Self-Draining Bee Hives: Pros and Cons

For over the previous 10,000 years, beekeeping has been evolving, and human beings have been discovering more modernized beekeeping equipment. There are currently over 3 types of beehives available in the market for beekeeping projects. Due to technological advancement, people are looking for more convenient, easier to manage, and high honey quantity beehives. The self-draining beehive is a unique beehive that most people are realizing has many advantages over other hive types.

Self-draining bee hives are hives whereby honey is harvested without opening the hive or disturbing the bees in any way. They’re positioned at an angle that allows the honey to naturally flow out when the wax seal on the combs is broken. They’re simple, easy to use and lead to higher honey yields.

Self-Draining Hive with Honey-Collection Bucket

What are Self-Draining Bee Hives?

Also known as flow hives, self-draining bee hives are unique bee hives that use a unique honey harvesting technology that only requires turning on a knob to harvest honey. These hives with taps are quite easy to use and maintain.

Its honey harvesting procedure is special such that you do not have to disturb bees or open the hive. This hive has made honey harvesting very simple and does not involve sticky tasks. 

How Do Self-Draining Bee Hives Work?

The self-draining beehive is composed of unique features which make it an automatic hive. It is equipped with plastic honeycombs that have vertical gaps. During their work, bees fill these gaps with their wax and the cells with nectar. After nectar has been treated to the proper moisture level, bees start capping it. 

The capping can be easily checked through installation on the back and sides of the hive. Capped honey is ready for harvesting. 

The frames have a unique mechanism such that they are designed to be activated using a unique metallic rod key. The activating process offsets the vertical gaps by half of the cell. This breaks the wax covers that allow the honey to flow downwards to the bottom of every frame.  

Typically, the hive is positioned at an inclined angle that allows honey to drain out. This is possible through designated openings fitted with tubes that allow the honey to flow out to the collecting container.

After the honey collecting process, the system can be later reset. The beekeeper needs to remove the collecting tubes, reset the key and return the knobs. The bees remove the capping and begin refilling the cell afresh. The self-drain hives use BPS and BPA free plastic, allowing bees to produce their wax comb in the brood nest.

The self drains trough is inaccessible to bees, so the honey is not filtered after the collection. It is free from dead bees, combs, and any external impurities.

After 1-2 days after collecting the honey, bees will notice that the cells are empty. They will break up the wax seals, relocate within the hive and start filling the cells with nectar. It is believed that bees will notice empty cells by varying the vibration of the wax cap for an empty and whole cell. 

Advantages of Self-Draining Bee Hives

Here are the 5 top benefits of self-draining bee hives:

1. Less Disruption of Bees During Honey Harvesting

The hive has a regular harvesting method. It involves widely opening the roof of the hive, removing the frame, shaking or brushing the bees off, and repeating until you’re through with all the frames you intend to harvest. The entire process involves a smoker known to be less distractive to bees. 

When choosing an escape board, you will deal with fewer bees, but you may have to get rid of a few. The self-draining hive allows bees to continue their work as you carry out the harvesting process. This is a non-invasive collecting method which is one way to help bees. You also don’t need a honey extractor for this process.

2. Allows You to Make One Trip Per Harvest

The non-draining hives require collecting the frames and transporting them to the honey processing area. Later, you have to crush them or centrifuge them to extract honey. After extracting honey, you have to move to the apiary to return the frames to their hives.

Self-draining hives are much better since they allow you to walk to the hive once during the harvest. After leaving, your harvesting task is complete. You will only be required to wash your tubes and keep them safe for the subsequent harvests. This means that it’s a time saver.

3. No Sticky Mess and Heavy Lifting

Honey is heavy especially during the winter season. Most hives produce an average of 50 pounds of honey per harvest. Lifting 30 pounds of honey in a super, including the frames and the box weight, is quite demanding, especially with more hives. You need to carry these hives and frames manually to your processing area.

The self-draining beehive allows you to carry the collecting container to the apiary. This is a simple task even in unfriendly terrains. The only risk that may occur is spilling small, quickly filled jars. These hives allow your honey to remain pure with less spillage.

4. Fewer Bees Attack During Harvesting

Bees are known to guard their territory jealously. Harvesters need to put on veils, even on docile breeds that may slightly sting during a harvest. Since most bees die after stinging an intruder, this method saves both the harvester and the bees.

The self-draining hives have unique features that make bees undisturbed during honey harvesting. This allows even an inexperienced beekeeper to harvest honey without risking their well-being.

5. Allows You to Enjoy Different Flavors of Honey 

Bees are always happy to collect nectar from all available sources if the nectar meets the sugar content requirement. Honey flavors and colors may differ from one frame to another. 

Since honey is released one frame at once, you can easily collect honey from every different frame. These beehives allow you to enjoy the taste of varying honey flavors since bees will deposit a particular flavor per season.

Disadvantages of Self-Draining Bee Hives

Here are some drawbacks of self-draining bee hives:

Less disruption of beesUses plastic frames
Allows one trip per harvestPromote hee-havers not keepers
No sticky mess and heavy liftingCostly 
Fewer bee attacks in harvestingCan take too much honey
Provides different honey flavors

1. Uses Plastic Frames

The innovators tried as much as possible to cause minimum disruption to the bees. They primarily focused on using artificial materials, specifically plastic, on making flow frames too unpleasant to the bees. Plastic, however, isn’t friendly to the environment and may even contain toxins. 

2. They Promote Bee-Havers Compromising Beekeepers

Bee-havers is a highly discouraged term by beekeepers. They regard such individuals as those who perceive ‘live and let live’ in beekeeping. They are known not to observe the hive’s hygiene, exposing the colony to a survival threat. 

Self-draining beekeepers are known to own the hive due to its easy harvesting process and its continued marketing. They highly rush for effortless honey harvesting, becoming bee-havers instead of beekeepers.

Ideal beekeepers love the spirit of dealing with the mess, getting close and personal with bees which is untrue with bee-havers. Even from the look, it is evident that a marketing strategy of self-draining bee hives promises an easier to manage and friendly honey harvesting.

Bee-havers won’t appreciate the art of beekeeping and may have problems when preparing beehives for the winter during bee fall management practices.

3. Costly

The price of one self-draining hive is approximately equal to two regular hives. Since the market demand for honey is unaltered, it is relatively expensive for most beekeepers to afford it. It is still questionable why the hives cost more due to the many fixtures and fittings. Instead, it would reflect the market price of the existing beehives in the market.

4. Can take too much honey

Given that self-draining hives don’t regulate how much honey they drain from the hive, they can take too much of it such that the bees won’t have any left for the winter months or during bad weather. This can lead to their deaths during such tough months.


Self-draining bee hives have significantly transformed the beekeeping industry. They have made honey harvesting almost effortless for inexperienced beekeepers. However, these beehives are relatively more expensive than other beehives in the market. Therefore, you can wisely consider whether they are suitable for your next project depending on your budget and experience level.


Northeast Regional Agricultural Engineering Service. Strawberry Production Guide.

Northeast Regional Agricultural Engineering Service. Raspberry & Blackberry Production Guide.

Montana State University. The impact of hive type on the behavior and health of honey bee colonies (Apis mellifera) in Kenya.

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