For years, Graham Hutchinson has had an interest in bees.
But being a realtor didn’t leave Hutchinson with much time to tend to beekeeping, if he were to get any honeybees. Until now.
Hutchinson may be the first and only beekeeper in the province who uses a new concept – a Flow Hive.
“It’s non-invasive to bees, there’s no damage to the comb, and there’s no extraction process,” said Hutchinson. “The honey flows from the hive to a jar and tastes delicious.”
Hutchinson’s interest in bees started while he was living in the U.K. and working for the Health Protection Agency. He had learned about Manuka honey, and the benefits it has.
In the early 1980s, Dr. Peter Molan and Kerry Simpson were doing some testing and discovered Manuka honey has an unusual type of antibacterial property.
“His results were incredible,” said Hutchinson, about the discovery.
While doing a recent search online, the Flow Hive popped up and peaked Hutchinson’s attention. It was a start-up project, with Honey Flow in Australia devising the flow frame. Each frame has a partly formed honey comb, which the bees finish and then fill with the honey. When full, it’s harvest time.
“The comb is hexagon, and it can be offset by a key,” said Hutchinson, adding the each frame is turned with a key, and the honey flows to the bottom, through a tube inserted into the opening, and into jars.
“It saves so much time,” he said, adding the collection of honey takes about an hour for the six frames he has. “The usual process is so time consuming. This extraction is incredible.”
Hutchinson had purchased about 80,000 bees from a local keeper. While the extraction process is different, everything else about beekeeping remains the same. He even wears protective clothing and checks his bees daily.
“Keeping them is the same as if they have a normal hive. I have to check for pests.”
He said there are a number of pests that could be damaging to the bees and the hive, such as small hive beetle, wax moth, American foulbrood, and, most common, the varroa mite.
“The small hive beetle has recently been detected in New Brunswick, but none so far in Nova Scotia. Beekeepers in Nova Scotia have been advised of best practices by Jason Sproule, the provincial apiculturist to whom suspected findings have to be reported.”
Each spring and fall, Hutchinson will still do a complete hive inspection on the Flow Hive, which could take half a day to a day.
With the six frames in one hive, Hutchinson estimated the bees would produce about 60 pounds of honey annually. But after the final harvest, the tally was just under 40 pounds. He said the bees need to be left with enough honey to make it through the winter.
“It’s great on pancakes – it’s really sweet. It’s completely different than other honey, and neighbours and friends think it’s delicious.”
Hutchinson said producers aren’t able to call their product honey unless it’s less than 18 per cent water, and his is coming in around 17 per cent.
Because of his success with the Flow Hive, and especially the taste of the honey, Hutchinson already plans on purchasing another hive next year.
For more information on the Flow Hive, visit https://www.honeyflow.com/.