The realization that there had to be a better way to extract honey from hives came to Cedar Anderson around 10 years ago after a particularly messy and disruptive attempt to extract honey that resulted in fair few stings for him, as well as many dead, squashed bees. After a decade of designing and testing, Cedar and his father, Stuart, have developed a system that uses a regular bee brood box combined with one or more “Flow Supers” for honey storage and extraction. A domesticated honeybee hive is usually made up of two boxes; the brood box where the queen bee lays eggs, and the super, which is where you’ll find the honeycomb that stores the honey. The Andersons’ system replaces regular beehive honeycomb frames with their specially designed Flow frames, which the bees then store honey in.
Related: Attracting Pollinators: Plants that Encourage Bees, Butterflies, and Birds to Visit
So how does it work, in a nutshell? The Flow frames are made of partly formed honeycomb cells. As the Andersons explain: “The bees complete the comb with their wax, fill the cells with honey and cap the cells as usual. When you turn the tool, a bit like a tap, the cells split vertically inside the comb forming channels, allowing the honey to flow down to a sealed trough at the base of the frame and out of the hive, while the bees are practically undisturbed on the comb surface. When the honey has finished draining, you turn the tap again in the upper slot which resets the comb into the original position and allows the bees to chew the wax capping away, and fill it with honey again.” Fresh, unprocessed honey on tap? Simple!
Getting sightly more technical, the Flow frames are designed to fit either an eight- or 10-frame Langstroth beehive box. The Andersons say a full, eight-frame, deep super would take six Flow frames, and a 10-frame super would take seven Flow frames. With a bit of customization the Flow frames can also fit into UK National and Warre boxes, see the websites below for further details. Possible pledges within the Indiegogo campaign include just three Flow frames to add to your existing hives, right up to a complete box kit—just add bees! Shipping is available worldwide, and this runaway crowdfunding success story is adding new categories to its possible pledges as fast as they can be typed up.
Related: How one Bay Area couple plans to save the bees by planting one billion wildflowers
What about the results? Just one Flow frame will yield a harvest of around 7 lbs (3kg) of honey. If you buy the complete box kit, the design has a window on the side that lets you watch your bees at work and see when the honey is ready to harvest. You’ll still need to open your beehive a couple of times a year to check on the health of the bees, but this system is much less disruptive and less stressful on the bees than the usual method. Novice beekeepers are, however, strongly advised to join a local beekeeping society to learn how to properly care for and maintain their hive.
Images via Flow Hive on Indiegogo