An ongoing dilemma with the Flow hive is how to over winter the Flow super with the Flow frames.
With a traditional Langstroth hive, a common approach is to leave any unripe honey in the super, remove the queen excluder and let the bees move up in winter if required. This has a slight risk of the queen laying in the super, which is generally rectified in Spring by moving the queen down and reinstalling the queen excluder.
With a Flow hive, the queen laying in the Flow frames has serious consequences. If the queen lays in the Flow frames (which, contrary to popular belief… she does very readily), the entire frame needs to be disassembled to remove the cocoon and other remnants left by the hatched brood… otherwise this material interferes with the function of the frames.
One solution I put forward last season was to run an additional standard Langstroth super (in my case, Ideal depth) above the queen excluder and below the Flow super. This allows the colony to have winter stores in the Ideal super, and once this super is filled, the bees will move up to the Flow super. This allows the beekeeper to remove the Flow super and leave honey over winter in the standard Langstroth super.
This hive configuration looks something like this:
Orange: 10 Frame Flow super (7 Flow frames)
Purple: 10 Frame Langstroth ideal depth super
Blue: 10 Frame Langstroth full depth super
The queen excluder is between the blue and purple box.
This allows you to remove the Flow super for wintering, but still leaves the problem of what to do with the unripe honey that may be left in the Flow frames at the end of the season. In my setup, I didn’t want to drain the unripe honey as I (at some stage) want to see these frames full, so I froze the frames over winter in a chest freezer.
With the weather looking promising over the weekend I recovered the frames from the freezer and re-assembled the Flow super.
I didn’t freeze the box with the frames. You can definitely see the build up of propolis on the top of the super (and around the adjustment screws) from last season. I placed the super on an inverted Technoset lid to catch any honey/water from the process.
The Flow frames are stacked with other supers from the previous season. The Flow frames are stacked in the order they were pulled from the super, with more honey stored (and some capped) in the central frames (second photo), and less in the outer frames (third photo).
There was no visible impact to the frames from their time in the freezer, but they were a little less pleasant to handle / manipulate into the super. The frames were placed back in the super in the same order they were removed.
As with all Flow supers, there was some minor adjustment required to correctly fit the frames. In this case, frozen propolis had to be removed from the frames so they would seal up correctly against each other behind the removable observation panel.
The initial plan was to place the enclosed super (empty top feeder on top) in the sun to thaw, but the central heating proved more reliable than the Canberra forecast.
So in summary… I froze a Flow hive/super… and nothing has blown up yet . Next step is to find out how the bees treat it.