Beekeeping Made Easy

                      Queen Excluder



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A queen excluder is a device used above the brood chamber through which worker bees can pass but because queens and drones are larger -- are excluded.  Queen excluders are made of various metals or plastic.  The proper way to place a queen excluder on a hive is with the support wires on the bottom side of the queen excluder.  

We have checked various catalogs for available queen excluders.  We have found several that we would like to share with you.

We would like to thank Dadant & Sons, Inc. for using this photo from their catalog.  You can purchase beekeeping items from Dadant & Sons, Inc. by visiting their web site: www.dadant.com 

Why is there such a controversy concerning the use of queen excluders?

Some queen excluders are called honey excluders by some beekeepers.  It is true that bees must be crowded in the brood chamber before moving up through the wires of a queen excluder.   Some bees seem very reluctant to pass through queen excluders.   

Queen excluders are mandatory if the beekeeper is producing comb honey for sale.  One thing that a beekeeper does not want in comb honey is dark comb.  Dark comb is created from the cocoon of pupa raised in the cells and excessive travel stain.  Bees also store pollen in comb around brood.   Good comb honey is characterized by having no pollen stored in the cells, being made of new wax comb which is easy to digest, and capped over honey with no travel stain.  Thus, every effort must be made to keep the queen from entering the comb honey super and depositing eggs in the cells of the comb.

If the beekeeper is managing bees for extracted honey, the decision to use or not use excluders is up to the techniques used by the beekeeper.    Without a queen excluder, a queen might be found anywhere in a hive.  This is okay if the beekeeper does not remove brood along with honey supers when extracting time comes.  Often during the cycle of producing honey crops, the bees will store honey above the brood nest and by late summer, the queen will move down into the lower brood chamber thus leaving only honey above.  However, the queens don't know the rules and sometimes don't listen to me.

One of the more interesting uses of a queen excluder is using it to locate a queen.    The fact that eggs hatch in three days is useful in the following management technique.    If one must find the queen and almost every effort has failed to that point, the beekeeper can place a queen excluder between hive bodies and wait four days.  After four days have past, the beekeeper only need to examine the box or boxes with eggs to look for the queen.  Eliminate the boxes without eggs.    This is also a technique which can be used prior to splitting a hive of bees.  In that case, it is not necessary to actually see the queen.   The hive body with eggs is set aside -- it already has a queen and the box without eggs can then receive a new queen.   More on that later when we discuss splitting hives for increases.

The use of queen excluders require more management of the hive.  Because the brood chamber might become crowded, the bees will be more likely to swarm.  Bees tend to store a great deal of honey in the brood chamber below a queen excluder -- much more than they will need.  This reduces the number of cells available for eggs.  Crowding is one factor which encourages swarming behavior of bees.

 

Use of queen excluders   From Beekeeping 201 Lesson Ten

This is a controversial subject.  Should you use queen excluders?  It will depend upon your point of view.    We would suggest that if you are having trouble with bees carrying nectar (honey) up into the honey supers above a queen excluder that you examine the beekeeping techniques you are using.  A queen needs open cells to lay eggs in.  If they are not available, then the bees are going to swarm.   What happens if bees do not carry honey into honey supers above the queen excluder -- they will store the honey in the brood chamber and eventually the hive becomes honey bound.  The queen has no place to lay eggs and the bees swarm.

The beekeeper must examine hives during nectar flows to determine what the bees are doing with the nectar.  If they are storing the honey below the queen excluder, the beekeeper must either remove the queen excluder or develop a plan to open up the brood chamber so the queen has room to lay eggs.