Queen excluders! Ever wondered what these things were and why you’d use one?
What are they?
Basically these little slotted boards keep the queen (and drones) from getting into any supers above the excluder. Basically it means the queen isn’t able to lay brood in the honey supers because really, who wants larvae in their honey?
Why use them?
When placed above your top brood box or super this tool helps you guarantee that the queen won’t move into honey supers. It’s an easy solution to the problem of a queen laying in your honey supers but as you’ll see below, there can be problems with this.
What are the problems?
Sometimes bees won’t move through the excluder meaning that they can get “trapped” below. Not only does this keep the bees from storing honey in the supers above the excluder but it can create cramped conditions that will induce swarming.
Does everyone use excluders?
No, often times experienced beekeepers don’t use excluders as they want to prevent the issue of bees not moving through the excluder. Obviously going through a tight space also slows down the workers so this can impact any work being done.
How can one fix these issues?
- Slowing down workers: If it’s dry where you live put a top entrance on the hive by cracking a space or drilling a larger hole. This means that the worker bees out gathering nectar can get into the honey supers without crawling up through the hive. They aren’t slowed down at all by the excluder.
- Getting bees to move through the excluder: If you use all western size supers for your brood bodies and your honey supers you can get the bees to move through by simply placing a frame from below with brood into the top honey super. The bees will not let the brood die so they will move up through the excluder to tend the brood. Of course you’ll want to make sure that you don’t take a frame that has the queen on it or she’ll be trapped in your honey super… exactly where you don’t want her to be!
- Ditch the excluder altogether (at least for a while): Once the bees move into your honey super you can see if the queen went with them. If she did and she laid eggs in your honey super simply find her, move her back down, put on the excluder and voila! The bees move through the excluder and you don’t have to worry about her moving up again. It’s also possible that she won’t move into your honey supers and you won’t have to put on the excluder at all.
Are you using a queen excluder? Have you had any problems with them?