Removing a Flow Hive super using a clearer board (bee escape)

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 :smiley:

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.
1 Like

Q: Why not just leave the flow frames on over winter? Do flow frames have problems or the queen get chilled?

Hi Psyche, welcome to the forum :slight_smile:

The queen excluder should be removed for winter to allow the bees to move freely to access the honey stores in the supers. If the excluder is left in, you risk the winter cluster moving up, leaving the queen trapped below the excluder.

If the excluder is removed, the queen can move up into the Flow super and in the following season (or even before) may start to lay in the super. Due to the size of the Flow frame cells, all the bees produced from the Flow cells will be drones. Additionally, the brood in the Flow frames will leave cocoons in the cells which requires disassembly of the Flow frames to clean/remove.

I agree the Flow frames should always have a queen excluder.

How about putting a brood mat under the queen excluder? The cluster stays below, but the bees can still wander and protect the Flow frames on warmer days.

I think moving the hive mat down sounds good (even great) in theory, but from experience this only restricts (discourages) movement for a limited time.

Similar to how a crown board is sometimes used to ‘clean up’ stickies, it’s said that the area above the crown board is treated as ‘outside’ the hive by the bees, with workers moving up to rob the remaining honey and then returning frequently enough to manage pests (wax moth, hive beetle).

I have found that given enough pressure in the brood chamber/box, the bees will move up past a mat/crown board. I have some photos here of the bees moving up through/past my hive mat during a strong honey flow.

Granted this is a ‘Mercer’ mat with a centre section removed, but I have found they will actively move around the mat over time (if there is pressure). @BBH and I have had several cases where bees have actively ignored the crown board in the Flow Hive and moved into the roof (although, I don’t have an example of a queen laying in the roof yet)

It’s hard to exaggerate just how quick the build up of honey/pollen/brood is at the start of Spring (as you’ve likely experienced), and I think the pressure in the brood box during this time may cause the queen to move up. With the queen laying potentially 3000 eggs a day (quoted from Dadant), it doesn’t take long for her to ‘lay out’ the 8 frame brood box and start looking elsewhere for empty cells. That said however, if a beekeeper managed to time it right, they could probably get the excluder in before this build up.

With existing hives where this process is recommended, the penalty to the beekeeper for the queen moving up is a quick swap of brood/super boxes, or shifting the queen back down and adding an excluder. In a Flow Hive… I think the stakes are high enough with having to clean up Flow Frames that I will let someone else do the testing :smile:

If you have used (had success with) this method or have links to posts from people successfully using this method to control the queen’s movement, please let me know, I am always keen to see what others are doing!

If you haven’t already, but do end up using this method, please post up your results on the forum :smiley: