at least mention this thing. It’s blown up on beekeeping forums all over. Yea, here it is again ::sigh:: The Honeyflow frame hive.
First, some context:
The idea of a ‘tap’ or ‘gate’ on a hive that would dispense fresh honey at the twist of a valve is a meme that goes back – likely – thousands of years. It’s been expressed in jokes and comics since before Gutenberg cranked his first prototype press. It’s been a joke for so long that many experienced beeks are having a hard time taking this thing seriously. Initial reactions to the announcement were, “It’s a joke, right? It’s gotta be – it’s been a running joke since forever!”
Couple that with the traditions of beekeeping. The Langstrogh hive was invented in 1852. It’s been tweaked and improved – incrimentally – over many decades. It’s been tested, proven and embraced by beeks the world over. Now, some plastic wielding engineer kid is going to show up and revolutionize honey production with a gadget?
But, the web site was fairly well done. Beeks do tend to lend credence to effort. They’re used to hard work and pointless hardwork is offensive. But maybe it was still just an elaborate joke. Just a well done joke. Yes, the Internet has made beeks cynical as well. Also, they document sevearl years – decades – of research and development. This isn’t just another quickie get-rich-quick or ‘better idea’ that’s popped up. They’ve tried it. They’ve had others try it and more importantly, have listened to their feedback.
Then the patent was found online and shared around. A few actually read it (or at least parts of it). Mmm, this thing really does go into quite some detail. And the basic mechanics do support their goal. Then there are the testimonials. Could this crew really have gotten so many known names to go along with a joke? Mmm, maybe – it’d be the ultimate trick on the beekeeping community at a time when a bit of levity might be good for everyone.
Then a friend of mine signed up for their email list, anticipating the Kickstarter campaign (23 Feb). The promises and information he received were shared and I tell ya – it sounds impressive. But, then – it’s supposed to, right?
As with any ‘new’ thing in beekeeping, I’ve my doubts and cynicism. Maybe too much. It’s a habit from years of “golly gee whiz” gadgets costing hard earned cash, making promises and ultimately just making things more difficult or simply breaking. And not just in the field of Apiology! I’ve literally piles of ‘cool’ whizzy gizmos that now serve only to hold down shelves and support dust. A temple to modern consumerism.
I’ll have to wait and see, but I’m thinking this thing – at best – will end up as a novelty or a ‘toy’ for the backyard, bet hive keeper. Examples will appear at Farmers markets and educational/marketing booths. Something to impress the common folk and make things appear easy. It won’t become a production tool (yea, I said it). It’s too complicated, too delicate, makes management of hives more difficult (maybe) and is inefficient at extracting honey from comb. There are concerns about taking un-ripened honey from the hive – but that may be surmountable with good practices.
It may also contribute to persistent malady or disease in hives. Catch a dose of AFB and how eager is a beek going to be to burn his deca-dollar gizzmo frames?
Worse, it may well trick a whole new wave of baby beeks into buying hives, bees and gear creating another large wave of abandoned backyard hives. Good for those that sell ‘stuff’. But is it good for bees or beekeeping? I’m not so sure.
The kicker may well be the particulars of the Kickstarter project itself. The price of these things – the expense and labor it will introduce will be the make or break point. If it’s comparable or slightly higher in cost to traditional frames while reducing labor for a similar harvest, well, then – maybe. Just maybe.
To be sure, I’ll not be committing to this thing until I see it works and doesn’t introduce new problems. Hard enough as it is keeping these critters happy, healthy, secure and at peace as it is. I’ve already run out of shelves, here.