Letter Re: Some Harsh Lessons of Beekeeping

HJL,

I’d like to respond to Gilpin Guy on his response to Some Harsh Lessons of Beekeeping. The new Honeyflow system is amazing when it comes to collecting honey. I don’t see how it addresses any of the problems from the original post. It wasn’t honey collection that caused the hive failure, it was pests, and the Honeyflow won’t help with those. Here in Florida, colony collapse is close to 40% every year. This incredible number is not due to honey extraction.

Also, the letter states that “since you don’t need a bee suit, smoker, or honey extractor. “ I have bees. I can think of a couple of dozen reasons you’d have to open a hive other than to collect honey. Here are a few:

  • Marking a queen
  • Re-queening
  • Inspecting for pests – mites, ants, moths, beetles, mice, viruses, foul brood, wasps
  • Making sure a queen is laying sufficiently (if not, she has to be gotten rid of)
  • Replacing a box (they will have to be replaced eventually)
  • Transferring bees to the new box
  • Cleaning
  • Splitting a hive
  • Reenforcing a weak hive with brood from another
  • Adding the initial bees and queen
  • Inspecting capping before harvest

If bees can’t expand, they will swarm and leave. So you’ll have to somehow connect another expensive box to the piping and flow of the rest of the system to give them room.

Please don’t attempt these things without the proper equipment.

I think it would be a very large mistake to assume that you can buy a Honeyflow system and next to none of the other equipment that goes with it. The manner of taking the honey out of the hive has nothing to do with the maintenance and upkeep that comes with having bees.

Keeping bees is a craft as detailed as raising and caring for any other living creature. Automated cow milking didn’t stop any of the other problems that come with raising cows. Imagine just focusing on making it easier to milk a cow and not a single bit of thought on their environment, upkeep, or general well-being. Go to a long-time cow farmer and tell him that there’s a new milking product out there that means that you don’t have to have any of the other stuff that goes with keeping cows.

Over harvesting is a common mistake of greedy beekeepers. Bees make honey for themselves, not for us. They don’t want to eat sugar water and will not do nearly as well eating it instead of honey. Turning on a valve makes it very easy to take everything in that hive.

How are you going to inspect the combs to make sure the bees are finished capping and removing water before you harvest, without opening that hive up? Just seeing honey from the back doesn’t mean that it is ready to be harvested, not by a long shot.

Bees build out of wax. The Flowhive is plastic. Honey lasts as long as it does because the bees seal it off and the water is removed (the back of those plastic combs is a lever operated opening). Bees don’t use or like plastic; it doesn’t vibrate or regulate temperature like wax. Bees raise their young in those same combs. The comb is part of the living hive, it is even used for communication. I cannot see a single benefit of replacing that with plastic.

Another thought of mine is that you are dealing with flowing honey. Anyone that has ever gotten honey on a surface top or side of a jar know that it sticks quick and will become a cleanup problem if allowed to sit. It makes me wonder what will happen after you allow a few quarts of honey to flow through that hive and those tubes, with moving parts. What about colder climates? Someone is going to have to clean and un-jam that equipment. The bees do not have access to the flowing pipes in the back of the hive. Once honey goes through it, who is going to clean and disinfect it? What about bacteria? Mold? Pathogens? Is it going to keep flowing time and time again without someone running hot water through it?

That won’t be done without opening that hive and disrupting the bees.

My personal opinion is that the flowhive is an untested product for people looking to take shortcuts. Several opinions that I’ve read and heard seem to be of the nature that the Flowhive is going to make taking honey easy and every other problem with keeping bees is going to go away. Even the knowledge of how to handle basic problems is glossed over.

Take care of your animals (or insects), and then benefit from good husbandry. Focus on bees first, honey second, not the other way around. – D.D.

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