Flow Hive


Have you purchased a Flow Hive ???

If your one of the many people in Melbourne Victoria who has purchased a Flow Hive but has never had a beehive previously then I am here to help.

The Flow Hive is a device placed on top of a normal beehive to help with the extraction of honey without disturbing the bees in the traditional manner that requires removal of frames and extraction of honey away from the hive.  I offer training in bee husbandry to help people understand how to look after there bees and how to maintain there new FlowHive extractor. 

The Flow Hive extractor will require maintenance from time to time which means it will need to be removed from the hive, cleaned and then placed back onto the hive at various intervals. 

The Flow Hive will need to be removed over winter and cleaned before storage during winter then being placed back on the hive in spring.

Management of the bees for disease and swarming will need to be carried out at various times during the year and I can help you to understand what’s required and when it’s required.

In most countries and here in Australia there is a code of practice that needs to be understood and this lays down the basic legal requirements for beekeepers and what they need to do to comply with the law and to keep your neighbours happy.

No two bee colonies are exactly the same and as to how your bees perform using the Flow Hive will be extremely variable from Hive to Hive and the many factors that exist in the bee’s ability to produce a Honey Flow can vary wildly from location to location and season to season.

Urbane backyard beekeeping is becoming very popular and its one of the most amazing hobbies anyone can have but it does require some knowledge and a little bit of your time to maintain a healthy happy colony of bees.

I train people in the use of organic none chemical methods of bee husbandry that allows for the best quality honey and healthy bees.

Training is in South Eastern Melbourne Victoria Australia


Honey Bee Cell Size

Understanding the important role of cell size in bees is paramount and cannot be understated. The effects on bee behaviour and survival into the future are linked to our understanding of Cell size.   Beekeeping for the past 100 years has been greatly influenced by the introduction of Wax foundation and the mistakes in measuring cells per square inch advocated by Baudoux. 

Baudoux advocated a cell size of 4.9mm to 5.0mm but due to a misunderstanding in the way people measured cell size and the different methods used by Baudoux a miscalculation showing a cell size of 5.4mm has wrongfully been advocated by beekeepers and foundation makers the world over.  Understanding the writings of Baudoux is crucial as his influence on beekeeping is second to none and people still read his works which were widely published in beekeeping journals around the world and the mistaken measurements showing he proposed a cell size of 5.4mm are still reported to this day.

http://resistantbees.com/blog/?page_id=1524  old rhomb method V’s Square box Method

With any scientific study of bees one must take into consideration the cell size being used as the cell size plays a crucial roll in how bees behave and how they deal with disease and mite infestation.  Genetics also play a crucial role in controlling disease and mite infestations but cell size is by far the quickest and easiest method of changing the way bees behave.

Most people refer to cell sizes as either large cell (5.2mm to 5.6mm) or natural Cell size (4.6mm to 5.1mm) also referred to as small cell.  Most commercially available foundation is 5.4mm and most advocates of natural cell size refer to cell size of 4.9mm.

Around the world today people are seeking a solution to the issues of Mite control and CCD but have neglected to take cell size into account when seeking there solutions.  They miss completely the issue of bee behavioural changes that occur when bees change in size. 

Putting chemicals into beehives to control mites and disease is extremely damaging to the bees and destroys the bacterial processes the bees use to ferment pollen into usable bee bread that is used to feed new emerging bees. It also upsets the gut flora of bees and opens up a door for further disease and infestations in the beehive which is now unable to properly ferment the food it requires and subsequent generations of bees become undernourished and less healthy.  If it’s not good for people it’s not good for bees and if it’s not good for bees then it’s not good for people.  Stressing bees with constant moving and changes in environment now contaminated with many differing chemicals all contribute to the decline of a bee colony and CCD.

Baudoux made comments about the smallest of bees and how he viewed them as pitiful specimens of bees.  This was a reference to bees on foundation or very old natural brood comb below 4.6mm which was very common at that time as beekeepers would do all they could to make the brood chamber as compact as possible.  Despite Baudoux’s comments about the pitiful state of smaller bees the beekeepers at that time had little to no disease issues

Bee’s from natural cell sizes of 4.8mm to 4.9mm have a number of natural advantages over large cell bees.

Fact…More bees in the hive. Natural Cell size shortens the time from egg to hatch by around 2 or even 3 days.  Bees on natural cell sizes of 4.8mm or 4.9mm will naturally hatch earlier.  This would immediately alleviate at least one of the issues associated with CCD where young bees are going out to forage some 2 days before they are normally ready. http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2015/02/10/4176386.htm. It also increases up the hive numbers in spring and makes for more bees in the hive.

Fact… Tracheal Mites (Acarapis woodi) are mites that live in the trachea of Large Cell bees or any bee born from cell size of 5.2mm and above.  The mites live and bread in the trachea of these bees and shorten there lives.   Thankfully this is not true of Natural sized bees from cell sizes of 4.8mm or 4.9mm.  For natural sized bees the mites are no longer a problem as they do not readily fit in the trachea of these bees and are forced to live between the hairs on the bees back performing cleaning duties for the bees that helps to extend the bees life.  Queens are variable in there ability to negate the effects of tracheal mites and selective breeding from resistant queens works well.

Fact… More Compact Brood Chamber. With the use of Natural cell size foundation the breeding chamber becomes much more compact and the number of bees required to perform brood temperature control duties etc is lessened.  This frees up nurse bees to perform hygienic duties such as cleaning the hive and removal of diseased brood such as brood infested with Varroa Mites.  As Varroa mites are naturally attracted to larger cells this means it’s mostly drones that get infested as natural sized worker cells are less prone to attack. Apis Cerana worker cell size is 3.6mm to 4.9mm and a natural co-existence has been achieved with Varroa.  The only real difference is that Apis Cerana leaves a small hole in the capping of there Drone brood to make easier detection of the Varroa mites for removal. Natural cell sized bees with plenty of workers freed up for other duties means the Varroa Mite is more vigorously detected then removed and a natural balance can be achieved without the use of chemicals.  In fact the use of Chemicals can only be effective as a short term solution as no chemical works forever.

Fact… Hygienic Behaviour.  The holy grail of beekeeping is to bread the perfect super hygienic bee and some small success has been achieved in this area but it has a long way to go.  Creating the right conditions to naturally increase this behaviour in all your bees would make more sense as its quicker, cheaper and more productive.  Creating the right conditions to induce better hygienic behaviour means less disease in your hives naturally, zero treatments and greater productivity.

Fact…  Natural sized bees produce more honey.  I find it’s ironic that most studies that look at cell size completely fail to properly regress there bees and then conclude it’s a failure but always it shows increased honey production within the second or third years of regression in there study.  If you are a commercial beekeeper then this is something you need to take seriously.

Fact… How to regress your bees.  After more than 100 years of using large cell foundation it can take time to regress bees back to a natural cell size of 4.8mm or 4.9mm.  Advocates of Foundationless hives will find that bees naturally make smaller cells by .2mm with each removal and rebuilding of the brood chamber and this will continue down to 4.8mm where most bees naturally settle and some bees will regress to 4.6mm.  This method of removal and forced rebuilding of the brood chamber every 4 to 6 months can take some time so the use of either plastic foundation for super-fast results or wax foundation is used to speed up this process.  Often a cell size of 5.1mm is used as a transitional foundation size in hives that don’t readily take to the 4.9mm foundation.   Most bees are happy to use the 4.9mm wax foundation without issue. The full regression process can take 2 to 4 years and creates what is called an epigenetic change in the bees where different genes are turned on or off to facilitate the different behavioural traits within bees that change according to there size.

More information is available on my website www.ikeepbees.com.au or for a truly detailed look into this fascinating area of beekeeping visit www.resistantbees.com.

Getting started as a beekeeper

What are the basic essentials needed to get started as a beekeeper.  This will depend a little on the type of hive you choose and your DIY skills and your budget.  Most things in beekeeping can be either purchased or you can make your own if you want.  This list does not take into account how you will process any honey you gain from your hive.

Beehive. You will need a beehive, either a Langstroth o Warre hive made up of boxes, Top bars or frames, or a long box top-bar beehive.

Foundation. Foundation is what beekeepers use as a guide for the bees to draw out the comb, if you're using a foundation-based system or as a starter strip guide on top bars.

Bees! You can collect a local swarm in spring or find a local beekeeper that can help to provide you with bees.

Protective gear. A full suit or jacket is recommended for all beekeepers.

Gloves. Most people use leather beekeeping gloves but quality dishwashing gloves can suffice.

Smoker. A smoker helps to keep your bees calm when opening the hive.

Bee tools. At least one hive tool for helping to open and adjust your hive components.

Natural Organic Beekeeping


Working with bees is such a privilege and the bee’s ability to survive in an ever increasingly hostile environment is amazing, but there is a limit as to just how much bees can handle and that limit is now being reached.   Man is responsible for most of the bee’s melodies and much of what’s happening in beekeeping today must change.  The constant adding of chemicals to beehives combined with trucking thousands of beehives all over the country was never a good idea and at some point these practices must stop.

For the past three years I have constantly asked myself why is the world having so many problems with bees and is there a way to keep bees that’s commercially viable, sustainable, organic and natural.  I searched back in history and looked for answers in scientific papers and found that the answers are right there starring at us.  What have we done to help create this melody of dramas for bees and why wasn’t CCD happening in the past or did it.  There were historically massive bee deaths in countries at various times but almost always this appears to be the result of a new virus strain and the bees quickly recovered and life continued uninterrupted for long periods without further issues.

History shows us that many people cared for bees and recorded much information that today can shed light on many of the ways we have changed the bee’s ability to cope with stress and disease and insect attack from the likes of Varroa destructor.  There are small groups of people around the world who have used this information to change the way they keep there bees and have been able to stop the use of chemicals in there beehives and once again reinvigorate the bees natural abilities to protect themselves from attach from Varroa and diseases and once again return to a natural balance where sustainable natural beekeeping without chemicals and massive yearly die offs can once again be the norm.

Going back just 120 years will show that beekeepers around the world used many different beehive designs from skeps to logs of all different sizes and shapes and this had been going on for longer than we have records.  Before this people would collect honey from wild natural hives any which way they could.  Some records show people moved bees from time to time but mostly bees where kept for long periods without movement.  Bees where studied and measured and dissected by many people in the past and there records are a treasure trove of information for those who are looking for answers.

So what’s different about beekeeping today that’s significantly different today compared to the beekeeping practices and mediums of the past. 

Many natural beekeepers place blame on the very homes we provide for bees as the Standard Langstroth or Warre beehive today consisting of a wooden box with movable frames or top-bars was revolutionary 100 years ago but in truth and from a bees point of view it’s not so different from the skeps and logs of old.  It’s only revolutionary from a human point of view because it made the beekeepers job of inspecting and manipulating the hive so much easier when compared to a skep or log hive.  For the bees it’s a home like any other and fulfils all the basic requirements of shelter and comfort adhering to the bees’ basic requirements.  Not much of a change really.

Many activists and environmentalists blame the state of the environment and the numerous poisons that we use on farms and in our backyards for the melodies of bees today and forget that bees use and encounter chemicals naturally in there environment.  Plants produce some of the most toxic substances known to man and bees.  The bees collect many of these compounds to use in there hives and have devised a number of ways to reduce there toxic effects and benefit from these toxic resins and use them to their own advantage.  Resins filled with active compounds are used to waterproof the hive and close up gaps and sterilise the hive.  These compounds are used to kill bacteria and fungus in the hive and keep the bees healthy.  Environments change all the time and disasters happen every day and bees are able to adapt and manage in a huge variety of situations and the very design of their nest and there habit of collecting lots of nectar for storage shows they understand there need to save up for times of dearth.  They know better than most the need to be ready for change.  Beekeepers rarely put there bees in extreme environments for excessively long periods such as almond monoculture orchards and other than acute accidental poisoning of bees the bees can cope with many changes in there environment very successfully and the chemicals beekeepers are putting into beehives to combat issues such as the Varroa mites can weaken a hive for a short time but they quickly recover if given time and a clean environment to do so.  Extremes of any type are never good and commercial beekeepers often push there bees to the extreme edge of their ability to cope with the constant changes and chemical imputes from there environment and we are able to see today that commercial beekeeping practices are contributing to many of the issues bees are facing in their fight to survive.  But aside from the commercial beekeepers bees in backyards and hobby farms are doing reasonably ok and the less we move hives around the better they can survive but if done properly and with great care and love for bees the moving of bees in large numbers should not really be an issue.  It’s only an issue because we are moving them from one extreme environment to another extreme environment and the bees don’t have time to rest and recover.  Bees have been dealing with chemicals in there environment for hundreds of thousands of years and being moved around in there environment has been going on for thousands of years or longer so I can’t see this as the massive change although we are often pushing the bees limits for sure.

The biggest change today from beekeeping 120 plus years ago would have to be the use of man-made wax foundation.  People around the world recorded everything they could see about bees including the cell sizes and aside from a few bees in tropical environments they found bees to have a brood nest cell size of 4.7mm to 4.9mm on average and beekeepers of old would do all they could to make bees keep there brood chamber as compact as possible and bees were often using cell sizes in the brood chamber of 4.6mm and sometimes even smaller.  This idea of having a compact brood chamber had persisted for a very long time and records show that the more compact the brood chamber the less disease they had of any type.  It has been found that bees in the wild in most parts of the world build brood chamber cells of 4.7mm to 4.9mm on average and beekeepers using natural comb log hives in turkey had no disease issues until they started using Large cell wax foundation of 5.4mm.  It was only with the invention of the modern day wax foundation that bees became subject to large upsizing manipulation by man.  The first person to make wax foundation using a wood press made a cell size of 4.7mm to 4.8mm on his boards and shows us that this is what he believed was the natural size used by bees at that time.

For over 100 years beekeepers around the world have been manipulated into using large cell size foundation of 5.4mm believing this to be the right size.  It must be right because that’s what all the shops sell and that’s what my father used and his father before him for 3 or 4 generations now we have been using this overly large cell size but then something happened.   Varroa Destructor came along and showed the folly of upsizing but companies soon came to the rescue with chemical additives potions and oils etc. to fix the problem, all at expense of your wallet and the health of the bees and knowing full well that it was a very short sited quick fix that will not last long.  Varroa quickly develops resistance to all of these chemicals added to beehives and the chemical companies and experimenters find a new chemical but now the price goes up and the cycle of additives goes around again and again.  How to get off this merry go round?

There is only one real way of getting of this cycle of destruction and that’s to follow nature and look at what works in nature.  There are two things that determine a successful wild hive in nature against Varroa destructor and that’s temperament i.e. hygienic behaviour and small cell size.  When the two are combined you have a simple solution that simply works.  Bees are all about there epigenetics and bees at different sizes activate different epigenetics and if you have ever seen Large cell bees next to Small Natural sized bees you can see immediately the difference in how they move because small natural sized bees move more, they don’t stop moving and move effortlessly compared to large cell bees. 

This connection between small natural cell size and the bee’s ability to survive has been observed for over 30 years now and its time that people started to see the truth.  Beekeepers around the world have been manipulated into using chemicals in there hives for too long now and the health of bees has been effected and the quality of our honey has diminished often tainted by these beekeeper imputes into the hive.  Queen longevity has reduced to just 1 or 2 years and the whole beekeeping industry and the bees are suffering needlessly.  Many have been told of super bees that have superior powers to fight Varroa Destructor but still they need help from mans added chemicals when used on Large cell 5.4mm foundation even if its reduced chemical imputes it has not fixed the problem and it never will.  The only fix that completely removes the need for chemical imputes is to use small cell foundation of 4.9mm or below.  Once this has been achieved almost all bees will become super bees able to defend themselves against Varroa Destructor and will allow beekeeping to once again be a sustainable organic and thriving industry with many less issues.

Steven Murphy

Natural cell size beekeeper