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Flow Hive: Honey on Tap Directly from Your Beehive (honeyflow.com)
149 points by nkurz on Feb 20, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 34 comments



This is a dream finally come true, the ability to have honey on tap! One nice thing about this technology is that it is backwards compatible with existing beekeeping hives. It also reduces the amount of times a hive must be opened for inspection or harvesting. No matter how careful you are, you always end up killing bees, disrupting comb and throwing off the homeostasis of a hive every time you open it.

It is hard to find disadvantages to this system; it is a huge improvement over current systems, almost at the level of the original invention of the moveable frame hive by Langstroth. The only big disadvantage I can think of is that is it might be easier to over harvest with this system. This would result in beekeepers losing hives over the winter.

Awesome technology!


They mention the over harvest problem in the FAQ:

"Do I need to leave some honey in the hive for the bees?

Yes, this applies to all beekeeping. Your bees need honey to get them through the times when there is no nectar available. The number of frames of honey that you leave depends on your climate. You should consult local beekeepers as to how much they leave in their colonies over the winter.

The Flow frames make it a lot easier to see how much honey is in your frames at any time, so you can learn to manage how much honey to harvest and how much to leave for the bees.

Watching the honey level change every day is quite fascinating and I personally feel more in touch with the bees and can’t help but look on a daily basis. You can also take just a small amount of honey if you choose, by draining one frame or part of a frame."


The only big disadvantage I can think of is that is it might be easier to over harvest with this system.


Some thoughts on Flow Hive from a beekeeper: http://www.honeybeesuite.com/should-you-go-with-the-flow/


I only know about beekeeping by watching my grandfather. He really enjoyed his bees. The centrifuge extractions was always my favorite part. I played with the "smoker" and of course got stungs by bees once in a while.

But anyway, getting the honey out was fun, but there was a lot more stuff I remember him doing like preparing hives for winter, he put water (maybe sugar water) for them eat in the spring sometimes, moved the hives to different gardens and other locations.


Cute idea. But as a beekeeper in the Bay Area, I have to agree with @tehchromic--there's some tricky stuff to consider to make this work:

- How will they prevent the bees from covering the internal mechanism with wax? Bees often cover plastic foundations with layer of wax as they build up the cells.

- More troubling, why won't the bees cover the mechanism with propolis (bee glue)? Bees tend to want to cover any crack with the stuff, which is really, really sticky stuff. Any time we've accidentally left an opening (that's not the entrance) somewhere in our hives, the bees have completely sealed it up with propolis, which is then extremely difficult to clean off.

- How will the honey flow freely? At bay area temperatures during Spring/early summer harvests, the temperature isn't high enough that the honey will flow freely when uncapped--it'd take on the order of at least 15 minutes, and more likely an hour or more if you want to do it cleanly, but leaving a jar of honey out for that long is going to attract all kinds of pests, and also bees, which kind of defeats the purpose of this.

- How do you clean this? As tehchromic mentions, this is going to have serious crystallization issues. During normal centrifuge or wax-scraping harvests, you end up having to wash all your equipment pretty thoroughly afterwards, or else the honey crystallizes and makes everything gunk up.

- Why would the bees uncap the harvested cells? I agree long-term that this would happen if you harvested a lot of honey, but I've rarely seen bees uncap the central stores of honey you're harvesting from, especially if you're careful about what you harvest to leave the bees enough for the winter.

- How will you deal with the additional pests and diseases? More nooks and crannies will encourage more pests to enter and roost. Having a spigot also encourages bad beekeeping, especially harvesting before the cells are capped. Honey is supersaturated sugars, which is why it doesn't go bad. But if you end up harvesting before it's capped, you're going to get nectar or sugar water that will actually go bad and additionally play host to a ton of pests and diseases.

Overall, I love that this is going viral--I honestly hope it attracts a bunch of new people to beekeeping, and I'm curious enough to support the Kickstarter and try one out, but I'm guessing those who stick with it will switch to normal Langstroth hives after a season or two.


For comparison, here is the system this replaces: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AfC1JBGx2TY#t=3m20s

edit: Or the old-fashioned way: http://waywardspark.com/extracting-honey-the-old-fashioned-w...


The old fashioned way gets my vote. Look at the huge wax slab he got out of it! No way you'll get that with the Flow machine.


Just in case they're readng this: the huge and fixed header is sub-optimal. http://imgur.com/JTIImb5

I don't know why people fix those headers. It's a weird idea.


It still takes up a ridiculous ammount of space on desktop: http://i.imgur.com/4HGJeku.png


For a split second I thought somebody had attempted to put a bee hive on their desk.


Posts revolutionary technology to HN, get's feedback on website.


Yes, if a website does something fucking stupid like hide half the screen under a fixed banner then people are going to mention it.


Perhaps a bit over dramatic? On a 13" MBP, it takes up 110px of a total 680. ~16% of the height is accounted for with the fixed header. I agree its a bit on the tall side and could be reduced but I don't think "fucking stupid like hide half the screen" is really required in your comment.


I posted a screenshot. Did you see it? In landscape (940 x 640 tall) there are 40 pixels used by the iOS status bar, then 285 pixels are used by the fixed banner, leaving just 315 pixels for the content. Switching to portrait was almost as bad, with only nearly half the screen hidden.

I stand by my comment: hiding half the screen behind a fixed, un-closable banner is fucking stupid if people are doing it deliberately.

Luckily they've fixed it, so it seems like it was just a mistake.


I wasn't disputing the validity of your comment, I was questioning the necessity for vulgar language to achieve your point.


Anything where you can turn a batch job into a constant stream is going to be of major appeal to large scale industrial production. Pretty much a perfect example of a disruptive invention!

Looking for how industrial manufacture of honey works, I found this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ctIqmhTo7E4

This method would do away with uncapping 'super' frames and centrifuging them. You could just plumb in the frames, and add control motors to rotate which frame is released.

As others have pointed out, however, there are risks to this method. It does make over-harvest more likely, and could lead to fewer inspections of the bees for parasites and other issues. This is where industrial scale operations actually would cope very well - the entire system turns into chemical engineering, leaving bee keepers to focus on the (productive) welfare of the bees. It could even allow for integrated analysis of the honey, opening up greater control and closer control of harvest levels.


It's much more practical for thousands of hives to be gathered by truck and the honey to be processed out of them by automated machinery, than for someone to walk around tapping some expensive contraption sitting on each hive, into mason jars. I don't see how a machine like this could ever be practical for a large scale commercial beekeeper. This device is intended for the backyard keeper, who has time to fiddle with it.


They offhandedly mention pneumatic control (look for "beeks" on the indiegogo page). Think milking pipeline, but for honey.


Not to get too off topic, but I think the Flow Hive would be more properly categorized as a sustaining innovation, than a disruption. That isn't to underplay its importance - this could be massive in the Honey Industry - it's just not really "Disruptive" in the academic/Clayton Christensen sense.


Best picture of how it works that I could find: http://www.honeyflow.com/media/images/content/detail/honey_d...


If you subscribe to their newsletter the introduction email tells you how it works. It makes great sense! Good job on them :)

I don't want to paste it here as I wouldn't want to undermine their marketing approach.


Or read about it here: http://www.honeyflow.com/faqs/p/22


As someone who gave up my backyard beehive in 2014 because it swarmed four times in two weeks, likely as a result of my decision not to harvest honey in 2013, this idea excites me a lot.

As someone with young kids, the idea of a window in the hive excites me as well. I will almost certainly pick up backyard beekeeping again when this becomes available.


Another beekeeper here. There's no reason to believe that the bees will uncap the now empty cells to refill them post Flow extraction. I'm with tehchromic and the beekeeper that panic posted - this is a fad/sham. All of the Master Beekeepers I know agree.


As a beekeeper with 40 hives in operation and an avid follower of the organic beekeeper movement, as outlined by the Barefoot Beekeeper (book), and Dee Lusby's organic treatment free beekeeping group (Organic Beekeepers Yahoo group), and a host of associated beekeepers and writers, I'll give you my simple take: this is a gimmick.

The target audience of this device is the amateur, backyard keeper, aspiring, or with little beekeeping experience. To them, the appeal of this device is immediate: honey without work.

Likely, it will cause more work.

All these little funnels and plastic parts aren't going to stay clear. Most honeys crystallize over time. Some varieties do so in days. If any crystallization happens at all, the machinery will be useless. You'd have to remove the whole thing and maybe boil it, or something like that. And crystallization inside the thing is inevitable.

In fact, I'd bet that there is no regular use of this machine that will prevent crystallization from gumming it up. Once it has been used once, there is going to be a steady flow of honey into your bottles, as the bees go about repairing and refilling their honey stores. At that point, it will be uncured honey, which can go bad. You could close the tap, to prevent seepage, but My guess is that the whole contraption will have to be removed and cleaned at least yearly, on top of the regular visits required to keep clearing honey out of it.

Meanwhile, I collect my honey once per year, by removing combs and crushing and straining honey in a press. It's not that hard! And, I don't really have to worry about honey until the end of the season at harvest time. Until then, no worries! The bees look after it. I don't know why I'd want to introduce my own complex system into such a simple one.

Bees don't tend to follow any rules except their own, so mostly beekeeping is a practice of understanding of what bees want to do, and planning in advance so they do it in a way that makes sense for you both. Simplicity is a beekeeper's best friend - the bees handle the complexity, and a good beekeeper understands not to add more.

Bees appreciate that. They are very sensitive to things going on in their nest and stores. They often abscond (completely leave) if they don't like what is going on. Plastic is an alien material in a hive. Comb on the other hand, is an epidermis for bees. It has it's own biota, a bacterial/fungal/viral ecosystem that provides a living layer on which the bees work and live. When given plastic, bees will cover it in comb and propolis like they will with wood or rock. They never put their honey in anything but comb. The Flow device replaces much of the natural foundation of a bees honey store system, with more plastic. I don't think that's a good idea.

For the backyard, keeper, probably the best comparison I can make with the Flow product is to someone who wants to get in shape buying exercise equipment off the TV. What's really for sale is the illusion of reward without having to work. Fancy contraptions won't make beekeeping easier any more than they make exercise easier, when you're used to sitting on your duff. For most enthusiastic adopters, this product will probably end up in the garage, or a land fill.

So I'll say the Flow machine is a fad that will have the end result of producing more plastic junk. It does make a good gimmick, but I can't wish the creators luck, as I believe their talents are best spent elsewhere.


> The target audience of this device is the amateur, backyard keeper, aspiring, or with little beekeeping experience. To them, the appeal of this device is immediate: honey without work.

I'd like to do some beekeeping. This device piques my interest not because it's "honey without work" but because it's honey with possibly less work and less killing. Even if it's honey with more work but less disturbance of bees, I'd be interested. Traditional harvesting of honey is one way. That's not to say it's the proper way. That's not to say new ways like Flow are good either. You might be right. However, new ways are worth exploring.

> Comb on the other hand, is an epidermis for bees. It has it's own biota, a bacterial/fungal/viral ecosystem that provides a living layer on which the bees work and live. When given plastic, bees will cover it in comb and propolis like they will with wood or rock. They never put their honey in anything but comb. The Flow device replaces much of the natural foundation of a bees honey store system, with more plastic.

How is anything in the human-driven beekeeping process natural either: cut wood, wire, frames, boxes, glass, disrupting, crushing? I avoid certain types of plastics but it doesn't seem that invasive here. Bees appear to be making most of the comb like usual: http://www.honeyflow.com/gallery/p/23 Unless I'm misunderstanding the few images they have, Flow appears as unnatural as other common, unnatural methods, and less destructive. According to the FAQ: [There is no reason why you cant have traditional wax combs and honey Flow™ frames in the same hive, this allows you to have honey on tap and honeycomb/wax from the one hive.]

You might be right about it as a whole. I appreciate your words. Its utility remains to be seen.


To answer your question, wood is the most natural foundation for honey bees. They generally live in wood, and cutting it does't alter it materially. They also live in stone.

As organic beekeepers, myself and many others reject the use of wire, plastic, glass, and anything except wood in the hive. Most of the equipment in the modern commercial beekeeping stack, which is also sold to the backyard keeper, is invented to sell you more stuff, and no good for beekeeping.

I disagree about the less work and less destructive point, and that's the main point I was making. I think this machine will cause more work, in the form of maintenance. I think it will cause you to open your hive more, and will require regular washing and cleaning to work.

Lastly, about killing bees and destroying their home, the common Langstroth hive is a pretty poor tool for working with bees and avoiding crushing them. It is heavy and frames are clumsy. However, it is possible to work Lang's gently, so that very, very few bees are crushed. That includes comb removal and extraction. An experienced keeper (outside of the commercial industry where automation and machinery crushes bees like nuts), doesn't crush many bees.

Even better, there are hive designs much older than the Lang, that are even easier to work. I use a design based on a Christ hive, which is light and easy to work. I just never crush bees, even during harvest.

So my point is that, while I do think technology and beekeeping go hand in hand, I prefer tech that makes things simpler, rather than more complicated. I think this gadget is a gimmick and would be difficult to use in the real world. That's my two cents, as an experienced beekeeper. Cheers!


Thanks for the follow-up. It's good to know. Cheers, and keep on (organically) keeping!


Seriously cool. As someone with a background from small-scale farming(not beekeeping though) I love this and I am happy to see others enthusiastic as well.


So traditionally you have to uncap the honeycomb and then extract the honey using centripetal force. With this you just crack the center of the honey comb and it drains out below. This is pretty cool.

Does anyone see any cons to using this method compared to 'traditional' methods? Also anyone know a price? I couldn't find anything listed.


As an avid consumer: I approve of any device which makes it easier to get this product to my mouth. :)

Very well done!


Have you tried mead? Also what's your favorite variety of honey?


Very cool! (As a side note, do people actually use the phrase "there has to be a better way!" unsarcastically?)




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