I have always used excluders with my single deep hives and have never had problems with swarming or getting a crop.
I second that statement. There are management techniques that may take a dose of experience that create a situation where the excluder presents no impedance to honey deposition in the supers. See if there is a correlation between excluder use ,and experience and honey production levels. A well populated hive may show little reluctance to cross and excluder, when a poorly populated hive.
leaves the super empty.
So Soupcan and Roland please share with me how you guys use queen excluders. I am relatively newish (if that is even a word) and I am trying to learn through experience. So far I think I have made many mistakes over the course of the past three or four years and I am willing to listen and learn. I have used queen excluders each year when putting supers on. I am only speaking from what I have seen and it seems like my bees really pack out the brood boxes before entering the honey supers.
I really do not want my queens laying in my honey supers but am beginning to believe that the excluders are “encouraging” the bees to deposit the nectar in the brood boxes rather then in the honey supers. These brood boxes are feeling like they are 70 or 80lbs before I see any bees in the mediums above my excluders. And as I stated earlier the bees do not seem to be very interested in top entrances.
I was seriously leaning towards the POV that I would ignore queen excluders (and not use them), then I discovered what toads had been doing to my hives (depopulating them), for how long, I don't really know. I also read about Michael Bush's ideas about 8-frame medium supers, top/upper entrances and screened bottom boards, also, about the same time I read Jerry Hayes POV, "Queen Excluder or Honey Excluder?". So I synthesized; combining the ideas of Screened Bottom Boards, Slatted Racks, Drone Escape Entrances, Queen Excluders, Entrance Rim/Shims, and additional upper entrances created by offsetting supers.
When I'm running colonies for honey production this configuration is unparalleled, but I only stumbled upon using it, because of the local abundance of unrelenting, voracious, bee-eating toads. And I may never have put these things together without the help of Michael Bush, Jerry Hayes, and others willing to discuss this subject.
I've used entrance rim/shims that were 1/4" to 3/4" thick, they've all worked fine. Of course the bees will fill any extra space with comb/propolis/and honey, but they even do this between supers without the presence of an entrance shim/rim. Presently I prefer entrance rims that are about 1/2" thick and look like -->
With the entrance beneath a small piece of #8 hardware cloth this upper entrance shim/rim acts as a robber screen too.
Another thing that I do, which evolved out of this atypical configuration, is to attach end cleats at both ends of all my supers, attached even with the top edge of the super, effectively reinforcing the weakest part of the supers, where the rabbet has been cut to create the shelf for the frames to hang from. When the end cleats are attached here, on both sides, they not only help to keep the supers strong, but they also provide excellent support for lifting and carrying the supers. They also make it easy to slide an upper super back a little bit, creating an entrance on one edge. With these end cleats, it is no longer expeditious to assist mother nature in the process of destroying the integrity of supers, by grinding holes into the sides most of the way through the otherwise perfectly good wood composing the sides and ends of our supers, as is the common practice (called hand holds). I always found it amazing that beekeepers would add cleats to their supers, but attach them where they wouldn't reinforce the weakest part of the supers -- what's up with that?
Of course if you use other traditional hive components, like outer telescopic covers, they would need to be modified to accommodate the dimensions with cleats. Inconvenient, but not impossible.
When creating upper entrances by sliding the hive body back, doesn't that allow rain into the hive? In Joe's area with little rain and low humidity I can see that not being much of a problem, but in my area I'm concerned it would cause a lot of mildew.
I made some entrances the same way, when I was on Whidbey Island in Oak Harbor, Washington. Rain just ran down the inside walls of the hive and out the bottom. It's not like the entire top of the hive is being exposed, only some of the rain is actually contacting the outermost edges of the combs. But different hives behave differently in different situations and locations - so it's difficult to say how doing this will affect bees in Florida vs Arizona. I'm also using SBB (Screened Bottom Boards), which would permit any rain that does enter the hive to most easily exit via gravity.
I only choose my stronger hives to configure like this, but even all my Nucs (except condo mating nucs), have similar entrances, year-round.
Thanks, I'll give it a try and see what happens. Besides the rain I'm also concerned about providing additional access for SHB.
I'm always baffled and laugh at some reasons people won't use something that will benefit them. A top entrance shim directly over the excluder is the ticket. Yes, they will build a tad of comb and fill with honey in this 1" gap. It's not like they are building an entire hive there. Geeze...
I just scrape that off and consider that my little snack/reward when I get back in the truck!!
If you purchase the plastic excluder and the wood shim, it's an $7 investment per hive that makes a HUGE positive difference. (And the silly "Plastic Excluders are from the Devil" comments begin.....now. I've used them for years and see ZERO difference except they are lighter)
I take the shim and jig saw the hole another 2" or so wider.
share with me how you guys use queen excluders
We run a single deep, then an excluder. When the bees are covering 5-6 frames of brood, and the weather has warmed, we hang frames of capped brood above the excluder, is a slightly set back super(no extra pieces to maintain/buy). This is done every 12-14 days, with the now empty brood frame returned to the brood chamber.
Yes, I run excluders on every production hive. Most times I run a single deeps with excluder followed by a 3/4 inch shim with a 2 x 1/2 inch upper entrance and then mediums or shallows. I give plenty of empty drawn comb to each hive. If the bees are reluctant to use the upper entrance, I'll close down the bottom entrance for a couple of days and then reopen using an entrance reducer for drones. I have virtually zero problems with swarming and get great yields compared to others in my location.
I'd like to thank Joesph, theriverhawk, Roland, and others for sharing their experiences. This is one of those topics that comes up many times during a given season. It always seems as though we have to start this discussion from scratch with the "honey excluder" comments. I've been keeping a mental record of the responses over the years and it seems that the pro excluder crowd is strong with many experienced beekeepers stepping up to share their positive results. Managing colonies is obviously a very personal endeavor, and I always encourage people to experiment and find what works best for their given situation, but it really disappoints me when I repeatedly see the "honey excluder" comments. It is simply not true.
Of those who run bees for a honey crop, and choose not to use queen excluders, for whatever reason, I would like to hear how your hives are configured, and your honest reasons for not using them. Perhaps you aren't willing to try different configurations.
I would also like to hear from those who have tried this queen excluder configuration (similar to that described in the Jerry Hayes POV), and have not been able to keep the queen out of the honey supers, not obtained a honey crop, not been able to keep predators from eating bees at their hive entrances, not been able to keep the brood nest area less obstructed by nectar and more available for the queen to use for brood, and not reduced the occurrence of swarms.
I can't speak for swarms because I have not experienced one yet but as a newbie, and Michael did recommend newbies not use them, I had a problem getting the bees to go up into the supers when all I had was foundation. When I took the excluder off the bees went right up in the supers and filled them up. The first year I did not get brood in the honey supers but I was convinced that they weren't necessary. The next year when I did have drawn comb I got some brood up in the top boxes but the fall flow back filled the supers and there was no brood to deal with come extraction time.
Most of you people that are for excluders seem to have a lot of experience and that is good for you but newbies don't have that experience and also newbies are starting with foundation and you are not.
As a newbie I recommend newbies keep the excluder in the shipping box it came in or you can try to be an expert the first year. Let me know how that goes for you.
Zone 5a, Practicing non-intervention beekeeping
Do you overwinter in a single or a double? If it is a double do you just find the queen in the early spring, make sure she is in the bottom and then put on the excluder?
A single deep, above another deep,(with or without empty frames) below. The bees do not use the bottom deep. It is there for dead air space. They are reversed and the excluder inserted, when the weather warms. The queen will not be in the lower unused box. It is easier for them to stay warm when they are next to the roof, rather than having the empty super above them when it is cold.
That's interesting. I would have thought your winters would be hard enough you would need that extra deep full of honey. I think I'll give that a try next year. How many frames of honey are you looking for when you go into winter?
If you feel like the bees are not going up through an excluder, especially when all you have is undrawn foundation up there, then there are usually one of two problems:
1. There really isn't a true honey flow on yet, so they aren't really looking for the need to grow and store
2. You haven't given them a reason to move up.
Either way, the reason/way to get them to move up is feeding. I will spray each frame with a mist of sugar water that has a little Honey B Healthy in it. It really causes them to move up. I feed with 2 qt Collins type feeders that require an empty medium box on top. It feeds directly on top of the frames, again, causing the bees that have come up to get the sugar water off the frames to, often, stay and feed. This will, usually cause them to start drawing out the upper undrawn foundation.
I'm doing this right now with one hive that is an absolute wax building machine. As I am selling a few nucs this spring, I'm trying to go ahead and have as much drawn out brood frames as possible for when I make 3 frame splits into 5 frame nucs. This one hive will draw out an entire 9 frame brood box in just over a week if I am feeding. Bizarre how strong this hive is. The only reason I don't make queens off this hive is because they are also a propolis making machine too. I DO NOT want all my hives like that!!! But that's another story.
Anyway, if you are wanting your bees to go up through the exluder, give them a reason...fresh sugar water!!