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Flow Hive Co-Inventor Stu Anderson Talks Beekeeping History, Flow Hive Benefits & Common Complaints

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Show Notes

Join Nicole and Stu Anderson as they talk all about the Flow Hive, including some of the common complaints found online!

What You’ll Learn

  • What are the benefits of the flow hive
  • Get to know Stu’s beekeeping experience
  • Why Stu and his son made the Flow Hive
  • Beekeeping in Australia vs the US
  • Stu addresses common complaints about the Flow Hive

Our Guest

In this episode, Nicole talks to Stu Anderson, co-inventor of the Flow Hive.

A long-time tinkerer, Stu has built several houses over the years (including the one in which Cedar was raised, and where Stu still lives with his partner, Michele) and co-designed and built an off-grid solar and water-powered electricity supply to serve a dozen homes on the cooperative.

He’s also a life-long beekeeper and before the Andersons’ incredible invention became all-consuming, was the manager of a not-for-profit community organisation based in Lismore, NSW. As well as having a hand in the daily decision-making at Flow, Stu is the man on the mic, talking Flow Hive at numerous business and beekeeping conferences and other events, in Australia and abroad.

Stu is still an avid beekeeper with a passion for the natural world and a family man with four kids and nine grandchildren. Stu alos plays mandolin in a bush band.

What is a Flow Hive?

An invention that has revolutionized the beekeeping industry – the Flow Hive contains Flow Frames, a world-first technology which allows the beekeeper to harvest honey straight from the hive without disturbing the bees.

Regarded as the most significant advancement in beekeeping since 1852, the Flow Hive has removed the need for expensive processing equipment making the fascinating world of beekeeping much more accessible.

Beekeeping has been in the Anderson family for three generations. A love for the bees and the natural world has always been an important part of the lives of the father-son inventing team behind the idea, Stuart and Cedar Anderson. It all started because Cedar felt bad about bees being crushed during the honey harvest. He was sick of being stung and having to spend a whole week harvesting the honey from his small, semi-commercial apiary.

Flow Hive

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    Announcer: 0:01

    Welcome to the backyard bounty podcast from Heritage Acres Market dot com, when we talk about all things backyard poultry, beekeeping, gardening, sustainable living, and more. And now, here's your host, Nicole.

    Nicole: 0:17

    Hello, everybody. And thank you for joining us for another episode of Backyard Bounty. I'm your host Nicole and today I'm joined by Stuart Anderson, who's the co-inventor of the notorious Flow Hive. So Stuart, thank you so much for joining me today.

    Stu: 0:31

    "Notorious." Ha, Ha... It's a pleasure to join with you today, Nicole. We've already had a lovely chat and I'm looking forward to you know, what we uncover together.

    Nicole: 0:43

    So, I feel like we've talked about so much already that would have made really good content for this show. I've enjoyed getting to know you so far and a little bit more about your company and your philanthropic goals and such but since the listeners were not able to hear that part of our conversation, can you tell us a little bit more about the Flow Hive company and a little bit of your background in creating the Flow Hive?

    Stu: 1:09

    This story starts 15 years ago really, I a was community worker managing a community agency in our local town in a small number of staff 15 or something like that. And my son Cedar, a paraglider pilot and trainer, training people to fly in those paragliders, if you know what they are. And we've both been beekeepers. I've been beekeeper, well, my dad was an amateur beekeeper and then I had bees not all the time, actually, but most of the time while my kids were young, and certainly my son, Cedar, and the children got to get familiar with bees. And at that time, 15 years ago, Cedar had about 20-25 hives, and we're supplying honey for the local sort of health food market, that sort of level of light, commercial production. And we live in a soft sand tropical area of Australia where it's can get quite humid and hot. And so one day after a particularly hot, humid day when you're so sweaty that your bee suit is sticking to you and the bees are sticking you through the suit as you load supers onto the you to take them up to your makeshift, you know, honey extraction shed because it's too small an operation to spend any money on and so on. He said to me, "Dad, we've got to figure out a better way of doing this. How about we figure out a way to get honey out of a beehive without opening it?" and we were having dinner together that night. And he and I have a history of you know, we love inventing things in midair, just talking about how you do it. And I assumed that was another one of these sort of things where we would just play around with a few ideas and then forget about it because I thought it was impossible, actually. And those of you who are beekeepers probably know why it's impossible. How would you get honey out of a beehive without opening it? It's like getting a file out of a filing cabinet without opening it. How would you do that. But anyway, I love doing that with my son just sort of experimenting and thinking about possibilities. And to my surprise, the things that we dreamed up that might work in the early days of was splitting the cells, the honeycomb cells horizontally, he went away and made them. And so for this particular idea, he had some drive and really wanted to see if we could do it, maybe because he was getting, you know, so he doesn't like that hard work. Or, you know, he could say that if we were able to do it, that would be quite a thing in the beekeeping world. So we both love the technical challenge we both enjoyed year after year of experimenting, of course, when you may hear these experiments, it takes quite a while to actually build them and then you have to wait for the bees to field them. So it's a long process of a lot of failures actually. But we did finally figure out a way to do it. And then that was a big moment, of course. There we were in our paddock or field about 20 hives around but one of them had a very small prototype of what we've done. And we had a cutout in the side of the hive with a little window so we could see what was happening, and a socket wrench plugged into this makeshift bit of prototype and the honey came out. It was amazing. And to our delight the bees once we've reset what we've done, the bees actually cleaned it up and began to fill it up with honey again with nectar and honey and so on. And so, wow, that was really big time. But as we develop the idea, it still took years to sort of figure out how we were going to make this and so on. And we wanted other beekeepers to test it. And we got varying reactions from beekeepers, somewhere absolutely stum=nned and used swear words to sort of describe how surprised they were and others were pretty nonchalant about it and just said, maybe they'd like it in Europe, you know... I just want to give you the sort of sense that while we're excited about it, as an inventor, you can't trust your own excitement. We knew that because you've totally invested. You've spent all this time it's been so exciting. You can't trust your own judgment as to whether it's a worthwhile thing or not. And in consulting other beekeepers, we weren't really getting any consistent feedback either. So um, as we move towards figuring out how would you commercialize it, we really didn't know what would happen. And we were thinking at the time of commercial beekeepers, not so much amateur. So we needed to raise the money and Cedar had heard of crowdfunding. And then we both studied crowdfunding and realized, well, that might be the best way because we've been consulting other inventors, some of whom had really had a rough time with investors and the banks and so on, and so we thought we'd do this crowdfunding thing. And we did. We did really study it and put a lot of work into it a lot of preparation as to how to do a successful crowdfunding thing. And to our surprise, it was incredibly successful. So about five years ago. We'd raised millions and millions of dollars through crowdfunding. It's a whole story in itself, itS suddenly made us infamous as you said, was an infamous. notorious, in the beekeeping world because from from beekeepers point of view, we appeared out of nowhere. We, I mean, I belong to my local club, but no one had heard of us and, you know, we were just a father and son, you know, in northern New South Wales in Australia, suddenly with this huge invention and suddenly with a lot of money and a lot of endless numbers of opinions as to whether we were faking it, or all a you know, it's a fantastic time in terms of, of uninformed opinions or and it was a fantastic time because, you know, we did raise enough money to go into production. We pretty much made our targets in terms of getting flower hives out to people who'd pretty effectively pre paid for one through the crowdfunding and Yeah, so everything was happening all at once, all of a sudden from having no money, actually and I, I borrowed money from my brother and my father, we had an income and money to tool up, get Australian companies, and one American company to make the prototypes for us and distribute more than 20,000 of them around the world. So the Flow really burst onto the scene. And I want to acknowledge that because there's an understandable reaction to appearing with such a sort of a sonic boom around the world.

    Nicole: 7:32

    Unlike I feel a lot of products, you guys aren't serial inventors or engineers, you're just a Father-Son, beekeeper duo that wanted to make something better. And so you did.

    Stu: 7:44

    That's right. We're not serial inventors, although we do have other things in the pipeline there.

    Nicole: 7:49

    Sure. So for those, and I don't imagine that there's too many people that are unfamiliar with the Flow Hive, but basically, well, I should say full disclosure. I personally do not have a Flow Hive, nor have I honestly, put eyes on one myself. I've just seen stuff about them online. So basically it's a beehive with plastic frames that hold the honey and then you can turn a key and then that dispenses the honey and so the honey flows out and then you can jar it, is that an accurate enough summary of the Flow Hive?

    Stu: 8:23

    Yeah, that's right, the the plastic matrix, you know, it's food grade plastic, of course, high quality stuff and the bees there's lots of gaps in what we've made, it's more like a foundation for them to build their honeycomb on and actually cover every surface of the plastic with their wax to a very fine layer of wax on the existing plastic walls and then they join the walls, you know, the half formed walls together with a wax and then fill it as you know, with honey and, and cap it, it's like a matrix for them to build their comb on.

    Nicole: 8:55


    Stu: 8:56

    Yeah, and you're quite right, you insert a key and that change Is the cells from being cells to being vertical zigzag columns and the honey can then flow downwards to trough and then out into your jar or container.

    Nicole: 9:10

    What is your future goal for the Flow Hive? Is there anything that you have working on that you can share with us or or where do you see the company going going forward?

    Stu: 9:19

    Well, one of the criticisms of the Flow Hive was that these new beekeepers won't necessarily look after the brood, and you still have to lift the super of the hive. As usual with most Langstroth hives, you have to lift that off to inspect your brood. So we will be releasing a product that makes it easier to access the brood and therefore inspect it and keep your babies healthy, and be a responsible beekeeper. So that's one thing in the pipeline. Yeah, as I was saying to you before, like, I wouldn't be really interested in just keeping this company going if it was just for profit just for its own sake. And so we've already been encouraging pollination projects around the world, and we put a lot of effort into our website, a lot of education for beekeepers, and for aspiring beekeepers on keeping their hives healthy. And for me, at that point, when we realized we could make this invention, I was thinking, is that a good idea for our world? And so that's a important question for me. And for Cedar as well. Is this invention a good idea? Is it you know, is it like just like another landmine or something that's destructive? Or is it something that will actually help? And people have been concerned about Colony Collapse Disorder, you know, bees dying off and, and perhaps insects in general. And I was thinking, I'm not sure that the Flow Hive will make any difference to that, although it should make it easier for people to keep more bees if their environment can handle more bees But it didn't seem to directly help. But where I thought it could make a difference is a lot more people might be inclined to keep bees. And I think the more people that learn about bees and sort of viscerally learn, really learn what it is to take care of them and what they're doing and and enter that fascinating world. But, you know, the learning never stops. The more people that do that, the better. We're learning about ecology and about diversity and about the extraordinary web of life that we all are completely dependent on and living and bees themselves are remarkable creatures. They're very, very different from humans. Like we might give the queen bee a name the queen, but she is not a queen. And there's a lot to learn about the role she does play in the hive and then how the hive makes its decisions. And so and really, there's so much to understand. I think the more people that understand sort of the, our part in nature and our interdependence with with all the creatures of the world, the better and beekeeping is one way into that.

    Nicole: 11:49

    I know I definitely experienced that firsthand. We were talking a little bit before and beekeeping was something I wanted to do for a long time and I finally just was able to jump into it one day. I asked my husband for a beehive for Christmas and and he got me just the empty hive and then it sat in the shed for a couple months and then I caught a swarm that following spring.

    Stu: 12:08

    Oh wow.

    Nicole: 12:10

    Yeah. And I didn't think much of it other than well bees are kind of cool and I already have you know this sort of Hobby Farm and it'd be a good addition but it really changed me incredibly you know? All of a sudden I noticed when you know, things were pollinating and the different weather cycles and it took it so far as to even changing my diet you know, day to day so I think that like you said learning and experiencing bees really has a ripple effect on how we treat our food sources and the ecology and it really just, the benefit of keeping bees really goes beyond the beekeeping itself.

    Stu: 12:48

    Yeah, well, we met and that's lovely, and that was more my reason for keeping going than anything. If it was just about a company with a making profit from an invention. It wouldn't have held me in the same way. So I'm really pleased that we're employing 45 or 50 people now and some of those people are doing more pollination type projects and helping out projects. And some, of course, are involved with the shipping or the making of the hives and so on. And we've kept our manufacturing, we've pulled it back to being local and Australian, not a great commercial approach, because you can get it more cheaply made more cheaply in Asia, but it gives us control of the quality of the product. And that's been quite important to us.

    Nicole: 13:32

    So we were talking again, before we were recording and you were mentioning that you were here stateside recently for some of the recent conferences. Now in talking to some of the beekeepers here in the States, and then you know what you've learned through your experiences and such. Is there much of a difference in the beekeeping between the US and Australia? Are the bees basically the same or or is there any you know, really significant difference between the two?

    Stu: 14:02

    Yeah. Our beekeeping in terms of the U.S. and Australian beekeeping, the commercial beekeeping is fairly similar compared to other places in the world. That is migratory beekeeping, moving your bees, long distances, chasing the honey flow and also the Almond and so on pollination. So commercially seems very, very similar, of course, you might use every beekeeper chooses their own machinery and approaches, but in terms of comparison with Europe say, European beekeeping is way more. Commercial beekeeping's quite different to U.S. and Australian so there's similarities there similarities in the choices of the bees, the Italian or whatever. But one big difference is that you have Varroa Mite, and we don't and then in terms of amateur beekeeping, you have probably a wider range of climate. Australia does have a very cold climate in our South. But you rarely get hives covered in snow, for example, it doesn't snow and stay on the ground in most areas of Australia, you have to be up in the mountains for that to happen. And then but then you do have the tropical and so do we. I think you have more extreme range of weather. We don't have anywhere that goes down to you know, minus 30 minus 40 degrees C, there's that sort of difference, it's a different beekeeping when you've got to overwinter in those sort of conditions. And, you know, I never have had to, of course, I live in the subtropical. So in, particularly this area, you can probably rely on a little bit of a flow most of the year a little bit of nectar flow other than just very seasonal. So I think the beekeeping varies according to climate more than anything else, the amateur beekeeping,

    Nicole: 15:44

    I could see how some of your consistency and your climate there could have some effect in some of the design functions of the Flow Hive. And so that's kind of one of the reasons that I was curious, but maybe if you could summarize the benefits of the Flow Hive, what would you say are are the main ones?

    Stu: 16:03

    I love coming home from work and it might be you know 5:30 in the evening on a you know, a spring or summer or fall so it's still light and I can just grab a jar and handle and a tube and go straight down to my hives hang out, look at them, half them to see the way as we beekeepers have always done and then choose a particular frame to harvest from, insert the key, insert the to the chair underneath and in a matter of a minute. There's this beautiful, absolutely clear, no need for filtering honey pouring straight into the jar. It's extraordinary. I still after years and years of it and developing the thing I still get excited by that. But of course, you know, I might I might just cover that so the bees can't access it with a bit of mesh or cling film or anything like that or might have built a special lead so that the base can access it and that means I can just wander around the hives for a bit, maybe do a bit of weeding or just watch them at the entrance in the evening or just smell that lovely smell that you do get around your hives in the evening as the bees found a fair day's harvest and so it might be half an hour or an hour. I'll come back to that jar and it'll be full the honey that's warm because of course the bees are keeping their brood warm and honey will also be warmed by that and there's something special about holding a jar of warm honey in a cool evening and it doesn't take long to pack up a hive and just walk back to the house being proud of my you know, big jar of golden honey. So just the main advantage of the Flow Hive is just how easy it is to harvest. No more sticky door handles, no more sticky floors, no more annoying the rest of the family you know filling up the bathroom or the laundry or the kitchen with whatever you're doing. It's just so easy and it's so good to be able to include children. We found that generally if the bees are on a flow and usually you're only harvesting when there's a flow on then the bees are just at the front of the hive. They really come around the back to see what you're up to. It means, you know, you can give the kids a veil if you want, you've got to know your own bees. But basically you can invite children as young as three or four years old to be part of the harvesting at least and then get intrigued by the bees. And as I was saying before just introducing children to bees and beekeeping and therefore the insect world and the marvelous intricacies of the web of life, it's, it's it's so important that the kids are introduced to that. So to be able to introduce them by delicious honey is wonderful. So that's another advantage because you're not opening your hive to harvest, you'd still need to open your hive to inspect it. But I think Nicole, the more experienced you get as a beekeeper, the less you need to open your hive to inspect because you can see what's happening from the outside. You can just sense there's something wrong here and look inside, rather than just do it out every week or two or however often it's advised in your area because you get to know your bees and this of any possible you know, disease or whatever or pest, so therefore under harvesting you don't need to open the hive so the bees don't get disturbed and some beekeepers believe that adding the hive stresses the bees and can make them more susceptible to the disease if you open them a lot. Every opinion in beekeeping circles is contended it's contentious, but it is an opinion and some beekeepers believe so you don't have to disturb the bees. It's really really easy and the honey comes out absolutely clean. As I said, That's surprised my son and I, we didn't we thought there'd be flecks of wax at least in it and of course we're used to extracting in the old way where you get half bees and bee legs and wings and as well as lots of wax and so on that you have to filter out when you don't have to have the flower hybrid comes out clean. It's amazing. And it's also remarkably fresh tasting. Now that's something that we didn't know about or expect except that when we're testing testing phase was actually a Canadian beekeeper that said, This honey tastes really special. This honey tastes like you're biting into fresh honeycomb without the wax. And we thought he just got as excited as us you know, you know things taste better when you're excited. So we thought that's lovely, but we didn't take too much notice of it. But we kept getting reports like that and of course we thought that honey, you can taste the flowers. It's very, very vibrant and fresh honey. So we got some tests made Queensland University, two hour drive from us. They had a special 12 person honey tasting panel, they have their jars of honey in there in a red lit room so they can't see the color of the honey and they can only taste it and of course, and we don't have been as careful as we could to have exactly the same honey extracted by different methods with the fly frames, with a home built, it was a home rigged extractor, and with a commercial extractor. So the honey tastes good tastes a difference the flow honey, they were able to say "Yeah, we can definitely taste what they call the floral notes. It tastes better. Like if you're older like me, maybe your taste isn't as acute as it used to be, you know, but there's that advantage as well. The honey is lovely and fresh and clean straight out of the hive and into your jar. So that's that's the basic advantages. Ease of harvest, getting children involved and and the lovely fresh honey.

    Nicole: 21:29

    Yeah, I think those are a lot of really great benefits. As I'm sure you're well aware, the term Flow Hive on the internet can either be welcomed with open arms or met with some very passionate opinions. And I'm not really sure why that is. But I do have a list of some common challenges that people have faced with with the Flow Hive. I asked around on some different internet sources and I tried to only talk to people that actually have experienced the Flow Hive. You know, I think that there's... it's important not to just get hearsay but actual people who have had Flow Hives and have had some different challenges with them. But I thought we could talk about a few of those.

    Stu: 22:21


    Nicole: 22:22

    Before we get into that list, do you have any presumptions maybe of why people are either so so adamantly for the Flow Hive or so passionately against it?

    Stu: 22:34

    Yeah, I certainly experienced that in the States and, and I've experienced it in, in Australia, right. I'm even in the very early days in Australia, I was talking to beekeepers, there was a big crowd of all because we were just fresh on the scene and you and a lot of beekeepers who really I admire, they're way mo better beekeepers and more experienced than me, I'm an inventor more than a beekeeper, and so I really admire the men and some of them remind me of my dairy farming uncle's, sort of grumpy. And because they remind me of my uncles who of course, I loved to stay with when I was a kid, I, I really have a warm spot or whatever you say, a soft spot for the for these grumpy beekeepers, I really enjoy their company. Strangely enough, even though they're grumpy. Having said that, a lot wouldn't come and talk to me. And the ones that did you know, we we could have a productive conversation, but for many of them, they were annoyed or even angry about the Flow Hive. And of course, because they weren't talking to me, I can only guess as to why I think what I was saying before about just bursting onto the scene so quickly and most beekeepers have been pretty much harassed by friends and family and someone saying "Have you heard about the Flow Hive, this is the early days. Have you heard about the Flow Hive?" you know, and and so I have In Australia, we call it shouted. We've given a lot a lot of beers to beekeepers, in a way of trying to atone for how much they've been hassled by others saying, "Have you heard about the Flow Hive?" They're really tired of it. And I've ever been in America. When I was in America, there was even jokes made about that in public about someone said, Have you heard about the Flow Hive and the whole audience burst into sort of understanding laughter. And so I apologize to that for beekeepers around the world. It wasn't really our intention to create that situation. It was extraordinary time in our crowd, the crowdfunding success and so it also comes out of a background of whole worldwide concern for bees and for pollinators and so on. So beekeepers have been hassled, they're affronted, perhaps they feel we've taken some of the magic away from beekeeping where they alone could go down to the hive and open it up and handle these marvelous stinging creatures and, and bring back the honey and now just a four year old child can turn the handle and the honey or come out. Perhaps, perhaps we've stolen a bit of the magic, I think the magic's there anyway, but I can understand that. So there was sort of just the prejudice out of us coming out of nowhere. But there were a couple of genuine concerns. And you mentioned plastic, you know, there's an increasing awareness of way too much plastic in our environment in our oceans and being buried underground, microplastics that are even come from when you wash your clothes and get into the soil and so on. And so there's a general concern about more plastic and I share that concern. I wish, we have investigated bio plastics and other things, but at the moment, there's nothing on the market that we can use, that's good enough quality to do what it needs to do for us. But we'll keep working on there. So there's concern about plastic and more plastic in the beehives and for newbies or people thinking about this, a lot of them didn't realize that plastic's been used in beehives for over 30 years. Of course we're surrounded by plastic paint in our rooms and that plastic is fully recyclable and it's a long use product, 30 years or more use not, not just throw away plastic use it once and discarded into the ocean. Or it gets eaten by turtles or whatever. One that Cedar and I share the concern of is have we just created a fad where people just buy these hives and get their bees and not look after them, then those bees become a vector for pests and diseases. For other beekeepers and for bees in general. That is a concern. And anyone that takes a bit of time on our website until we'll see that we've put a fair bit of effort into saying you do need to look after your bees, please link up with your local club or other beekeepers. There are a variety of pests and diseases that will be specific to your area and region that you need to learn about and learn the signs for and so on. Of course we can't make people do all of that, but we could just encourage them and we've had plenty of reports of people saying "I did one bee course. And then I did another one. But I still think I'll do a third bee course before I really get my bees." So some people will be extraordinarily careful. And others, you know, be like you "I got a swarm" and off I go. So of course that concern is not only the Flow Hive, but just anyone can start beekeeping if they want to, but if we were encouraging people were saying we're making it easier, there was that concern, we're making the whole thing look easier, not just the harvesting. And the stories that would circulate in the clubs tended to be the dramatic ones of the hopeless newbie, you know, the person who was hopeless, he didn't know anything about it and their bees died. Those sort of dramatic stories were the ones that circulated whereas the ones about the 20 other beekeepers that were there, you know, that we knew better learning well. Well, that's not much of a story to spread around.

    Nicole: 27:51


    Stu: 27:52

    So it is a concern. We've done what we can, we will keep trying to educate. In fact, we've we've started up a separate education site that you have to join. But it is a genuine concern. It's very difficult to gauge really how much of a concern it is. And we felt that there was a couple of natural barriers to people being completely slack. And first one is you get the Flow Hive as a flat pack and you have to be handy enough to put it together, or at least find someone else who can. It can be harder than IKEA to put together. So there's so there's that side of it. That's the first barrier, and I still meet people who say "We bought one and then it's still in this shed in its box", you know, so that's a barrier. And the next one is getting your bees. And as you know, Nicole, there's a lot of different ways to get your bees. But still, for someone that's not linked into a club or a beekeeping circles, it's like "Whoa, how do you do this? What do you mean you get them in the post? No, you couldn't do that" you know and we say please, as again, please join your club. Please link up with other beekeepers. You'll then know where you can get good, good quality bees and you'll learn how to look after them. Those concerns were genuine but alongside that there's been a lot of prejudice and and sort of false things like I've read things about Flow Hives promote wax moth and I had no idea what on earth they could be talking about. So there's been a lot of false information as well.

    Nicole: 29:17

    And I'm sure that as a creator of this hive that you've put your heart and soul and everything else into it can be pretty discouraging to hear some of these complaints, but I really do admire your willingness to at least, you know, not only talk about them, but to read them and see what people are saying and but...

    Stu: 29:35

    Yeah, it's disappointing when it's someone that's had nothing to do with those never seen and seen one spreading those sort of things. Like most people with as I said, we're encouraging customers to join clubs and they usually get a great reception and I you know, I love bee clubs, I belong to one and people are great, but sometimes they meet a grumpy beekeeper and who doesn't like the Flow Hive and holds that prejudice and these new enthusiastic people who want to learn and are doing the right thing are sort of almost turned away. And that's really, really sad in this. So we've, we have had a clubs program going for four years now just in giving clubs educational material, as well as giving them a free half to raffle off to raise money for themselves and so on just encouraging clubs to engage with these new enthusiastic beekeepers, and teach them because that's what we want. We want them to be educated and understand how to be good beekeepers and healthy bees. 15-20 years ago, you know, I was a beekeeper and we were hearing where our club numbers are going down around the world. They seem to be less and less beekeepers, most beekeepers are over 60 there was this sort of worry going around. Are we really going to have enough beekeepers in the future? That was genuine. It was a genuine topic of conversation. And I like to think that we've helped turn that around. You know, there's there's about 70 or 80,000 new beekeepers in the world, well Flow beekeepers so people will be encouraged to take up the hobby the past time. Just to go back a little bit when we're inventing it that the the essence of our invention is the flow frame and being inventors and tinkerers, we just thought most people would want to buy that and insert the frame into their own hives. So we made sure it would fit or Langstroth, you know, and that six of the flow frames would fit in an eight frame Langstroth and seven of them fit in a 10 frame Langstroth. We were trying to make it adaptable. And we were surprised to find that most people actually want to buy the full hive. Cedar my son said I want to make the hive look good. And I was thinking well, why? And because I was brought up with these half painted pretty ugly looking boxes, you know, in the yard or whatever. And I hadn't thought about making the beehive look good. He said, "No, no, I want to look make it look good." So I worked on him with that and we made the pitched roof and so on. And we didn't realize then that that was an aspect of this new market of people that yes, they did want a beehive, but they didn't want an ugly looking one that I was brought up with him was used to they wanted something that was pretty that they could show off to their friends and so on. And so that was just sort of an accident of say that saying, No, I wanted to look good. You know, we weren't thinking of a commercial market at that time. We just wanted to want to look nice fit for our invention sort of thing to house the invention. Yeah,

    Nicole: 32:22

    I know that in reading some of the comments online. It seems like there's two main umbrella of conversation, the one being actual issues or concerns with the bees themselves, not really getting along well with the hive components. And then the other one being some functionality issues, which I have a notes of a few of those if we could talk about them.

    Stu: 32:49

    The Flow frames aren't perfect. They're incredible. Now I've just been harvesting honey this morning for an online thing and you know, they work, the honey comes out and as I said it's clear in case. But sometimes you get leaks on the surface of the honeycomb, when you operate it. Usually if you do get leaks, it's just a tablespoon full or something like that, which is the sort of amount that you'll spill when you're cleaning up in a hive or something like that, and the bees will clean it up. Occasionally those leaks are more significant, if it flows down over the brood. And if it's too big, then it's, you know, washing bees and that, and that's no good at all. Sometimes that's the mistake, someone set it up so that there's a blockage for the honey to come out and it can only flow outside and or they've got the tilt of the hive wrong or something like that. And other times, we're not quite sure. But anyway, sometimes it does leak over the surface of the flow frames leak over the surface of the comb, and that's something we'll keep working on. And of course, we can't solve the problem of crystallized honey in the frames. That's a hassle for all beekeepers, but there's well known methods for dealing with that. We don't need to go into that now. I know that another thing that's happened for beekeepers or new beekeepers is that the the bees don't go up from the brood box they put the super on but the bees don't go up there. Now sometimes it's because the bees are still filling up the brood box and not thriving and packed enough to want to go up into the super yet. But we have found ways of encouraging them just like with plastic foundation, coating the flow frames with wax you just need to splash it on a bit with with beeswax and that gets the bees interested. If they're really being stubborn about it, sometimes people reverse they put the super on below and the brrod box on top so that the entrance is still below, but the bees have to crawl up through the flow frames and flow super before they get up into the brood. You could still use a queen excluder if you use a queen excluder and and so the bees get used to the flow frames and the smells on them and so on and it's seems to be no problem. After a while then you can reverse them after a couple of weeks and everything seems to go well. And talking about the super and Queen excluders, we tried to design the flow frame so that the Queen wouldn't really be interested in laying in them. And we found that that's generally true, she's not if you trap a queen up into in the flow super, she will, but generally she'll prefer not to. But if your hive goes queenless the worker bees don't seem to have any worry at all about laying drone eggs in wherever they can lay them including the fly frames. And so sometimes that's the first sign some beekeepers now have of their hive going queenless is drone brood up in their flow super.

    Nicole: 35:43

    A couple other complaints that I've read, and in no particular order here is that occasionally the bees will propolyze the frames.

    Stu: 35:52

    Yeah, they do do that sometimes. So sometimes the first harvest can be incredibly hard to crack. When they do wax and propolyze the frames, and you for whatever reason, have decided to try and open them without any honey in it, it's almost impossible. It seems to be like a hard glue. Once the honey is in it, the propolis and the wax seems to soften and it does work better. But it still can be that first harvest can be very, very difficult. And the best way to do it is just insert the key, which is the full length of the flow frame and the length of the honeycomb. Just insert just an inch or two at a time, and therefore you're only operating an inch or two of the frame at a time. So you don't need all of your strength to crack it. And we found that after the first harvest, it's never glued so strongly ever again. It's just that it's just like a good glue joint is great when it's a fresh joint. But if you reglue that old joint, it's broken. It's never as strong as the first time.

    Nicole: 36:51

    The other ones that I have here and it's I'm assuming that this is predominantly in colder weather is that in the colder climates like we have here stateside. Sometimes they don't extract well or that the honey flows slowly or that it's hard to tell when the honey is actually ready to extract.

    Stu: 37:12

    When you know i think that's more an issue of the type of honey this sort of negative sort of plants because some honey is very viscous and flows quite slowly and some honeys we get here from our Labtospermum, our Tea Tree is jelly like and will hardly flower at all. So as you know the super is usually on top of the brood, it's warmed by the brood and the honey will be warm, it won't be on a cold day it'll still be warm inside the hive and will flow out, but some honeys are very, very thick. But another advantage of the Flow Hive is that it's not if you've set it up so that the bees can't get into the jar and so on. Which is easy to do. Then you can leave it overnight. If you want it to drain. And it doesn't have to drain in half an hour I like it usually does. It can, can take hours and it doesn't really matter. You're not, you know, you're not having to pedal anything or you can leave it and go and have dinner, or whatever you're doing or as I said, leave it overnight. And the honey can flow as slowly as it likes. It'll eventually flow all the way out if you've set it up properly, so I don't see the problem with it going slowly, unless for some reason you're really in a hurry. And as I said, I think it's more the type of honey, the type of flowers that that is coming from then the coldness, it's another advantage of the Flow frames with the crystallized honey is that the honey will be warmer inside the hive. As soon as you take that box off. It's beginning to cool. And sometimes particularly the Oilseed Rape or Canola honey, it will crystallize very, very quickly. Just a couple of drops a couple of degrees drop in temperature and bang, it'll go. So to be able to harvest while the honey is warm on the hive is an advantage, I think.

    Nicole: 38:57

    and another thing that I've read is that it can be hard to tell when the honey is ready to actually harvest.

    Stu: 39:04

    Oh yeah, I mean being able to tell when the harvest when it's ready, that's a beekeepers job to learn that. Usually beekeepers do that by looking at one or two frames and seeing if they kept at least you know, 80% kept is the general rule of thumb. Hopefully they're all kept. And of course, you can do the same with the Flow frame and for our beginner beekeepers, we encourage them to open up, take the top off the hive and lift some Flow frames out, the lever out in exactly the same way as the wooden frames will and have a look. And then they're teaching themselves what it looks like on the inside and they can calibrate that with what they're seeing on the outside whether it's through the side windows or particularly the back window. The back window, you get a great view of the frames themselves. You can actually see the bees working down the cells and you can see the cells filling with honey and you can see the capping so after a while you can calibrate what you're seeing. If you're lifting frames out and having a look at them, you'll know how that compares with what you're seeing in the back and you won't need to open them anymore because you've got to know it. There's always the hefting the hive, feeling the weight of it, too, which is the, you know, when I grew up with to assess whether it was ready or not. So really, that's a beekeeper skill to learn and whether no matter what sort of frames you have, you have to learn there that your hand is ripe and below 18 to 20% moisture so that it won't ferment.

    Nicole: 40:27

    And I guess I didn't realize that the individual frames could actually be removed so I could see how you could take it out and and take a look and see whether or not it's capped.

    Stu: 40:36

    In some countries including Australia, it's illegal to have a hive where you can't remove the frames for inspection. So I mean Cedar and I were aware of that but we wanted to mimic you know, an existing beehive as much as we could and as I said there are Langstroth size, but they are adaptable to be you know the UK and Europe have different size hives, you can adapt the Flow frames can be for those hives as well. But but that is that it's important to us what was important to us that they're removable, in the same way as ordinary, you know, conventional frames.

    Nicole: 41:12

    Yeah, that makes sense. Another one that I saw many times and after visiting your website, this was one that I could at least understand is why is the cost of the Flow Hive? You know, it's significantly more than a standard Langstroth hive. So I assume that that might have something to do with them not being made in Asia?

    Stu: 41:36

    Yeah, it's got a few different reasons. Yes, we put a lot of we wanted to make sure the the plastic matrix that the flow frames are made of is of the highest quality so it lasts a long time. It has no biphenols and it's food grade and so on. So it's had to be high quality. Yes, we're making it in Australia. So that costs more than in Asia in terms of labor costs, as well. And then the boxes and so on that we make. Yeah, they're not what I was brought up with you the cheap pine boxes. They're, they're more expensive and they look good. And having said that, people can just buy the frames and put them in their own boxes, they don't have to buy our whole hive. And I guess we are using a percentage of our time and energy and money that comes in to do good things in the world. So because that's important to us. So I guess all of those things add to the cost. But the main thing is they've got to be good quality, of course, our reputations on the line as well as we want to do. One of the things that as well, whereas the fakes, of course, you can't trust the quality and you're putting your food in them. So that's a risk.

    Nicole: 42:48

    So the last question that I have for you, it's it's probably the most controversial one, but also the one that I saw probably the most, or at least the most consistently was that a lot of folks have had issues with what they report to be dishonest marketing. Is this something that you've heard? You know, complaints that come to you or or can you expand on your marketing practices?

    Stu: 43:12

    Yeah, I'm puzzled by that. I haven't heard it. So it's good. It's good to get that feedback. Although, you know, I certainly have had people comment that in a bit of a negative way that our marketing is a bit slick, you know, and that'll tend to be Australians doing that because there is a bit of a cultural difference in how you market in Australia and how you would market in the US, for example, and Europe's different again. but I've never heard the dishonest bit. And so of course, I'm a little bit upset by that. And I'm also intrigued or puzzled what they actually mean by dishonest like our Flow Hive works, there's 70,000 of them or more more out in the world working and our customer support I'm really, really proud of in terms of have, you know, anyone with a problem can usually email but even talk to us and their customer support are right here in our business they're not outsourced to India or anything like that. And the quality is important to us. I'm puzzled as to what they mean by dishonest marketing. And all I can think of is that it's that reaction we've made beekeeping look too easy. And it's still not easy because you have to still look after your bees. Which you know, it's a bit more of a complicated message, it certainly doesn't come out in the one liners that people might first get, but it'll come out very soon after that place. Make sure you look after your bees that's really really important. You learn about the pests and diseases and how to keep it healthy be um, get but now I'm just guessing because I really don't know what they mean by dishonest marketing. Because our product does work. There's 10s of thousands of satisfied customers and we've just given people money back if for some reason, like in the early days with the crowdfunding and that some we gave lots of people their money back because they said I was just too excited and carried away and realized, no I can't really keep bees. We said, Sure, we'll figure that out with you. Yeah, I don't know. I'm just puzzled. And perhaps some of those people could actually write to us with their concerns or what they've seen or something. I'm not really sure.

    Nicole: 45:28

    No, I think that's fair. And, and again, being an outsider who, I mean, I really have no allegiance one way or the other. But I've heard what I've heard over my years of beekeeping, and I've heard that statement made several times. So being curious and wanting to form my own decision. You know, I went to your website, and I didn't, I really didn't see anything. So I can't really comment any further as to what people were really targeting when they when they made that statement. I feel like, you know, your target demographic is new beekeepers and making advertisement and such to target new beekeepers, but I didn't see anything deceptive or dishonest about it. But if somebody that had this opinion wanted to reach out to you guys, and you mentioned emailing what's, what's the best way to get ahold of you? Is there a contact form on your website? Or is there?

    Stu: 46:24

    Yeah, there's a contact form on the website. And first of all, that would go to customer support, questions like that. They might, unless they, if they can answer it straight away, they would. But if it's still somehow a problem, then it'll eventually find its way to me or Cedar, because we have, you know, thousands of conversations going on. That's just how it has to work. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. It's a puzzle that one, no one likes to think of themselves as being dishonest.

    Nicole: 46:53

    Of course.

    Stu: 46:53

    And that's all I can think of is that we make beekeeping look really rosy and easy and I did have not not not really in the US but in the UK, a lot of beekeepers stomp up to me at various beekeeping events. And they typically be in their gumboots, what we call gumboots. And they call Wellington's their rubber boots, and rubbed up and so on. And they'd stomp up to me and say, it wouldn't work in our climate, you know. And, of course, I hadn't tried it. And of course, it does work in their climate. It'll work in any climate where bees and but it's very, very easy for because we live in a particularly beautiful area subtropical, a mild climate, really, some people can think I will it only works in that sort of environment and it's making beekeeping look like it. It's really really easy, whereas well those English beekeepers do have to work harder to keep their bees alive in the winter, and the dampness and so on. That's got nothing to do with the flow frames. It's just how beekeeping is. And so this is where I'm guessing again, we can make beekeeping look like it's just you're in a hammock in this in the dappled sunlight, sunlight, sipping honey directly from your hive.

    Nicole: 48:07


    Stu: 48:08

    So this is I mean, we said please join the club, you're gonna learn proper proper beekeeping there. You said our target market is new beekeepers will actually it's 50% roughly and roughly 50% are existing beekeepers that have decided to try a Flow Hive which is great. And once they have that they'll be hooked you know because because it does have real advantages. Yep, sure there's an upfront cost but then there's an upfront cost for your extractor and and there's an upfront cost in terms of annoying your family with the sticky door handles I guess. But for those that are selling honey, you can get a premium price people have found for Flow honey and honey from a Flow Hive because it is lovely and fresh. And so people said they've paid off their Flow Hive within one or two years. That of course depends on your season and the price you can ask for your honey it's very flexible sort of thing. But yeah, if you're selling honey and you know how to manage your bees well then you're going to get, you know 100 pounds or more of honey from your hive in the season. And in America, I guess you could I'm not really sure what you would ask per pound because we're in kilos Actually, my head starting to spin but I think you can ask $10 a pound something like that for fresh local honey?

    Nicole: 49:27

    I believe that's about the average? I don't know. I don't have it in front of me. So I can't.

    Stu: 49:33

    Yes, so that's $1,000 of course there's the work involved. But like I said, there's less work involved in harvesting. So you've saved some time and you can put that time into just enjoying being with your bees and watching them at the entrance or whatever, you know, because that is such a lovely pastime in itself.

    Nicole: 49:52

    Absolutely. Well, Stuart, you know, I really appreciate your not only taking the time to talk to us about all of the great things with the Flow Hive and your history and creating the Flow Hive but also, you know, addressing some of the not so fun topics and some of the complaints that I've read and such I think that it really answers a lot of questions and I appreciate your willingness to answer especially the ones that were you know a little bit personal you know, once ones that probably didn't feel quite as good to answer but you know, I think that this will help educate maybe some people that are interested in it and hopefully it'll point things into a different light and answer some some questions that have been circulating the internet.

    Nicole: 50:38

    Well, Nicole, it's been a pleasure talking with you if you want to have a follow up chat anytime, please let us know. And if you ever come across to Australia, I'd love you to pop in and and visit and, of course, we should do something to help you experiment with a Flow Hive.

    Nicole: 50:58

    Well, I think that that sounds lovely. All right, Stuart. Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Hopefully I can find an opportunity to come visit you sometime soon. And again, thank you so much.

    Stu: 51:12

    Thank you very much, Nicole. All the best.

    Nicole: 51:14

    And for those of you listening, thank you so much for joining us for another episode, and we'll see you again next week.

    Announcer: 51:20

    Thank you for listening to Backyard Bounty, a podcast by Don't forget to subscribe and leave us a review. If you have a question you'd like us to answer on the show. please email us at [email protected]. Also find us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube at Heritage Acres Market. All the links mentioned in this podcast will be included in the description. See you again next week.

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