Monday, February 23, 2015

The "Flow" hive -- There's a sucker born every minute

"There's a sucker born every minute" -- David Hannum (attributed to PT Barnum)

I'm not averse to innovation in beekeeping. There have been plenty of real improvements in the craft since I got started in the early '60s and you'll see most of the new ideas that have had merit over those years in my bee yard.

Now, along comes a flashy new invention that presents itself as an effortless method of harvesting honey: The "Flow" hive. While the website does briefly mention that reponsible beekeepers should still conduct regular inspections, the website seems to imply that all one need to do to bee a beekeeper is to turn a spigot. Our honey bees need and deserve better care than simply opening a spigot. They need regular inspections and, when appropriate, treatments.

Crush-and-strain has been well-tested for thousands of years. The use of a knife and extractor has been well-tested for well over 100 years. Both of these methods were readily adopted because experienced beekeepers could see the obvious merits in them. The improvement of extraction over crush-and-strain was very significant and indisputable, leading to it's very rapid adoption in the craft to the point that even people with only one or two hives often have an extractor.

I predict that the "Flow" hive no beekeeper with more than 5 years of successful beekeeping experience will pay for this gimmick with his/her own money although a handful might be willing to accept one as a gift to be used briefly as a toy. Even then, I predict that the few experienced beekeepers who give it a try will abandon the "Flow" equipment after a season or two. I know of only one experienced beekeeper who has had anything remotely positive to say about this invention -- Michael Bush -- and his remarks seem to be a bit ambiguous (he hasn't actually tested it yet).

In spite of that avoidance by experienced beekeepers, I predict that the "Flow" hive will be a huge marketing success for up to 5 years because the world is full of gullible people -- beekeepers who typically lose at least 50% of their colonies each year.

The "Flow" hive is a clever gadget designed to extract money from people who think they are beekeepers but really aren't -- people who anthropomorphize honey bees. Beekeepers who fall for gimmicks such as this are not likely to have much long-term success keeping bees. I predict that after that five-year period, this fad will collapse. The inventors will each have nice mansions and will never need to work again -- at your expense. The landfills will receive tons of abandoned "Flow" equipment.

It's a bit like thinking one can put a cow in the back yard and still pour the milk out of a jug. Experimenting on 50,000 of God's living creatures is no place for anyone with little or no experience with bees. A good beekeeper digs into his/her hives every two weeks to check for disease, strong-laying queen, and to ensure the colony has room for colony growth. "...disturbing the bees" is part of the job. One more opening of the lid to harvest is not much extra disturbance to the bees.

Beekeepers who want "to have honey on tap directly from our beehives without disturbing the bees" are probably too lazy or timid to properly manage their bees. Ya want easy, care-free local honey? Go to the farmers' market. It's a lot easier and cheaper not to mention a lot more responsible.

It really isn't all that difficult to harvest honey from a conventional comb -- even for a person with no extractor. Nevertheless, I expect the manufacturer to do quite well selling this novelty to beginners and relatively new beekeepers who want easy local honey. (They are the experts in beekeeping, after all.)

I expect to see a ton of these on the second-hand market when buyers find out that this gimmick is a lot harder to use successfully than advertised.

As Dennis Miller would say, "That's just my opinion. I could be wrong." In five years, someone will have egg on their faces -- those who fell for this gimmick or the experienced beekeepers. Feel free to contact me in 5 years to say, "I told you so" if I am wrong.

One good thing this invention might do is to steer the above-mentioned "experts" toward Langstroth equipment (although the website says it can be adapted to a few other hive designs).

1 comment:

  1. It turns out that the "Flow" isn't so new after all: