Harvesting honey is one of the most exciting things about beekeeping. After several months of hive inspections and maintenance, you finally get to reap the rewards of your hard work. But, harvesting honey is sticky, messy, and time consuming.
To remedy that, a whole new type of beehive has been created. These beehives that drain honey feature the latest in honey harvesting technology to allow honey to be collected directly from the beehive.
How Beehives That Drain Honey Work
Beehives that drain honey work by utilizing special frames in the honey super. The frames in the brood box are the same as traditional Langstroth hives, but the frames in the super have a mechanism that allow honey to flow directly out of the hive.
In the Flow Hive, for example, the frames are made out of food grade BPA free plastic and have partially formed honeycomb cells. As your colony grows, bees will build comb upon these cells and fill them with honey. Once the cells are capped with wax you know it’s time to harvest honey.
To harvest honey you must insert a plastic cylinder, called a honey tube into a special opening at the bottom of the frame. Then insert the Flow key and rotate. This motion causes the honeycomb cells to split in half and point downwards, making the honey freely flow out of the frame. Place a jar under the honey tube to collect fresh honey.
When you are done, simply turn the key back the opposite direction. This resets the frame by putting the now empty comb back in it’s original position. The bees can now fill the cells with honey again.
Benefits of Beehives that Drain Honey
No Need For a Honey Extractor
The most obvious benefit of beehives that drain honey is the ease of honey extraction. Traditionally, harvesting honey requires a honey extractor, a large machine that removes honey from frames using centrifugal force. It works just fine, but the process can take a while and be quite messy.
But now with the advent of beehives that drain honey, you can harvest honey without using a honey extractor. That saves money and space because you will have one less piece of equipment to buy and store.
Safe for Bees
Something that is often overlooked when extracting honey is the fact that some bees get smashed. And no beekeeper wants that to happen for no reason. Using a bee smoker and bee brush helps to get bees off the frames, but it’s hard to get all of them.
With beehives that drain honey, however, the process of removing honey is so non-invasive, the bees are not disturbed at all. That’s because the frames don’t even have to leave the hive for the honey to be drained. All bees remain unbothered and unharmed during the extraction process.
No Heavy Lifting
When using a honey extractor you must lift the honey supers off the hive. When they are full of honey, they can weigh a lot. For example, a medium 10 frame super will weigh 50 pounds when full of honey. Needless to say, that can be the cause of back pain.
But with beehives that drain honey there is no heavy lifting required. That is great news for people who cannot, or do not want to lift heavy boxes.
Disadvantages of Beehives that Drain Honey
Can Take Too Much Honey
Because of the ease of draining honey, some people worry that beehives that drain honey will allow beekeepers to take too much honey from the bees. Bees need a certain amount of honey for themselves to eat during the winter. Not having enough means that the colony will certainly die.
To me, this is a non issue because the same thing can happen with traditional Langstroth hives. As long as the beekeeper is properly educated on how much honey bees need, this is not a problem.
Beehives that drain honey use plastic frames. There’s no way around it, as that is how the draining mechanisms work. Many beekeepers do not have any issues with this, but there are also those who prefer a plastic free method of beekeeping. Their belief is that the plastic could leach chemicals into the honey.
If you will use plastic in your hive, be sure to look at the quality of the plastic. Flow Hives use food grade, BPA free plastics for all their frames. Furthermore, their plastics are not manufactured with bisphenol-S or any other bisphenol compounds.
In these types of beehives, plastic is only used in the honey super. So, the frames in the brood boxes can remain plastic free.
Comparing Beehives that Drain Honey
The Flow Hive is the original beehive that drains honey. After a decade of research and prototypes, the Flow technology is patented. Any other hives that drain honey are copies of Flow.
At first glance you notice that the Flow hive is really attractive. It is made of laser cut A grade western red cedar. Red cedar has a rich, warm color and is strong and durable. The precision cut wood makes assembly easy, as everything fits together perfectly. Brass woodware is also a nice touch.
Something I like about the Flow Hive is that there are 2 observation windows. That way you can check on the bees without disrupting them. However, you must still do regular hive inspections. The windows are just an added bonus.
Something unique about Flow is that they have an extensive online community that offers help and support to all Flow owners. If you ever have a problem or question, simply call or email Flow’s friendly support staff. They also have a community forum with lots of education materials and an opportunity to interact with Flow users all over the world.
The best place to buy a Flow hive is directly from their website, honeyflow.com. The hive used to be available on Amazon, but it has been out of stock for several months.
BestEquip Bee Hive
BestEquip is basically a Flow hive knock off. It is made in China, while Flow is made in the US and Australia. It works the same way the Flow hive does, with special plastic frames that allow honey to be drained straight from the hive.
The designs even look similar, both having gabled roofs and observation windows. While Flow is made out of cedar, BestEquip’s hive is made out of pine. While both Flow and BestEquip hives require assembly, some reviews say that they had some difficulty putting the BestEquip hive together. Once constructed though, it’s a durable hive.
Being a knock off, the BestEquip hive is cheaper than the Flow hive. However, being that it is made in China, the quality isn’t quite as good. Also, you won’t be able to benefit from Flow’s online community, something very valuable to new beekeepers.
Beehives that drain honey use special frames that allow honey to be extracted straight from the hive. Because of this, no honey extractor is needed and the bees are unbothered. Flow invented this type of beehive, and BestEquip is a knock off of that design.