Apiculture (or beekeeping) has been an important food-producing activity for millenia. Even today, the main production techniques do not differ significantly from our forfathers' since professional apiculture exists in a very small degree. Taking into account the collapsing bee colonies, applying technological innovation on beehives has been somehow difficult to achieve. However, there have been some new applications with one of them standing out: Flow Hive. According to the manufacturing company,
"“Flow” is the name of our new invention, removable frames with a matrix that the bees build their wax honeycomb on. The design of the matrix allows honey to be harvested directly from the hive without opening the hive and with little disturbance to the bees.".
"A Flow Hive is our term for a standard beehive that has Flow frames in the honey storage part (super). A honeybee hive is usually made up of the brood box where the queen bee lays eggs and the ‘supers’ with honeycomb for the storage of honey. A ‘Flow Super’ is a beehive box using Flow Frames that the bees store honey in."
"The Flow Frame consists of partly pre-formed honeycomb cells. The bees complete the comb with their wax, fill the cells with honey and cap the cells as usual. The operating tool is inserted in the top of the frame and turned, (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. During this operation the bees are practically undisturbed on the comb surface. When the honey has finished draining, the operating tool is inserted into another slot and turned again which resets the comb into the original position and allows the bees to chew the wax capping away and fill it with honey again."
The main benefit, and most publicized of course, is the feeling of just opening the tap and pouring honey into your jar. In addition, the beekeper causes minimized harm or disruption on the bees since the beehive doesn't have to be opened and a frame removed. Hence, the benefits regard the convenience of beekeeping and not enhancing the quality of the product or the safety of the bee colony.
There have been, however, some counter-arguments to the efficiency and proper use of Flow Hive which can be summarized with the following:
- The use of plastic is not the right choice; it distorts the proper circumstances (temperature, chemical etc) inside the beehive.
- The fact that it is very easy and comfortable for the beekeeper will lead to a generation of half-trained and unaware of all the details of beekeeping. The beekeeper must be commit time to his/hers beehives and help them fight off any new pathogens or pests.
- Its cost is too high compared to the traditional practices.