Is it necessary to always use queen excluders on each hive? I have some people tell me they do not use queen excluders but how do you keep them out of your supers?
Is it necessary to always use queen excluders on each hive? I have some people tell me they do not use queen excluders but how do you keep them out of your supers?
Question: Without a queen excluder how do you keep the queen out of the honey?
Answer: The queen is not looking to lay all over the place. When you end up with brood in honey supers it's because one of two things has happened. Either the queen was looking for a place to lay some drone brood, which you didn't allow in the brood nest because of either culling it or using only worker foundation; or the queen needed to expand the brood nest or swarm. Would you rather they swarm? The bees want a consolidated brood nest. They don't want brood everywhere. Some people try to have some capped honey as their "queen excluder". I do the opposite. I try to get them to expand the brood nest as much as possible to keep them from swarming and to get a bigger force to gather the honey. So I add empty bars in the brood nest during prime swarm season.
Isaac Hopkins was quite eloquent on the matter and here's what he had to say on the matter in The Australasian Bee Manual:
“Queen Excluders... are very useful in queen rearing, and in uniting colonies; but for the purpose they are generally used, viz., for confining the queen to the lower hive through the honey season, I have no hesitation in condemning them. As I have gone into this question fully on a previous occasion, I will quote my remarks:—
“The most important point to observe during the honey season in working to secure a maximum crop of honey is to keep down swarming, and the main factors to this end, as I have previously stated, are ample ventilation of the hives, and adequate working-room for the bees. When either or both these conditions are absent, swarming is bound to take place. The free ventilation of a hive containing a strong colony is not so easily secured in the height of the honey season, even under the best conditions, that we can afford to take liberties with it; and when the ventilating—space between the lower and upper boxes is more than half cut off by a queen-excluder, the interior becomes almost unbearable on hot days. The results under such circumstances are that a very large force of bees that should be out working are employed fanning-, both inside and out, and often a considerable part of the colony will be hanging outside the hive in enforced idleness until it is ready to swarm.
"Another evil caused by queen-excluders, and tending to the same end—swarming—is that during a brisk honey-flow the bees will not readily travel through them to deposit their loads of surplus honey in the supers, but do store large quantities in the breeding-combs, and thus block the breeding-space. This is bad enough at any time, but the evil is accentuated when it occurs in the latter part of the season. A good queen gets the credit of laying from two to three thousand eggs per day: supposing she is blocked for a few days, and loses the opportunity of laying, say, from fifteen hundred to two thousand eggs each day, the colony would quickly dwindle down, especially as the average life of the bee in the honey season is only about six weeks.
"For my part I care not where the queen lays—the more bees the more honey. If she lays in some of the super combs it can be readily rectified now and again by putting the brood below, and side combs of honey from the lower box above; some of the emerging brood also may be placed at the side of the upper box to give plenty of room below. I have seen excluders on in the latter part of the season, the queens idle for want of room, and very little brood in the hives, just at a time when it is of very great importance that there should be plenty of young bees emerging.”
I thought this was a good read.
IMHO, queen excluders, sometimes referred to as honey excluders creates a perceived crowded condition that increases the propensity for your bees to swarm. Once your hive swarms, you have not only lost half your bees, but also allot of honey production as well.
I use them for an entirely different reason. I use them on all of my post cut-out hive of bees. It keeps a fat and laying queen inside her new, yet forced upon, hive for her to now live in. Prior to the cut-out, she has no lost weight, such as when she's ready to swarm, and she is too fat to pass through the excluder. Just point out another use for them.
I took excluders off my hives last summer, and I will not return them. Yes there was brood in the medium super, in the center frames. And drone brood. When those emerged and the fall nectar run started, those cells were filled with honey.
This year I put the darkened frames back in the center of the box. I already have 2 full boxes and just added another super to my strongest hives with the frames I just mentioned. This is my 3rd year, and the bees are booming, as is the honey production. Who knows how many swarms I lost last year. Several I'm sure. I was originally taught to use one deep, then excluder, medium box. This is common in southern Florida.
I follow Michael's teaching as he wrote, and it's working wonderfully for me. I am looking for greater honey harvest which already seems to be happening. I am very pleased with my bees this year.
I am someone that has nothing bad to say about queen excluders....
1. I run single deeps. I do not want to have to inspect both top and bottom boxes for queen/swarm cells in the spring. During the heavy flow, you really need to inspect weekly to keep them from swarming. There are some that will tell you that with 2 brood boxes, the queen will stay out of the honey supers and they won't swarm since the queen, supposedly, has plenty of room to lay. NEITHER IS TRUE!! She will go where she wants and they will swarm. Plus, it's too much weight to lift the top box when doing inspections.
2. My hives PACK their supers full of honey even with an excluder. How? Top entrances. I place a shim of some sorts between the excluder and the honey supers. Bees love the top entrance. Also helps with ventilation in drying the honey and keeping the bees cooler in the heat. I take this shim and actually open up the hole a couple of inches wider.
They're cheap and really make a difference.
Unless you are a big time commercial or a very busy sideliner beekeeper, excluders,if used wisely, are actually very helpful in you controlling your hives. Don't let the "anti" crowd scare you with their "honey excluder" stuff....
I also question the key points you quote from Isaac Hopkins in your post when using a top entrance.
Ventilation and the reluctance of bees to move through the excluder to deposit nectar. When using a top entrance, I would think the excluder would have a different effect.
First, with a top entrance, the warm air from the nest is naturally rising, and if the excluder indeed reduces air flow, it should only counter the more rapid exiting of heat through the top somewhat and the net result should be a cooler hive - but not a chilled nest. And the hive should still be well-ventilated overall - particularly with the presence of a drone escape of some sort, which would draw in cooler air on the bottom.
In terms of being a "honey excluder" with a bottom entrance, it would seem that the opposite effect would happen with a top entrance. In this case, if the bees are reluctant to move nectar through, then that should keep the nest area less congested to some degree, and make the nest even less apt to get backfilled by a nectar flow.
I don't see how the typical arguments against an excluder apply so readily when employing a top entrance. It just doesn't make sense, as they are two different arrangements.
>I don't see how the typical arguments against an excluder apply so readily when employing a top entrance. It just doesn't make sense, as they are two different arrangements.
First, you must have a bottom entrance if you have an exlcuder or the drones can't exit. Assuming that is a small entrance and most of the traffic is at the top, they still have to cram through the excluder to get to the brood nest. Have you ever watched bees going through an excluder?
"Beginning beekeepers should not attempt to use queen excluders to prevent brood in supers. However they probably should have one excluder on hand to use as an aide in either finding the queen or restricting her access to frames that the beekeeper must want to move elsewhere" -The How-To-Do-It book of Beekeeping, Richard Taylor
Okay, but given the fact that the excluder has been in use for a long time, and that beekeepers using them have still had honey supers above them filled sufficiently with honey to keep on using them, the bees have to be going through them fairly efficiently.
So if you don't want most of that nectar going through to the broodnest anyway, then whatever difficulty there is is only going to work in your favor - and the bees aren't going to neglect the need for food in the nest, so that will still get done, some through the excluder, and some through the smaller, bottom entrance.
Have I ever watched bees going through an excluder? No. Have you? If so, did you notice if they were transferring nectar at all from bee-to-bee to avoid going through it?
I've seen a lot of beehives during a flow with a small upper entrance and a large lower one. And there are times when that upper hole - no matter how small - is almost as busy or busier than the lower one. These are hives with excluders, and those beekeepers never had a problem with "honey excluding" or excessive swarming.
That suggests to me that the bees have a sense of what is most efficient. Maybe they don't, but it seems like they do. If that is true, and if the bees find that an excluder makes them inefficient, then an opening above and below the excluder should allow them to drastically lessen the amount they have to pass through it. And if it is difficult - or inefficient to pass through it, then it seems likely that they will pattern their activities to avoid it.
So an argument against an excluder on a hive with only a lower entrance cannot be the same for a hive with an upper, or with an upper and lower, because in each case, the excluder is in a different place in the sequence of motion through the nest for the bees.
I'm not saying you're wrong, or that Hopkins or Taylor is either. I'm thinking through the situation and trying to reason the points offered to a point where I understand them, and can reconcile them with what I think and see myself. I'm just questioning the ideas.
Just because a successful beekeeper like Taylor says it's right, doesn't mean it is. Because from what I can see, most successful beekeepers who write/wrote books (no matter what era they wrote in) spend a lot of the book talking about how most other beekeepers are doing things all wrong.
Makes it kind of tough to choose which advice to take, but I appreciate having it to consider just the same.
If you are running one sized supers then you won't need an excluder. You simply swap frames top to bottom and add new frame for queen to lay in...
This is actually a very good debate with some great ideas and observations. My typical set up is a screened bottom board on top of a solid bottom board (to hold a debris tray). I use two deep brood boxes with medium supers for honey. I also use a queen excluder above the brood boxes to keep the queen below. I have found that come June when the white clover is blooming, my bees pack the bottom two boxes leaving only 3 or 4 frames open before moving into the medium supers. I never really put two and two together but began to realize that the brood area became honey bound. I actually encouraged this to allow the Italians plenty of stores going into the dearth of summer and fall. What I really did was create smaller clusters going into fall and winter, which ending in me loosing colonies over winter still laden with honey stores.
So I tried using a shim (the one Better bee sells as a spacers) that has a hole in the middle. That ending in an absolute disaster two years ago when the bees filled the space between the brood boxes/queen excluder and the medium honey supers with wax and nectar. So I moved this spacer above the top honey super and under the inner cover to provide an upper entrance along with the bottom entrance full open. Some bees used this top entrance under the cover but not to the degree I thought they would. It really became another area for guards to protect with very limited activity.
So long story short, I have personally experienced using queen excluders that resulted in honey production reduction and honey bounding of the brood areas. I do not want the queen laying in the honey supers though. So I have to find a way to place a small enough shim between the brood boxes with a queen excluder and the medium honey supers that will prevent or reduce burr comb build up in this space. I am thinking of severely reducing the bottom entrance or closing it off. However, if I do this then I guess in need a drone escape on the brood boxes so they can exit. Again not really the path I want to go. So I think my best bet is to reduce lower entrance. My thought process is to divert as many forgers into the entrance above the brood boxes.
Does anyone have a suggestion on who sells a narrow shim that could be used to create an entrance without or limiting the space such as created by the Better Bee spacer? My thought is this set up will “encourage” the bees to store excess nectar in the mediums instead of in the brood area. The bees will know how much to put below and removing the excluder and mediums in the summer will allow for winter storage.
Last edited by Barry; 03-08-2012 at 05:56 PM. Reason: language
I'm with theriverhawk on excluders.
John Kennedy, a PA apiary inspector commented that it takes about five years for a beekeeper to get their feet under them. I didn't understand until I had been at it for as long. This year's mistake takes until next year to fix. Last year's idea becomes a good one this year. After enjoying success, kicking a bad habit is easier than embracing change.
I use excluders to keep her highness out of my comb honey supers. When she did get by me, I was rewarded with extensive drone comb. I also found afterwards the girls filled the drone cells and their cocoons with honey. Neither IMHO is conducive to crush and strain or appetizing to me.
I don't advocate for excluders, don't have anything against foundationless, wish I had more success with top bar hives and am glad to find support here.
I have always used excluders with my single deep hives and have never had problems with swarming or getting a crop. I think hive configuration and type of flow may make a difference, I don't know. I think it is a personal thing, do you want to deal with brood in the supers or not? Does it help you in managing the hives the way you want?
Excluders are just another piece of equipement, another tool, use them or don't. It's really up to you, either way you will be right.
I run three mediums for brood and mediums for honey supers, I have never used excluders. I do get a small amount of brood, mostly drone in the first honey super, and usually only on the middle few frames at most. When it hatches they fill with nectar. I do think there are benefits to an upper entrance, I have never used them but after reading all that has been posted on this subject I am considering adding one to my hives. I don't think I want to completely do away with some size of bottom entrance, I think it has benefits also. A bottom entrance, even a small one of only an inch or so combined with a top entrance would provide better ventilation in the heat compared to a hive with only a top entrance. A smaller bottom entrance may encourage better brood production in the lower box. I seem to notice a lack of the bees willingness to raise much brood in the lowest box, possibly because of the large entrance and their inability to control temperature in that area of the hive.
I would rather deal with a little brood in the supers than to use excluders. Another thing, with just an upper entrance over the excluder and no bottom entrance, what happens when bees full of pollen have to crawl through the excluder to get to the brood boxes, does pollen get knocked off their legs sometimes? John
Great point on the pollen and temp/ventilation topic. I think that is why I am leaning on reducing the bottom entrance and finding a way to provide an entrance between the brood boxes and honey supers. If I offer both, the bees will pick which one they want to use.
I think that having just a top entrance would create a huge cloud of bees looking for their entrance when you are inspecting the brood chambers for any length of time. I know Michael Bush uses all top entrances and claims that it isn't a problem with all the bees looking for the entrance that isn't there anymore, maybe he has a greater tolerance for standing in the middle of all that chaos. Anyways, giving them the option of a bottom entrance also may relieve that, I guess I'll have to experiment with it. John
Excluders work very well for us & they help to keep the the comb in the honey supers nice & white.
I have found that people that have problems with excluders just do not understand how to use them and yes it takes time to understand the bees & why they seem to not care for them.
It is so much easier in the hot room & while extracting to not have to fight with the bees & brood problems in the supers that the bees wont leave when the bee-go pads are put on!
I don't have a problem with excluders and I know how to use them, I just have other uses for them other than keeping queens out of honey supers. John