A new invention by two Australian beekeepers is claimed to be able to siphon honey straight from a beehive without opening the lid or disturbing the bees inside. When a tap attached to a specifically developed honeycomb "Flow" frame within the hive is opened, the bee-formed cells are split slightly open inside the comb, thereby allowing channels to form through which the honey flows down to a sealed trough and out of the hive straight into collecting jars. All the while, the bees are virtually undisturbed on the surface of the comb.
Created by father and son team, Stuart and Cedar Anderson, the Flow frames are special beehive frames to which already partly formed honeycomb cells are attached. Once the frames are fitted inside a conventional apiarist’s bee box, the bees inside finish building the comb with their own wax then proceed to top up the cells with honey that they produce before capping the cells in the usual manner.
UPGRADE TO NEW ATLAS PLUS
More than 1,200 New Atlas Plus subscribers directly support our journalism, and get access to our premium ad-free site and email newsletter. Join them for just US$19 a year.UPGRADE
Unbeknownst to the bees, however, these frames are actually made in two halves, so that when the combination splitter/tap is turned on, the contents inside of the cells are simply allowed to flow out without having to remove the wax-seals. When the honey has finished draining into the collection jars – which takes anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours, depending on the temperature and viscosity of the honey – the tap is turned back to its original position, the bees chew through the wax seals, and once more fill the cells with honey.
The only modification required to the bee box itself is the cutting and fitting of two access doors in the sides of the structure. These serve two purposes: allowing access to the working slots and honey pipe outlets, and providing a unique view into the workings of the hive itself. This also means that the bees can be watched turning nectar into honey, show when each comb is full, and allow the keeper to check on the health of the bees without opening the lid of the hive.
In addition to a reduction in heavy lifting of lids and frames, the creators also claim that their invention will help ensure healthier bees and bee colonies. This is because the hives are not regularly undone and dragged apart to harvest the honey in the usual fashion. As a result, the bees remain comparatively undisturbed, which means that they experience much less overall stress. Given the worldwide decline in bee populations, this can only be a good thing.
According to many apiarists – including those behind other bee hive concepts intended to reduce beehive stress stress – a less-anxious colony is a much healthier and happier one. Not having to open the hive also reduces the risk of introducing disease or squashing any bees that get in the way when the frames are pulled out.
The creators have built, tested, and modified their idea over many years and, for the past three years, have also been trialling their device with beekeepers in Australia, America and Canada. Now they are looking to bring their invention to market, and have opted to launch a Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund it. With an official launch of the Flow hive aimed for the 23rd of February, the inventors are hoping to get the project off the ground and start manufacturing and delivering within the next four months.
Prices and confirmed deliveries have yet to be announced, but the creators promise these will be listed when their Kickstarter project is launched.
The short video below shows the creators explaining and demonstrating their invention.
Update (Feb. 23, 2015): At the last minute, due to US$ currency issues with Kickstarter, the Australian team decided to launch their crowdfunding campaign via Indiegogo. The change of venue doesn't appear to have hurt them, as in under six hours the campaign is rapidly approaching double its $70,000 target.
Update (Feb. 25, 2015): It's been confirmed that the Flow Hive has broken the record for the most funds raised in the first 24 hours on Indiegogo, at $2.18 million. The campaign goal of $70,000 was reached in just 477 seconds (or 7 mins 57 secs).