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The Almighty Buck Science

Inventors Revolutionize Beekeeping 131

wombatmobile writes For more than 5,000 years, apiarists donned protective suits and lit bundles of grass to subdue swarms of angry bees while they robbed their hives of precious, golden honey. Now two Australian inventors have made harvesting honey as easy as turning a tap — literally. Cedar Anderson and his father Stuart have just been rewarded for a decades worth of inventing and refining with a $2 million overnight success on Indiegogo. Their Flow Hive coopts bees to produce honey in plastic cells that can be drained and restored by turning a handle, leaving the bees in situ and freeing apiarists from hours of smoke filled danger time every day.
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Inventors Revolutionize Beekeeping

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  • Sweet! (Score:5, Funny)

    by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2015 @03:56PM (#49130471) Homepage Journal

    Nuff said.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      freeing apiarists from hours of smoke filled danger time every day

      I suspect they meant every harvest. We harvest honey from our beehives once per year, and it takes a few hours. That's appropriate enough in the far North, but in places like Florida or California, they might harvest their honey 3 or 4 times per year.

      • So, you're telling me I can't turn the handle every morning to get honey on my toast?


        • by tonywong ( 96839 )
          I think you could, since harvesting/robbing is not invasive now, and a harvest yields kilograms of honey, you could probably go outside in your fluffy robe and turn the handle and dribble some honey on your toast, close the tube and wander back inside.
        • Sorry but this is ridiculous. For one thing, taking care of bees involves moving frames around for many reasons other than collection of honey. So you are not going to create a hive that never has to be opened. Honey collection is not the main reason for opening a hive.

          And bees to NOT obligingly lay their eggs only in the brood frames. There will be eggs, and thus baby bees in the honey section as well, so when you turn the tap you will get baby bees.

          • They say that you still need to open the hive for brood inspection, which they typically do twice a year. They are advertising htis as reducing effort but not as a system in which you never need to open the hive.
          • by Rei ( 128717 )

            I'm not an apiarist (maybe in the future). But can't you use a queen excluder to keep her from laying eggs in honey supers? I'd expect that to be standard practice here.

            • Yes, some beekeepers use a queen excluder. But they can cause problems. For example, worker bees, which can pass through the excluder, move eggs around all the time. So if they move an egg across the excluder into an area where the queen cannot spread her supression pheromone, the workers may decide to raise a new queen on the "wrong" side of the excluder. Also, you have the issue of worker-laid eggs which make up about 10% of all the eggs laid in a hive. If the queen pheromone is not stong enough in

        • Their proposal includes future plans for a roof mounted hive, with a delivery pipe coming directly into the kitchen.

  • Nevermind. (Score:4, Funny)

    by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2015 @03:56PM (#49130475) Homepage

    Thought they were going to revolutionize beerkeeping.

  • Plastic, huh? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mi ( 197448 ) <> on Wednesday February 25, 2015 @04:08PM (#49130593) Homepage Journal

    Their Flow Hive coopts bees to produce honey in plastic cells that can be drained and restored by turning a handle

    Though a lot of cheaper honey ends up in plastic containers anyway, I try to buy it in glass jars (or wrapped in paper).

    Will keeping it in "plastic cells" from the very beginning — before it is even harvested — not affect the taste at all?

    • Food grade plastic. Not so much.
      • by mi ( 197448 )

        Food grade plastic.

        That's a little vague... Is "food grade" plastic as good as glass or ceramics, or merely almost as good?

        Not so much.

        As in "Only a little", or as in "Not at all"? And, in either case, why weren't you more explicit?

    • Scientifically speaking, I've no clue but I wouldn't think so. I've never noticed a difference in taste of things like Ketchup, which is much more acidic, when it's stored in plastic vs glass bottles. The big thing that affects the flavor of honey is where the nectar came from, and since the honey is still being produced by tens of thousands of bees swishing their little hearts out, the flavor should be the same.

      • Most plastics (including food grade) are remarkably resilient to acid.
        Now metal, that is a different story. Wise people don't put acidic foodstufs in metal. Not even stainless steel (not SS316(L), not Hasteloy, not Duplex nothing).

        I believe the biggest difference between glass bottles of honey and plastic bottles is that much of the stuff in plastic bottles is sugarwater with some flavor additives. Glass bottles are often considered premium so the manufacturers don't do that.
        The "fake" honey doesn't include

    • by Cramer ( 69040 )

      The bees coat the plastic with their own wax, thus sealing the cells. When you harvest, the cells are split releasing the honey. Honey contact with plastic is minimal and only happens during harvest.

    • Will keeping it in "plastic cells" from the very beginning — before it is even harvested — not affect the taste at all?

      Why do you think that it would?

  • Two things (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    First of all, for a beekeeper, it is not just smoking the bees to kill time. It is an important part of the whole ritual of being a beekeeper. Infact, most keepers I know don't wear suits, or do so in rare instances. The smoking also is optional, if you know what you are doing.

    Second of all, this can't be good for the bees. I have read research articles that pointed out that square shaped boxes caused the bees not be as productive as how bee hives are in their natural habitats. So, putting them in plas

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by zifferent ( 656342 )
      And lazy is inherently bad, why exactly? I'd bet it's great for the bees as they aren't wasting precious energy making wax. (It takes several times the weight of honey to produce an equivalent measure of wax.) And just because these cells have honey in them doesn't mean the bees aren't keeping honey elsewhere in the hive.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        AC because Mod

        Beekeeping is not a typical endeavour easily analysed by simple economic theories, The large scale farms that produce most of the world's honey are already using low cost, well-trained labour and will never take up a hobby item like this. Anyone who keeps a few hives does not do it for efficiency of production, they do it for the wonderful connection between human and bee, Bees are such good insects they are practically honorary mammals. There is a peace and a joy to be had by caring for and g

        • by Rei ( 128717 )

          Absolutely correct that this is a hobby item. And I think it's a great hobby item. They even added emphasis to help maintain the connection with the bees, such as a large clear plastic viewing window on the tap side.

          And it's not like you never have to open up the box. Just not to rob the honey.

    • Well, driving a car is the lazy ass way of getting around, but it's still more productive for humans.

      As for the box shape, I agree. Most bee hives are customized by the bees, and they build for their environment as well as for honey/egg optimization. I wonder if they could make this thing in a hexagonal configuration? Since you're not needing to pull the comb, it seems to me that they could build this in any shape a bee might like.

      The plastic containers may actually be a benefit to the bees, as they woul

    • Re:Two things (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2015 @04:30PM (#49130847) Homepage

      So, putting them in plastic containers and just churning out the honey seems like the lazy ass way of beekeeping.

      Sorry, but what? Pretty much every technological advance we've ever made has been about someone being lazy.

      So, tell you what, stop using the wheel, the lever, an engine, electricity, refrigeration, or pretty much anything which takes the work out for you.

      Stop being such a lazy bastard and ignore all modern progress which reduces your labor.

      Otherwise you're full of crap.

    • Commenting on a forum is a lazy-ass way of communicating. You should hand write and deliver your message to each person that wants to read it.

    • Aside from not being good for the bees, there are a bunch of other problems I can think of, even assuming the whole thing isn't another crowdfunding scam (a la hoverboards and solar roadways) and works as advertised.

      1. The system can't be cheap.

      2. There's no way it can drain all the honey from the hive. I'd be extremely surprised if it got even 50%. Most of the honey is going to remain in the comb and stick to the tubes. There's no way you could flush that out without ruining the honey.

      3. Commercial honey e

      • RTFA would answer several of your questions.

        1. $600 for box + 8 frames
        2. It's gravity fed, so it'll all flow down eventually.
        3. It's gravity fed, so it'll all flow down eventually.
        4. The bees notice & refill.

        • Bullshit on everything but 1.

          1. As I said, way too expensive.
          2. Nope, that's literally impossible and is false advertising. Now I *know* they are full of shit. Even if honey weren't viscous, that would still be impossible, even with free-running water.
          3. Again, bullshit.
          4. Are you telling me the bees *uncap* a *capped* honey cell, take off the cap, and refill it?

          • 1. $600 for endless local (good for allergies) honey is way too expensive?
            2. Fluids don't run downhill?
            4. I'm not, they are.

            I'm guessing you didn't actually go look at the design and see what they did that's different than your assumptions.

            • 1. You can already get local honey most places in the world where it's possible at all to make honey. And you can get several year's worth for $600 (probably longer than this device will last).

              2. Facepalm. No, fluids don't always run downhill. They especially don't run downhill when they have to overcome pressure. Which they do here.

              3. Yes, bees do occasionally uncap honey cells and add more honey... but I can't see that as a basis for a continuous working system, not the way that it's being advertised here

              • by adolf ( 21054 )

                1. I like to make my own things. I can buy quality organic sauerkraut imported from Poland and made with two ingredients (cabbage, salt) for close to the same price -- and far less labor -- than if making it myself. But I'm learning to make it myself, anyway, for my own selfish and simple pleasure.

                1.5. Not everything is about profit. Corporations are beholden to maximize shareholder value; I am beholden only to my own whims.

                2. You should get a Nobel prize for your amazing theories on fluid dynamics.

      • 1. The system is very expensive in terms of normal equipment for bee keeping.

        2. An important part of modern beekeeping is actually not taking all of their honey, unless you are deliberately trying to destroy the hive. My father has kept hives for 40+ years now, and we never took all the honey from a hive, we'd always leave a good portion of the frames or cells untouched. That is the hives food reserves.

        3. Commercial productions use all that filtering because they are getting all sorts of extra stuff in the

        • I'd pay $600 + $50/yr for hive mgmt for free honey for the rest of my life.

          • Pick up a book on beekeeping. If you want 'free honey for the rest of your life', prepare for a lot of going out and finding bee swarms (no, bees don't magically enter beehives and no, bee colonies don't have unlimited lifespan).

        • 3 is fair point. As for 2, you don't take all the honey but you do extract all the honey from a comb once you've extracted it. As for 4, I don't see that working as the basis for a continuously-operating system.

          • I was able to watch the video when I went home yesterday and the method is different than I had imagined. Each frame is made up of a bunch of strips, which when stacked and pressed together form the cells between each pair of strips. To harvest the honey every other strip is raised or lowered by half a cell, which transforms each row of vertical cells into one long zig zagging channel which drains down into a bottom channel that flows out the end of the frame. This motion should crack, break, or loosen the

    • by azav ( 469988 )

      Lazy or efficient?

    • by azav ( 469988 )

      Just like how weaving using a loom is a "lazy" way of weaving a rug.

  • Fad Ahead? (Score:5, Informative)

    by regular_guy ( 1979018 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2015 @04:09PM (#49130613)
    A lot of beekeepers have expressed their opinions about this, though some are more simple speculations than suitable arguments. [] []

    The patent for this device can be found here http://www.freepatentsonline.c... []

    The biggest issue I have is the issues for pest mitigation. Small Hive Beetles could conceivably thrive in this device with some of the crevices created. However, it may be possible to incorporate an oil trap or some other measure.
    What people seem to identify as being the biggest issue is the marketing towards ease of honey retrieval, don't need to really deal with the bees at all. That's certainly the biggest misnomer when talking to people about starting a beehive: It's all about the honey! It certainly isn't, and takes a lot more effort than a newcomer might expect. As one person identified: I'll take a look at this when people start selling their used Flow hives 6 months from now (due to too much work, no quick turnaround of honey profit, etc.)
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      As a beekeeper, I found this invention interesting. You do bring up the point that this is much too simplistic an approach to beekeeping. During the year, collecting honey is one of the less difficult tasks the a beekeeper undertakes. For the hobbyist with a few hives, the effort is a few days per year. The remaining time is spent with hive growth management and as you mentioned pest management.

      The next year or two will tell where this goes.

    • So what exactly is there to do? Educate us instead of whine.

      Why would there be more effort than turning the handle after initial setup?
      Why would you need to deal with the bees at all?

      • Did you reply to the correct message? The post was informative and not a whine.

        • He was whining about all the shortcomings of the new system.

          • No, he shared two links to places people involved in beekeeping were talking about the system, one to the patent for the system, and then stated his own view that there might be issues with pest management and people believing that there is nothing but honey collection involved in beekeeping. Nowhere was there any whining, though perhaps some bemused skepticism.
      • First there are diseases and parasites: deformed wing virus, European foul brood, American Foul brood. Varroa mites are carriers of deseases. Small hive beatles and wax moth can turn your hive into a soup. If you ignore those they will show up in your other hives and in your neigbor's hives. Then there is swarming: Half of your bees leave (and don't make honey) and set up shop in your neigbor's attic (he really likes that). You want to prevent that. You should replace the queen every other year: young quee

        • As I said elsewhere, set up a business to manage the hives.

          $50/yr + 1 quart of honey, check on my hives 2x per year (or whatever makes sense) and we have a deal.

          I just want honey, not another hobby.

        • by Rei ( 128717 )

          I live in a country where beekeeping is juuuust starting to take off. The prevalence of diseases - at present - is probably little to none. And we're highly geographically isolated. So if disease and pest control is normally the biggest challenge, then we've got that taken care of (our main challenges here are cold, windy weather and a long winter; supplimental winter feeding is a must)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 25, 2015 @04:44PM (#49131059)

    I've been beekeeping for 6 years. I fear this device will create more bee-havers instead of bee-keepers. Bee-havers are bad for apiculture because they do not inspect the bees enough (or in some cases, at all). They do not identify issues with the bees that can spread to other hives miles away. The hives tend to die within two years due to varroa mites and the wax moths and other pests take over, become numerous and spread to other locations. This leaves us who do tend to our bees to have to deal with a larger quantity of invaders than we normally would. My bees will find these hives and raid them, bringing additional mites back to our hives and throwing off the calculations I use to track mite progress and treatment dates. Two years ago i had to deal with an insane amount of wax moths attempting to infest everything we had with any wax in it due to a local beekeeper losing their bees and leaving the empty hives in a field for a a year. Any time frames or a honey super came off a hive it had to immediately be wrapped in the plastic wrap used in shipping pallets in order to keep them out. It added alot of work and expense to the process.

    • by NatasRevol ( 731260 ) on Wednesday February 25, 2015 @05:42PM (#49131683) Journal

      So start a business checking on the hives of others.
      I'd love something simple like this. But I'm not going to put the time into learning the details of the bee life cycle & issues to do much more than turn a tap.

      Change me $50/year + 1 quart of honey, come out 2x per year to check on the hive, you'll have a deal.

      Call it being a 'bee wrangler' or some PC name like that

      • by paiute ( 550198 )
      • So I've got to bust my ass to drive to your location and inspect your hives a couple of times a year for $50? No thanks.

        • by adolf ( 21054 )

          In a strange future where I can have a small hive that keeps my garden pollinated and provides me with the most local of local honey, and so do lots of other people near me, then: Why not?

          You also get to sell the hardware, a starter population, any ongoing bee-keeping supplies, and get paid (hourly) to advise and possibly sort out any problems you encounter while on-site.

          Personally, where I am, the market allows me to charge individuals no more than about $50 per hour to work on their PCs, so that's what I

          • Yeah, everyone shooting down my idea doesn't get it very well. Probably never been in business for themselves.

  • How will the notion of capitalism fair if the workers are deprived of the fruits of their labor? Will the bees fail to gather honey? How about supply and demand. As the bees are forced to labor to support humans as well as other bees the demand side goes way up but the supply side remains fixed. And with this new system is it a true trickle down, honey economy?
  • This is great. We as a planet need more bee tenders.

  • Although it would break with Slashdot tradition, I wish the complainers would read the fucking article. This product is designed to address ONE of the problems/duties associated with bee keeping.
    The promoters clearly advise anyone without bee keeping experience to contact and join a bee keeping club if they don't know what they're doing. They clearly state that the hives will also have to be inspected for diseases, pests etc, but that's not the specific problem this product is designed to solve.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Besides easier harvesting, their method produces honey without the wax honeycomb.
      Their frames are stacks of nearly complete hexagonal tubes which bees only finish off with wax, instead of building the entire chamber out of it.

      As wax production uses up more energy than honey production, bees will produce more honey, more often.
      It remains to be seen, but I am guessing that this will increase the number of harvest per year, possibly doubling them if there is enough food for the bees.

      No wax, or nearly no wax, m

    • by spazzmo ( 743767 )
      Yeah, the "it's not absolutely perfect so it's rubbish" crowd should just keep their moronic childish opinions to themselves.
  • Is there any impact on the bees from exposure to the plastic cells, is there any alteration of flavor of the honey from plastic cells, similar to that of a drinking from a plastic cup alters the flavor of soda or water?
  • Would be breeding a better bee. One that is more resistant to mites, insecticides, wax moths, etc., and that isn't so susceptible to CCD.

    And also perhaps more efficient at pollenization. For example, the mason bee is supposedly a more efficient pollenizer than honeybees and will work in bad weather. []

    These guys generally won't sting either.


    • Better solution would be not to haul the colonies of bees all over the country throughout the year to pollinate the cash crops in the first place as it leaves them in a continuously weakened state.

      • Frankly, I'd rather have tougher, more resistant bees.

        Monocultures aren't that great an idea, but they're unfortunately common. A big almond orchard wouldn't provide year-round food for the amount of honey bees required to pollinate it. Better to have mobile hives that can be taken where the bees can forage, and pollinate the crops.

        Yes, that's tough on bees. But its less disruptive to breed better bees than to rework all the orchards to provide year-round food for stationary hives.


        • And so instead of fixing the underlying problem we'll put another band-aid on top and hope that it stops the bleeding. The problem is that one day we are going to run out of band-aids or that the bleeding will be too much.

          It may be less disruptive to keep the almond orchards but it's the better solution. Unfortunately almonds are making so much money that it won't happen. Not only would a varied crop rotation be better for the bees but it would be better for the water management of the regions. Almonds

    • Would be breeding a better bee. One that is more resistant to mites, insecticides, wax moths, etc., and that isn't so susceptible to CCD.

      Lots of people are working on this. One example is the Minnesota Hygienic Bee [].

      Ironically, one such effort might be responsible for the introduction of the Varroa destructor mite to the West. Brother Adam was a very famous beekeeper living in England who tried to breed an improved bee--the so-called Buckfast bee []--by crossing many types of honeybees that were imported from around the world--Italians, Germans, Asian bees, and even some African species. His goals were to breed a better bee after the Isle of Wig

  • This must be the first summary I've read on /. in over a dozen years that wasn't just a copy-pasted paragraph from the article. Kudos for that.

    On the other hand, I didn't much like the slant (which must be popular in the post-modern, green, politically-correct, think-of-everything-little, brave new world) of the first sentence.

    Hell yeah, I'm gonna prune that sucker of a peach tree in my back yard (or as you may prefer to put it: rob it of of it's precious, verdant, aspiring fire wood) despite the fact tha

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