have an important health-related concern. Bisphenol A (also referred to as ‘BPA’) is found in certain plastics and resins and is potentially a serious health concern when it leaches out into food items, particularly so when placed under warmer conditions.
What is the type of plastic you are using for your frames and is there any risk of contaminating the honey with BPA?
Thanks kindly. Nat
Cedar: The Flow™ frames are made from high quality, food-grade, BPA-free plastic. Its very important to us that the plastic is the very best available, its important to note that plastic has been used in beehive frames for the past 20 years.
I have ordered a Full Flow but the plastic has been my main concern - whichever way you look at it - it's made from oil and chemicals - is non biodegradable etc etc - have you considered the latest developments using hemp plastic which is biodegradable and non toxic? I have been amazed to see what is being manufactured from hemp now - sounds crazy but I (and maybe the bees) would feel much happier if a plastic alternative could be found. Flows made from hemp - what an amazing breakthrough that would bee!
CEDAR: Yes. We decided to use plastics that were already accepted and proven in beehives in this launch phase, but in the coming years we will be testing a range of bio plastics.
We didn't want risk the possibility of biodegrable plastic biodegrading, as we wanted provide he most durable product possible.
Ultimately though, would love an alternative to conventional plastic too!
Hello! Im very excited about this project, I bought a full box from your campaign.
Im curious about how to deal with American Foul Brood with these plastic combs. I'm assuming burning plastic would be the worst idea, so how would I destroy the kit?
We hope no one needs to burn the Flow Frames!
The two options are irradiation and chemical treatments.
We will have detailed instructions on how to sterilise your frames for American foul brood in the manual that will be provided with the frames.
Certain grades of plastics can be boiled as a way of sterilization. Can your flow frames be boiled without compromising their integrity?
We've tested up to 70 degrees celcius without any problems at all, but we're yet to test boiling water.
We'll certainly let everyone know when we do.
Congratulations in the success so far, I have a very simple question. I've been told that the honey produced by New Zealand bees is thicker and therefore less runny than the European and Australian honey. There is a concern that the flow hive won't work with the NZ bees, do you have any experience, comments regarding this concern? Juan
We have tested Flow with Jellybush honey which is similar to Manuka (thixotropic) . We found that if we opened and closed the Flow mechanism rapidly a few times every minute or so the honey would drain out. There's much more testing to be done before we could be definitive about this, so we look forward to hearing of other's experiences and experiments.
When the flow frames are drained of honey, as the caps are not disturbed or broken, how do the bees know to refill the frames? Or do the have to be uncapped in order for the bees to reuse them?
Stu: We guess that the bees are very in-tune with their comb and honey store. We were pleased to find they do go into'repair' mode when the cells are drained. They know when the cells are empty and over the next day or so, will tear off the cap, repair the cells and re-commence filling them with honey.
I have supported this project at a level which will have me receiving a complete hive, but I am a beginner. I realize many good sources may be available, but may I ask your singular favorite recommended text for helping beginners start and care for a successful hive?
Stu: There will be lots of information included with the Flow hive as well as on our website. This will include many links and references to the plethora of information out there. Once again, we encourage you to link with local beekeepers and beekeeping groups.
There are many people that disagree with your 'Honey on Tap' marketing to newbees that know absolutely nothing about properly tending bees. Do you feel too many new beekeepers will be buying your FlowHive without knowing, learning, or caring how to properly manage the bees, thus setting themselves up for failure? Or worse, creating situations where they do not manage pests/diseases and inadvertently spread problems to other beekeepers' hives?
We have always stressed that our invention only makes the honey extraction easier.
It certainly has not been our intention to suggest that there's nothing more to keeping bees than turning the tap for the honey.
Along with the education we will be providing, we strongly encourage new beekeepers to link in with their local beekeeping groups. Your local beekeepers will have a wealth of information to impart. We'll be posting a directory for that soon, and will continue to provide educational resources on our website.
We were all beginner beekeepers once and would certainly hope that Flow beekeepers take the responsible measures that anyone would to help curb the spread of pests and disease.
Congrats on the invention. I hope in years to come this will sit proudly along other aussie inventions ;-)(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Australian_inventions)
My question, were you originally expecting to go past the Indegogo goal of $70,000?
Stu: yes we thought we'd go past the goal, we were taken by surprise by the extraordinary speed and extent of the response.
Hello Stuart and Cedar, well done. I'm excited about receiving my Flow hive, but wondering about being registered with Apiarists society in Australia? And where to obtain healthy bees to begin my honey making venture. Thanks Jenni
Hi Jenni, Stu here. Each state in Australia (Except ACT) has its own beehive registering authority. Registering your apiary is easy and we strongly advise everyone one to do so when possible. A quick search will find the authority for your state or region. Healthy bees are available from bee colony suppliers. In Australia they must be picked up in person or delivered to your door, probably by the bee supply people. You can get a Nuc (Nucleus) colony of bees from beekeepers in your area who have caught a swarm or split their own hives. While commercial suppliers will guarantee health, you take a slight risk getting bees from your neighbour. Besides health you will probably also want to be getting bees bred for calmness.
Do the flow frames suffer from becoming pollen bound? If so, what is the recommended way of managing this?
Stu: Pollen is usually placed close to the brood, however we have found occasional Flow frames with a few pollen filled cells. We have been pleased to find that the pollen did not impede the cells from splitting open and that the honey flowed over and around the pollen-filled cells to find its way into the collection trough.
Can you stack the Flow Hives as your colony grows? Do you need an extra super to provide enough honey to over winter the bees? Any special ways to deal with pests, like Small Hive Beetles?
Cedar: You can have one or two flow supers on top of a brood box. But you don't need tall stacks of supers as the honey can be harvested easily to make more room. How many flow supers you choose to use on each hive depends on the size of your colony and the working surface area of comb you wish to have.
It is important you do leave enough honey for winter. The good thing with with the Flow hive you can just harvest one frame at a time.
Flow Frames are designed with the Hive beetle in mind as we have hive beetles in our area. There is a simple modification that you can do to make the viewing window into a hive beetle trap. We will be posting a video on how to do this soon.
I live in Portland, Oregon, built a top-bar hive (trapezoidal), wondering how/if the Flow system would work in that case. The last couple years, I've had to trim normal supers to fit the top-bar hive.
Also, does less interaction/interference with the bees potentially increase their chance for survival through the winter? Have had not the best luck ensuring a warm enough hive or retaining enough food for the bees through the winter here, I think.
Cedar: Theoretically the Flow can can fit to any hive as you can shorten the frames to suit any length of box, as long as they fit the depth of the hive box. One of our team has 8 top bar hives (TBH) and we are working on adapting a Flow box to the TBH and will post videos and photos of this as soon as we can.
Wintering bees, this depends on many factors, its true that Flow hive is a less stressful way to harvest honey and stress is a contributor to weakening the colony. We don’t have cold winters here in Byron Bay, Australia, so this is a better question for Michael Bush (USA) or John Gates (Canada). See also http://www.honeyflow.com/faqs/can-i-use-flow-in-freezing-conditions/p/58
Is the frame able to easily deal with pests and disease such as wax moth?
Also are bees more or less likely to swarm with a Flow Hive configuration?
Is it a good idea to have a spare Flow Hive Frame in case one has to be removed for cleaning etc?
Stu: Pest and disease management remains the same with Flow as with any beekeeping. A beekeeper must become aware of the signs of deteriorating hive health. We think wax moth and perhaps small hive beetles will be inhibited to a certain extent by the plastic at the base of the Flow frames. Having the end-frame observation window helps a great deal with getting to know your hives and identifying disease without having to open the hive. Swarming has several triggers including crowding. There may be less swarming from Flow because the honey is emptied regularly, however we have not done any experiments on this. The bees will clean the comb of the Flow frames and there is no necessity to clean anything but the honey trough at the base of the comb. This is easily done while the frame is in the hive with a squirt of warm water up the channel. Having said this many beekeepers keep spare supers for swarms, etc. These need storing correctly.
Congratulations on your product and success. Well done. My question is does it every get gunky in the channels. Does it need cleaned? and if so, how do you clean it? I'm talking about the areas where the bees can't get, but I assume mites and other microscopic bugs can get.
Cedar: The collection trough at the base of the Flow frame is comparatively large and accessible, it can be cleaned using a small hose or bottle brush from outside the hive.
See our Cleaning & Maintenance FAQs here http://www.honeyflow.com/faqs/p/22?tag=22
If the hive gets AFB or some other disease, would this mean the frame would have to be destroyed or can it be sterilised?
We hope no one needs to destroy the Flow Frames! The two options are irradiation and chemical treatments. We will have detailed instructions on how to sterilise your frames for American foul brood in the manual that will be provided with the frames.
Hi, I'm wondering if you have further news about whether you'll be able to offer the Flow post-campaign at a more competitive price for Australians who are getting reamed by the US dollar right now? Thanks.
We understand the pain of the current Aussie exchange rate however we are offering Flow at a discount on Indiegogo, it will be more expensive after the campaign.
Besides skipping the extraction step - are there any other advantages to Flowframes or Flowhive?
Stu: Yes, that the bees are not disturbed by the harvesting process is the main advantage. This means less stress (and stings) meaning less vulnerability to disease and pests. The clear ends allow such a fascinating and instructive view into the hive. This helps beekeepers monitor the health. Children and adults are intrigued by watchingthe bees working in the cells themselves. The Flow design allows for new adaptions and inventions that are yet to come.
Am I correct in thinking that you would not have to add supers above the brood chamber if you continually tap the flow hive super for honey? That this will continue to provide empty cells for the bees to work? If so, do you have to move empty frames to the center of the flow super or just let the bees work back and forth from center to edge and back again?
Cedar: Yes, we typically have one or two flow supers on top of a brood box. It's true you don't need tall stacks of supers as the honey can be harvested to make more room. How many flow supers you choose to use on each hive depends on the size of your colony and the working surface area of comb you wish to have.
Hello Stuart & Cedar: As an experienced hobby beekeeper I am thrilled about your 3 Frame Light product as I can no longer lift heavy items. My question is: Will you continue posting educational videos to help those who are completely new to beekeeping? Your product can alter the world view of beekeeping. Thank you!
Yes! Not only will there be more videos, but we're planning an online educational portal which will bring the Flow community together to share their experiences, there will be a directory of local beekeeping associations, and lots of resources to help ensure you have all the information and support we can give you so you have happy bees and lots of honey.
How do you ensure that the honey is fully cured, and not still partially nectar? You say the honey is only harvested when capped. How can you tell if it is capped?
The honey cells, must be capped before harvest as per usual beekeeping practices. Looking at the end fram view of the hive will give you a good indication of this.
Since bees at the height of the season will be working on empty frames and full ones at the same time. Does this mean that it wouldn't be possible only to use the flow system?
Stu: Yes you can use any combination of Flow frames and regular wooden frames, for example the Flow light 4 frame has 4 Flow and 4 regular frames in the same super, which can be used regardless of how much honey is in the super already.
You can see this in our Swarm to Harvest video here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUgqctAjqls and we will be adding more pics to our Gallery page very soon http://www.honeyflow.com/gallery/p/23
Good day from Canada. I live in a region where we overwinter our bees but the temperature stays well below 0 C for several months. Can you talk a bit about whether the flow hive frames can withstand prolonged freezing temperatures? Your answer will help me decide how I use this product
Canadian beekeepers often remove their supers over winter. This could be done with Flow as well. If you choose to leave the super on the hive, the plastic will withstand freezing temperatures. Of course you would wait until the weather warms (and the comb fills) to operate the Flow frames
Hi, backyard beekeeper from the US and early adopter of Flow Hive.
I was wondering for after-installation, what will Flow Hive's relationship be with those who purchased it? Would you consider official local reps in cities to help with upkeep?
I know beekeeper associations are concerned with the influx of new beekeepers who won't be knowledgeable about hive inspections/health. I'd like you to please address those concerns. Thank you!
Stu: We are encouraging every 'newbee' to link with beekeepers in their area which may well increase the numbers of people in beekeeping groups. We have been emphasising that hive health maintenance is the same as always and that newbees should find out all they can as well as take local advice. Flow should give all beekeepers more time to focus on the health (and wonder) of their bees as so much time is saved in honey harvest.
We are in the process of establishing web-based ways for Flow beekeepers (and others) to stay in contact and learn from each other. This is the world-wide community of beekeepers we hope to foster.
Do brood and stores reside in the same Flow Hive comb and, if so, how do you only get honey when you open the cells with the crank (or key)?
Hi, only honey is in the Flow frames, and its best to use a queen excluder between the brood and super boxes to ensure no drone brood gets laid in the Flow frames.
So yes, you only get honey when you turn the 'key' of the frame ;)
You can see lots more on our website http://www.honeyflow.com/videos/p/60
Will you be releasing the cut-out templates for existing hive owners to modify?
Stu: Yes we will have downloadable plans freely available for all common Frame configurations very soon. We will let everyone know via social media and email when these are available.
Hello, my name is Mehmet (from Turkey). Congratulate first for this nice Baby :-) we produce nearly for 100 years our beehives for domestic market. We did send Andrea pictures of our products. She said us that you do work on bulk manufacturing project and not able to give offers at the moment. How long do you need to give us a price? This year or next year? we possibly want to buy from you 2000 to 4000 honeycombs per year.
Stu: We are not able to give you a price yet Mehmet, sorry. The response to Flow has been extraordinary and we are busy ensuring that the enormous number of perks are delivered on time. We will be offering commercial quantities as soon as possible.
Hi Andersons. I love the idea and have ordered a full hive. Congratulations on the response you've received. What are your plans for Flow™ post Indiegogo campaign (have you had time to work that out)?
Cedar: Thanks! We will be looking after our amazing Indiegogo supports first before moving onto traditional sales from our website.
We have no set timeframe for when orders go back on sale, and we won't be offering this introductory price when we do.
Guys, congrats from a supporter (Complete hive). A couple of questions from watching this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryWC92NT2Eo
How does the excess honey that is left in the bottom of the frame drain through the cap if the frame is not on an incline? I know there is a hole in the cap (or a groove in the frame) so that the honey can continue to drain, but how so if the frame is level. http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v633/pitpawten/dump/cap.png
What about all the honey that drains down the front of the frames (not internally and out the pipe) from cells that were not fully capped or drained out the face of the frame? http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v633/pitpawten/dump/frame.png
Neither of these are issues for a traditional frame since you remove the honey outside of the hive. Wondering what kind of issues this may create with honey leftover in these two hard to reach places (inside the sealed frame and under the frames on the bottom of the box).
Stu: 1. The hive does need to be tilted toward the back for the honey to drain completely from the trough. For many hives this will mean ensuring that rain cannot enter and pool in the hive.
- Some honey sometimes does leak out the face of the comb. We have found the bees readily clean this up. All hive design should ensure there are no tiny gaps that the bees cannot get to in order to clean.(and chase out SHB)
I was pretty excited to see an Aussie company run with their own product and do so well in their campaign. I'm looking forward to getting my FlowHive. The thing that most attracted me was how you indicated that there was no requirement for a beekeepers setup, i.e. the mask, suit and gloves. Then later on in the campaign you were offering the setup as an enticement for getting people to pay their shipping.
So I'm a bit confused now, how often will I be required to open up the beehive and don the anti-sting armour? What type of tasks would require this and is it something that is easily outsourced if it's only every so often?
We recommend that when dealing with their bees, keepers do use the right safety gear.
In our videos, it's true that the keepers are not wearing suits etc, but please note these are mostly experienced keepers that know their hives really well. Although, we still get stung occasionally.
We just want everyone to be safe, especially beginners.
Having said that, we have found that for the harvesting process, becuse the Flow system causes absolutely minimal disruption, that the bees are not disturbed and therefore are far, far less likely to sting anyone or be upset in any way at all.
If I'm using 10-frame Langstroth deeps, would you recommend four traditional frames and four Flow Frames for each super, even for multiple supers in a single hive? And traditional frames for the brood boxes?
Stu: There are pros and cons for each configuration. We'd encourage experimentation with this brand-new innovation. If you're using multiple supers I would recommend that at least one of them was all Flow frames. Yes, trad frames for brood.
Great invention!!! I ordered 2 six frame hives. I wonder if you used any ideas from a similar invention The inventor, Juan Garriga who lived in Spain and submitted the patent on August 8, 1939. The patent was approved on December 3, 1940? Thanks for your time.
Stu: No we didn't copy from a previous invention. We only started looking at previous efforts once we had demonstrated to ourselves that we could actually extract honey from the hive without opening it. When we did get around to looking at previous patents (including the Spanish one) we didn't think any of them would actually work.
Stu, Cedar & Team: Are the early bird orders still set for June delivery? Any chance production has ramped up sooner/stronger than anticipated for an even earlier delivery?
Hi, we are on track for June delivery and this is still the timeframe we are working towards.
Greetings Andersons :D
Congrats on showing Aussies are great inventors, Again ;)
Question: After 1500 uses will the plastic tap mechanisms break down? Turn on, turn off, turn on, turn off .... The handle is metal, but, will the plastic break?
If yes is it possible to make the hives stainless steel for longevity?
Stu: 1500 uses! We imagine Flow being operated five to ten times per season. At that rate you'd be beekeeping for 150 years! We don't think Flow will wear significantly with use.
Do the hives need to be tipped forward at an angle in order for the honey to flow out of the trough, or is the design slanted to allow for the flow?
Cedar: It's nice to harvest the honey from the back of the hive so you are out of the way of the bees flying in. This does mean the hive needs to be on a slight slope backwards to make sure the honey drains from the lower channels. 2 or 3 degrees is good. You can choose wether to have the hive on a permanent tilt which means you will need to make sure water can't get in the entrance, or tilt the hive when you go to harvest. I like to make a sloping landing board so the hive can stay on a permanent tilt to the back of the hive without rain getting in the entrance.
seeing the video on indiegogo made me want to ask you this, have it ever happened that there was bees getting their legs stuck, when closing the hive back?
Cedar: Hi, we have designed the frames so that bees will not be harmed if they are down a cell during harvest, so their legs will not get caught. Bear in mind that honey is harvested when the Frames are fully capped so their should not be many bees in cells during harvest anyway.
Any further thoughts as to whether you'll provide foundations with the frames for the brood box? Also, thoughts on using package bees vs. "nucs"?
Cedar: Yes in our Complete Full Flow Hive we provide wax foundation for the brood box and a queen excluder.
Package bees vs. "nucs", this is a personal preference and if you are new to beekeeping you should definitely get expert advice and help from your local bee club.
i want to get into beekeeping ,, next year ,,, i want to put a supper between the brood box and your Flow Frame box ,, for the bees Winter Honey supply ,, what do you recommend ?? ,, AND ,, i live in USA ,,Southern Ohio ,,, ,, has anyone tried putting any kind of insulating boards around beehives in the winter ,, what do you think about that ?? ,, thank you for your time ,,
Stu: Hi, leaving enough honey for your bees to overwinter with depends largely on your local area, as in our area of Byron Bay, Australia we have flowers all year round, however in colder climates its best if you contact your local bee club / association for details on your particular climate (including insulating boards).
Is the projected ship date still Dec 2015?
Stu: Yes its still Dec 2015 for the bulk of our orders (with early birds in Jun / Sep also on schedule).
Your campaign did really well and exceeded what I believe to be everyone's expectations. How/where did you promote and market your product and crowdfunding?
Hi, Thanks for your interest. We started to be active on social media about 4 weeks before we launched, but had been working on videos for months beforehand. We knew it was a big risk to launch the campaign without an audience, so our plan was to release our short pre-launch video via Facebook and Youtube in an attempt to build a social media audience and small email list to be able to talk with about the launch of the crowdfunding campaign.
We worked hard to share relevant content via facebook and make sure our first video was easy to watch and very engaging. The response was far bigger than we expected and gave us a huge boost.
Ultimately we feel that the success of the campaign comes down to the commitment of our team to communicate with the community that has formed around Flow.
I ordered a $400 full box to show our local urban beekeeper association — we have mix feelings about this invention but are open to check it out.
At 400 bucks a super (versus $40 or less for a regular commercial medium super), I was assuming the shipping was including. Now I would have to shell out even more? Quite frustrating for a start.
We always tried to make it as clear as possible on our Indiegogo age that shipping was not included. We worked really hard to get the best rates we could and most people were pleasantly surprised when they found out what their shipping charge was going to be.
Did you test this hive in the United States? Did any test hives find that the bees refused to build on the plastic frames? When you turn the crank and the foundation splits how does this not also split the entire cell, including the wax caps? Have you found that you can effectively keep up with harvesting the honey in a flowhive with only one super, or do you have to still build up sometimes, adding supers on top? Have you had any issues with bees filling the crank area or other openings with propolis inhibiting the moving parts?
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