Stuart and Cedar Anderson, a father and son team living in rural Australia revolutionized backyard beekeeping. They sought a different way to harvest honey; a way that doesn’t include wearing a hot uncomfortable suit, smoking out the hive, and potentially killing bees in the process. They succeeded in creating the Flow Hive.
The Flow Hive: The New and Easy Way to Harvest Honey from Bees
They launched their invention about five years ago: The Flow Hive, a hive that releases the honey through a tarp. The Andersons set a goal of raising $70,000 to begin production. They reached this amount within five minutes after posting. After 15 minutes, people contributed about a quarter of a million dollars. When the campaign ended, they had raised $12.2 million. This allowed them to help thousands of people become beekeepers for the first time.
Fast Company awarded the Flow Hive as the 2016 World Changing Idea winner. A second version of the product, which was crowdfunded in March 2018 managed to raise about $1,500,000.
The idea spread quickly. After all, it’s much more attractive than the old-school method of removing stacked movable boxes one at a time to harvest the honey. The process is time-consuming and can stir up the bees, which is why the protective bee clothing is necessary. That’s not the case for Flow Hive.
“People have been scraping frames and spinning honey for hundreds of years, and that works and that’s fine,” says Matt Bludorn, a backyard beekeeper and ER physician in Bryan, Texas. “But I think this works a little better.” 
How the Flow Hive Works
The Flow Hive makes the process of harvesting honey much easier; this might help novice beekeepers stay committed to their backyard hives.
The Flow Hive uses artificial honeycombs that bees fill with honey and cover them with wax. Through a window on the side of the hive, the beekeeper could keep an eye on the bees. When the comb is filled with honey, they use a lever to twist the honeycomb. Then the cells with the honey will pour it through a tap into a jar. 
The process of twisting the combs to release the honey is mesmerizing in and of itself. Best of all, the bees are hardly disturbed.
“I think there is a human fascination with, ‘let’s turn a handle, press a button, and some produce will materialize,’” says cofounder Cedar Anderson. “There aren’t many things in the world you can do that with. We’ve designed a system that allows you to turn a handle and get beautiful produce ready for the table right from your very small footprint in your backyard or on your rooftop.”
Another appealing factor is that a simple hobby connects the keeper to natural food. “Lots of people come to us and say things like, ‘We needed an excuse to get the kids off the iPad–they’re down there harvesting honey, and they’re learning about the world we all depend on,’” he says.
The Rise of Interest in Backyard Beekeeping
The marketing for the initial product consisted of shooting a video with an iPhone 4 and a time lapse. That video did the rest, ranking a million views within 30 hours after it was posted.
“That’s when we knew that the world wanted our invention,” Anderson says.
He views the Flow Hive as a method to support bees on a global scale. “We know that insects, in general, are on the decrease.” He adds, “We know that the bees are struggling. We know that the way humans use pesticides and the way we farm isn’t the best for our pollinators and a lot of the insects.”
About half of the 51,000 Flow Hives sold from its release to 2018 were purchased by new beekeepers. According to Anderson, this creates a positive ripple effect. Flow Hive users often share their honey with their neighbors. And with fresh honey, they convince them to avoid using pesticides in their own gardens.
This invention was launched at the perfect time. There’s a growing preference for local natural food, along with a rise in concern for pollinators such as bees. In the United States, several cities including New York City, Los Angelos, and Washington DC, have lifted the ban on local beekeeping due to its high demand.
“The rate of beginners getting into beekeeping has more than doubled in a decade,” says Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture. He notes that many beginners tend to abandon their hives at a faster rate than they had in the past. It’s easy to assume that beekeeping turns out to be more difficult and time-consuming than people expect.
The Controversy Behind Flow Hive
Taking care of a Flow Hive is not completely challenge-free. It still requires work and expertise to ensure the bees are healthy and well. “Simply having bees isn’t saving the bees,” says Flottum.
The challenge increases with the number of bees in cities since there’s a risk of running out of nectar sources. As beehives become more numerous, the number of pollinator-friendly flowers also need to multiply. Some people argue that it may be more prudent to focus on supporting flowers and plant life than keeping bees. (After all, the flowers will retroactively help the bees and the other pollinators at risk.)
Still, some people believe that the Flow Hive is just a fad. Once the hype dies down, the new beekeepers will move on. “Keeping homicidal, venomous insects quickly loses its charm,” John Chesnut, a botanist who keeps hives in California’s San Luis Obispo County, “unless you’re deeply committed, and the Marie Antoinette-style make-believe farmers are just going to disappear in a season or two.”
So if you’re interested in beekeeping, do your research. Ensure you’re prepared for a long-term commitment to the wellbeing of the bees.
Advocating for Bees, Pollinators, and the Environment
The Andersons’ humble startup, BeeInventive, has now become a company with a staff of 35 people. They believe that helping people connect to bees will increase advocacy for the at-risk pollinators.
“You get this sense of a broader community,” says Anderson. “You’ll find that come Christmastime, your family is talking about politics, they don’t agree, but everyone agrees we need to save the bees. So we end up with this network now of 130 different countries with people talking about bees, and people joining forums, and people being incredibly passionate about the environment and about bees. I think it can only be a good thing.” 
If you’re interested in more information about the Flow Hives, see the online store here.
- “A swarm to backyard beekeeping.” Desiree DeNunzio. CNet. September 15, 2018.
- “Flow Hive Review: Honey on Tap.” Angela Ferraro-Fanning. Backyard Beekeeping. February 1, 2019
- “This Easy-To-Use Beehive Is Bringing Honey To Backyards.” Adele Peters. Fast Company. March 9, 2018
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