One issue you may come across when planning to store a Flow Hive super for Winter, is removing the super from the hive. Unlike regular frames, Flow frames are designed to tightly fit inside the super, and although it’s possible to remove them one by one, the super is better managed as a single unit.
The Flow Hive super that I freeze over winter is a 10 frame Langstroth (7 frame Flow) so is slightly larger than the most common Flow Hive size (6 Flow frames), but the process would be the same. The primary difference is that I am removing this super full of honey as I have a series over other photos I plan to post showing the extraction process up close with the frames outside of the hive (stay tuned!).
As discussed in some of my other threads on the Forum, I have an Ideal super between the brood box and the Flow super to ensure that there are adequate honey stores for the bees over Winter with the Flow super removed. This is something I actively encourage new Flow hive owners to do, especially if they plan to remove their Flow super over Winter.
The top feeder had an excellent example of bees filling ventilation holes with propolis. Note: the bees were not fed at all over the season, the top feeder was left in place under the lid.
The Flow super was monitored over the season through the observation window and by removing the lid of the hive. Removing the lid here shows the bees building up out of the super as it is completely full.
A close up photo of the comb built out between the Flow frames
Unfortunately, at this point the process became a little more difficult. One issue with the Flow super is the spacing off the bottom of the frames. I have mentioned it before, but with the super completely fully of honey, the amount of comb built down from the bottom of the Flow frames to the Ideal super below resulted in a super that was not easily removed.
An additional hammer shaped ‘hive tool’ was used to break apart the two supers around the edge. A surprising benefit of the hive tool in the photo (not the hammer) was the ease at which you could hit the end with a hammer
With the Flow super removed, it became clear why it wasn't a straight forward process... with a huge amount of burr comb (filled with honey) constructed between the two supers.
The burr comb was quickly cleaned up with the hive tool.
The bottom of the Flow super also needed to be cleaned up. In this instance, I used an overturned lid and removed the comb with a hive tool, carefully avoiding the wires that hold the Flow frames together.
As the bees were still actively bringing nectar in, I placed an additional Ideal super on the hive. This super contained recently extracted 'stickies', so the bees were able to quickly clean the frames up and continue building up honey reserves for winter.
This next step may seem unintuitive. The lid was then placed back on the hive, with the Flow super filled with bees resting on an overturned lid next to the hive.
The Flow super was then placed on top of the lid. At this point the only way for the bees to move in and out of the super is through the top. The bottom of the Flow super creates an enclosed space on top of the lid of the hive.
At this stage the escape board (bee escape) is placed on top of the Flow super. This specific escape is made by Technoset, and quickly clears the super by encouraging the bees up towards the light that passes through the clear section of the lid. When the bees hit the lid, they then actively move to the two small entrances at each end of the escape. The entrances at each end are small enough to avoid robbing during the time that the super is being cleared. When the bees leave the clearer board, they return to the hive through the front entrance.
The Flow super on the hive lid, with the clearer board attached.
A close up showing the bees moving towards an exit at one end
After several hours I returned to the hive and waited for the last few remaining bees to exit. I then lifted the Flow super with the escape board off the lid of the hive and placed it in storage so the frames could be extracted (photos will be posted soon).
One of the key benefits of this type of clearer board setup is that the hive doesn't need to be re-opened to re-install the lid when the supers are removed.