“I’m worried about the bees. I hear they’re in trouble.” These days bee-keepers hear this all the time from people who don’t keep bees. We appreciate the non-beekeepers’ concern. It’s a legitimate concern which sparks conversations about our hives and bees, and how they are doing. The general public worrying about the health of bees is a unique and rare educational moment.
The author has kept bees for 3 years
Usually the American public is at war with insects; bees, wasps, hornets, mosquitos, ants, and bedbugs, to name a few, can each be a serious nuisance. Billions of dollars are spent every year waging war against these “pests” in our homes, yards, gardens and farm fields. Even the industrious honeybee, ever hard at work making our honey and pollinating our crops, is an unwelcome guest when it moves into the walls of a home, or swarms in a nearby tree. For the moment though, the honeybee has been granted the good graces of the American public which wonders aloud, “What can we do to help the honeybees?”
Along comes the Flow-Hive, a functioning honeybee hive with a spout that pours out honey, “fresh from the hive!” and “it doesn’t disturb the bees!!” The buzz is substantial. As of March 2015 Flow Hive had raised $3.5 MILLION + on the crowdfunding site Indiegogo!!!
Here's an example of the hype accompanying the "Flow Hive" from the website Bored Panda: "With this brilliant invention by Stuart and Cedar Anderson, a father-and-son beekeeper team in Australia, honey bees around the world can breathe a collective sigh of relief. Their Flow Hive invention allows beekeepers to harvest honey from their hives without disturbing the bees inside. Honey bees around the world are in trouble from something called colony collapse disorder, and this is highly worrisome because of the honey they produce and the agricultural plants they pollinate. Hopefully, this hive will give weakened hives a much-needed break from intrusive visits from the bee keeper!" This bullshit was posted a week ago and already has 333,000 views. Flow Hive Euphoria
Americans are suckers for convenience. We went all in a decade ago for SRIs like Prozac that would cure depression with a pill. It turns out the pill was no more effective than herbal remedies and exercise, but the ineffectiveness of happy pills didn’t prevent billions of dollars in profits from pouring into the pharmaceutical industry. Millions of Americans became human guinea pigs by pouring a relatively untested pill down their throats. Years later one side-effect of SRIs turned out to be suicide in pre-adult users.
Complicated problems rarely have simple solutions. We can’t cure mass depression with a pill. We can’t solve a hostage crisis by turning a country into a parking lot. And we can’t halt the decimation of honey-bees and native pollinators with an ingenious device and good marketing. The Flow Hive solves nothing.
Among its advantages, "Supering" allows for harvest of distinct honeys.
Both jars came from the same hive, but the lighter honey had a spritely mint taste.
Honey is typically harvested from managed hives by placing “Super” units onto the 1 or 2 hive bodies where the bees live and reproduce. When the bees fill the supers with capped honey, they are removed from the hive, and the honey is harvested. Some worker bees will be found in the supers, and there are many different means to remove the bees gently, so that the honey can be harvested. THE HIVE BODIES WHERE THE BEES LIVE AND REPRODUCE ARE NOT DISTURBED DURING TRADITIONAL HONEY HARVESTING. The whole premise of the Flow Hive—that disturbing bees during honey harvest is a BIG problem—is false.
3 generations of beekeepers celebrate the harvest: the Old Master, the author & his daughter.
Freshly extracted honey flows through a sieve, and into a tapped 5 gallon bucket for storage.
Another selling point of the Flow Hive is that the honey pours fresh from the hive. Properly harvested and bottled honey will last decades. Capped honey comb was buried in Egyptian tombs and was still good when found 3000 years later. Milk spoils. Honey, not so much.
The inventors and developers of the Flow Hive deserve great praise for their ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit. Ingenuous devices and good marketing could have a great effect on the health of honeybees and native pollinators. Meanwhile, our pollinators face an immediate crisis that will require everyone to make tough choices if the foundation of our food production system is to be saved.
The author's daughter is also involved in the care of the bees.
The right side of the frame is capped honey, bees in the middle & brood at the lower left.
Good on you for wanting to help the bees. Here are some things you can do that will truly make a difference.
1) Plant diverse species in your yard and gardens that bees love. Less turf, more flowers.
"Swamp Milkweed" growing in a bog a 6' from a front walk is both beuatiful & beneficial.
2) Buy locally grown food and plants. Factory farms and big box stores regularly use systemic insecticides that devastate both pests and desirable insects. Talk to your local farmers and nursery growers and encourage them to stop using neonicotinoid insecticides, and back your encouragement with bucks.
Home grown & scavenged wild apples. Imperfect, they made the best Applesause ever.
3) Get involved in your local, county and state government. Advocate for preservation of wild lands, and acquisition of new lands for conservation. Encourage local and county Highway Departments to stop mowing mindlessly “roadside weeds” that are often important forage sources for pollinators. Insist they stop ineffective mosquito abatement efforts.
Town of Geneva, WI. Park Commission members looking good AND making a difference.
4) Reevaluate your relationship with insects. Insects are the staff of life; without them, there’s no us. Does it really matter if your rose foliage has some Jap beetle holes, when the blooms are just as beautiful, and the plant more floriferous for the insect-induced stress?
Their numbers are battered, but there is still time for pollinator populations to recover.
Loss of habitat, mono-crop agriculture, and pesticide use are the proven causes of honeybee and native pollinator decline. We the American public can do something to reduce the impact of all three every time we vote, shop and garden.