Because I’m a beekeeper, anytime someone hears something interesting about bees, they tend to tell me about it. For that reason, I’ve probably been sent the Indiegogo page for the Flow Hive well over twenty times by now.
And I’m not the only one, apparently. The thing has raised a startling $12 million dollars so far. It’s one of the most successful crowd funded ideas, ever.
But whenever someone sends me this “really great idea,” I have to sigh, and calmly explain to them why it’s a really, really bad idea.
The Flow Hive is nicely engineered, and when it comes to efficiently harvesting honey, I’ll admit it’s a novel concept. But harvesting honey is an infinitesimally small part of being a beekeeper, in the grand scheme of things.
Last weekend, for example, we harvested six pints of honey from our hive. The harvest took place as part of a larger effort to re-queen our hive in order to keep it healthy. The overall time we spent working the hive that day? Three hours. The total time devoted to harvesting honey? Five minutes.
And that’s the problem. A LOT MORE WORK goes into beekeeping than simply harvesting. Put in the hands of inexperienced and untrained beekeepers, these Flow Hives are going to result in a whole lot of sick and dead bees.
The main premise of these hives is that you can have “honey on tap” able to harvest whenever you like. One problem: in order to stay healthy, your bees need their honey too. They need it to feed themselves through the winter, through storms, and through months when pollen is hard to come by. If you harvest it and leave the bees without their source of sustenance, the bees will become weaker and will be more susceptible to pests and diseases. Or, they’ll just starve completely, and die.
Further, the millions who have bought these hives for the promise of beekeeping without all the hassle are going to be in for a nasty surprise. Keeping a healthy hive means checking on your bees at least monthly during the working season to make sure your queen is productive, that you don’t have mites or foul brood affecting your hive, that there’s adequate spacing, etc. It’s part of the responsibility of keeping bees.
One unhealthy hive can affect all other hives within a three mile radius. And when bee populations are already declining as a result of colony collapse disorder, the last thing our fragile pollinators need are a bunch of inept hipster “wanna-bees” growing bored of their hives while their bees languish and die.
I don’t begrudge the guys who created the Flow Hive. It’s a neat idea, and, in the hands of a capable and knowledgeable beekeeper, it could work.
But the mass marketing of these things to people who have no idea what they’re doing? That idea needs to buzz off.