I feel compelled to write a post about the Flow Hive partly because there's so much hype about it and people keep linking it to me asking if I know what it is, and partly because someone very close to me, who I love, bought me a flow hive.
I agree with almost everything said by Milkwood Permaculture. While I appreciate the inventiveness of this design, I'm not convinced it's good for the bees.
I can imagine hundreds of flow hives daisy-chained together, tapped like maple trees, maybe with heated lines going to central tanks. Some beekeepers might love this idea, but bees aren't maple trees, are they? They're animals, who use their comb for communication. If you believe in superorganisms, then the comb is literally part of the animal. Replacing it with a plastic comb that breaks on demand, without listening to the hive's needs first, strikes me as a bad idea. It's still part of anthropocentric, as opposed to apicentric, design - the same system that brought us "easy to manage" langstroth hives, plastic frames, artificial comb, migratory pollination, and large mega-bee-keeping farms with thousands of hives on trucks. I think it probably ignores the bee-ness of the bee (the pigginess of the pig, for those who know the reference).
I don't think this invention is game changing, though. Industrial scale beekeepers have fully automated honey extraction plants built around existing frames. Backyard beekeepers who have never had a hive will quickly realize than the flow hive doesn't absolve them interacting with bees any more than keeping one cow with an automilker would absolve you from touching cows. Medium scale beekeepers will find the whole system cost-prohibitive. I think it might have a place in education.
So here's the other side of it. I've always loved inventions. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an inventor when I grew up, and I love the inventiveness of this design. I've never kept bees in anything other than warre and top bar hives, and owning my own flow hive will give me the chance to see how the bees react to it. If I don't use a queen excluder, will the queen really ignore the flow frames? Can I run it like a warre hive, nadir it, and nadir more deep boxes? What'll that do the system? How apicentrically can I run a flow hive? I'll let you know when it arrives, and give honest impressions based on more than heresy and conjecture.