Many of you will have seen my previous post on the Flow Hive and those of you who agree with the views expressed need read no further.
However, any beekeeper who spends time on the internet or reads newspapers will be well aware of the hive’s rapturous reception, regretfully even among some who might place themselves amongst the community of natural beekeepers. The promise of ‘less disturbance’ to the bees is proving very attractive. Sadly it is a deception. What is not spoken of, and to which I have already alluded, is the disconnect that lies in the thinking behind the idea.
Two quotes illustrate the disconnect to which I refer: ‘Our dream was that this would increase the bee population around the world and help people become engaged with bees’ and ‘Hopefully now people won’t need to spend as much time harvesting’. I read that as saying it’s OK for the bees to fly millions of miles to garner nectar and spend hours ripening that nectar into honey, but the beekeeper should be able to remove that honey with a twist of a tap. Is that ‘engagement’?
The huge commercial operations where one sees honey being harvested in a manner that is, frankly, brutal will not be using the technology described here: its far too expensive and liable to fail. In this context, the idea that there is less disturbance to the bees when the tap is turned has the appearance of being a somewhat disingenuous justification.
In the case of hobby beekeeping, it is entirely possible to harvest honey responsibly and gently without the Flow Hive. I don’t even wear protective gear. The bees seem quite happy to share genuine surplus.
Within Bee-centred beekeeping, anyone truly interested in holistic husbandry has a rich choice of avenues for truly engaging with bees without inserting inappropriate and damaging technology into the heart of the complex organism that is the bee colony. The wax combs of a bee hive are an integral part of the bee organism, just as are the internal organs of a mammal. We should not mess with them. The importance of the comb is beautifully described on the blog of a true bee-centred beekeeper, here.
If you want bees that are completely undisturbed, put a hive up a tree and leave the bees to it. In other words, become a bee conservator; goodness knows, the bees need it. And, if you want honey, go to a beekeeper and buy some.
If, on the other hand, you want to be a beekeeper yourself, then realize that being a beekeeper, just as with caring for any other animal, requires a degree of commitment and engagement. Don’t fall into the marketing speak that you can be a beekeeper and get lots of honey just by twisting a tap. That is not beekeeping or engagement, that is casual exploitation, based on by the view that everything that one desires can be obtained with no effort or engagement other than a casual flick of the wrist.
On the bright side, thoughtful beekeepers all over the world, are making their voices heard in the current noisy euphoria. They range from beekeepers of the conventional sort (as in this video) to those of a biodynamic persuasion. That is encouraging and a sign, perhaps that the Bee has a view, too. Here is the NBKT’s position, updated since my previous post on the subject.
It’s extraordinary seeing the excitement. It teaches us a lot about the world we live in. The creators wanted to raise $70k but have had commitments for over $2m within days, no doubt super-accelerated by the media frenzy which is all positive. But look a bit closer and you see a hive like this will set you back upwards of $400, so it’s not for commercial beeks. At this point even a cold hearted economic analyst would step back and say “seems too good to be true”, but as you say the really interesting point is how disconnected most people are from the natural world around them. Respect for other creatures gets blanked out by triggers like “free stuff” and “easy beekeeping without stings”. The way this has gone viral will have students of marketing studying the phenomenon for years.
All in all, this doesn’t really reflect well on our species.
Unfortunately, it’s the same thinking that got us into the mess with bees in the first place. On the surface the idea is seductive; that’s a big part of its appeal. But one cannot get out of a hole by using the same approach that put one in the hole in the first place. We have to change.
And you a quite right about commercial beeks. I can’t see them using this. So when folk say that a lot of bees will be spared a lot of intrusion, well it simply won’t happen. The guys who buy this will be hobby-beeks. Moreover, I’ll wager that a large number of flow hives will be sitting unused in the back of garages in a year or two, next to all the other gadgets that have been tried and failed.
I was going to give you the Bee Vlog video, but I see you already have it. One of the points he makes is that the “Flow Hive” encourages the TAKE, TAKE, TAKE philosophy. I keep encountering that mindset at my local bee meetings. Everything is measured by the ‘gallons of honey per hive’ ruler. Anything that increases the amount of honey you get is encouraged, no matter how much the bees suffer in the process. The Flow Hive is just another example of that, but beekeeping should be more than about honey. It should be about the guardianship of the bees, because sooner or later, the exploitation and damage to bees might just catch up to us.
well, i’m glad i read your site. I was thinking of buying a flow hive, but reading this led me to learn about sun hives, and i’m sold. I’ll start my adventures in bee keeping with one of those instead.