It seems the flow hive is getting renewed attention. As usual, people are taking the least information and making dramatic, emotional cases on them.
If one understands bee biology and behavior, you don’t need to actually have a flow hive to be able to make certain deductions based on descriptions and photos.
First of all, the flow hive is not a new or different kind of hive. It is a customized Langstroth deep box used as a honey super filled with specially designed frames.
So you still have a Langstroth hive that must be inspected and worked like any other Langstroth hive.
The idea of connecting hoses to the frames, breaking the combs and draining honey into containers outside of the hive leads an educated and experienced beekeeper to wonder how much robbing increases or becomes a factor.
The frames are supposedly viewable from the openings in the boxes allowing the beekeeper to see the ends of the frames. Again, an educated and experienced beekeeper wonders how to determine the cells are all capped or what percentage of them is capped without pulling the whole frame out and inspecting both sides. Viewing from only one end of a seated frame will not allow you to confirm honey is ready to be extracted.
Large, square openings are cut into the custom boxes to allow the tubed to be attached. Any extra openings in the wall of a hive box can allow small pests such as Small Hive Beetles and Varroa mites (though Varroa mites usually enter the hive on the backs of bees), ants, etc…to get into the hive increasing stress on the colony.
The frames themselves are questionable. Made of plastic to resemble fully drawn out combs, many wonder as to how well these plastic frames will withstand northern winters.
Questions about how easily the frames might become clogged have also come to many beekeepers minds.
Once again, you don’t have to actually own or have hands on a flow hive box or frame to think about these things. Knowledge of natural honey bee biology and behavior leads us to these questions and conclusions directly.
Many beekeepers have seen the prices suggested by the makers and have them to be so excessive that purchase wouldn’t make regular use practical or cost efficient. If bee equipment isn’t considered practical, it is often relegated to the novelty and hobbyist realm.
Really all you have is a customized deep Lang super with plastic, fully drawn plastic frames. It looks like fun and something cool to show ones friends and customers.
Ultimately, due to cost and unanswered hive management concerns, it is pretty much an expensive toy.