Queen Excluders: To use or not to use, that is the question

The debate about queen excluders is always ongoing. Some swear by them, while others have written them off. Most beekeepers are somewhere in between, and that is why the queen excluder continues to be useful.

Queen excluders only benefit beekeepers. Bees are orderly creatures. They organize the hives in the same way we do our houses.

The nursery, the brood nest, is placed at the center of the hive. That helps to keep the young warm and safe. The bees store pollen and honey around the bee larvae. 

This arrangement in a wild nest works superbly for the bees. But, for a beekeeper, it’s a complication.

Whether you’re keeping bees as a hobby or commercially for honey, keeping the queen away from honey super gives you a cleaner harvest.

A queen excluder may just be the right tool to get it done. 

What Are Queen Excluders?

Queen excluders are beekeeping accessories used in the hive. It is placed between the brood box and the honey super.

The queen excluder works like a sieve that allows worker bees to go through to the super, where they store honey. Since the queen’s abdomen is larger than that of the worker bees, she can’t get through.

The excluders make sure that the queen bee stays in the brood box and cannot lay eggs in the honey supers. The workers then have the super boxes all to themselves.

With this accessory, harvesting honey becomes much easier because there’s no threat of harming the brood or the queen.

Beekeeper working on beehive

Pros of Using a Queen Excluder

  • Eases harvesting – no need to worry about harming the queen or brood as you harvest.
  • Eases the job of finding the queen.
  • Better quality wax for rendering – comb that once contained brood has a lot of impurities.
  • Controls the size of the colony – Larger colonies tend to be more defensive because they have the insect power to spare. The queen excluder limits the space accessible to the queen to lay eggs, controlling the growth of the colony.
  • Brood-free frames – Honey harvested from frames above the brood chamber have fewer impurities.
  • Slow crystallization rate – Particles and impurities in honey can increase the rate of crystallization. Dealing with a clean comb come harvest time will leave you with a purer product. There are fewer impurities in the honey taken from frames in the honey super. It will help in slowing down the crystallization rate of your honey.

Cons of Using a Queen Excluder

  • Encourages the building of burr comb that can interfere with ventilation in the hive
  • Small queens and virgin queens can still get through sometimes, which eliminates the benefit of keeping the queen away from the super
  • Sometimes, the honey bees are reluctant to store honey above the queen excluder
  • Drones can get stuck above the excluder. In the absence of an upper entrance, the drones can die in the hive and clog up the excluder. It is best to provide a top entrance for the bees to find their way out.
  • Queen excluders are believed to trigger swarming behavior

Best Queen Excluders

Best For Commercial Use
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05/23/2024 04:15 pm GMT

When looking for a commercial solution, you want something affordable, durable, and effective. This plastic queen excluder is just right for the job. The holes are smooth and sized appropriately to keep the queen out of the honey supers without causing injury to any of the workers. As a result, it has earned the praise of many beekeepers.

Best For The Hobbyist
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05/23/2024 03:25 pm GMT

As a reasonably priced product, this queen excluder is a valuable addition to your apiary. You can buy one piece or get a pack of 6 or 12 if you need more. Plastic is not prone to rot or rust. 

As determined as bees are to coat all surfaces with propolis, the excluder seems to avoid getting completely glued down. Once again, durability is a huge plus with plastic excluders. That makes it a top choice for anyone who keeps bees for their own sake. 

BEEXTM Metal Queen Excluder BEEXTM Metal Queen Excluder
  • Durable fully plated metal queen excluder is designed for years of use
  • Prevents the queen from laying eggs in honey supers while allowing the smaller worker bees to pass through into the honey supers.
  • Fits any 10-frame Langstroth hives.
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05/29/2024 03:04 am GMT

There’s no need to worry about chipping because the material used is very strong. The rigidity also works in favor of the beekeeper when separating the excluder from the hive body. It comes off neatly, which is handy for the beekeeper.

Sometimes, if your excluder is very flexible, It can curve or bend as you try to get it off. Sometimes, bees are flung into your face when the excluder finally separates from the hive body. That’s not good news for anyone. You won’t have that kind of trouble with this metallic excluder.

Another great option

Another Great Option
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05/23/2024 04:08 pm GMT

For those who don’t want the metallic option, this queen excluder is a great option. It’s durable, light, and fits very well.

It’s a little pricier than the other plastic options, but the quality is undisputed. The edges are smooth and, therefore, kind to your honey makers. What more could you ask for?

Frequently Asked Questions: Queen Excluders

Are queen excluders necessary?

If they were, nature would have provided one. Although they are not mandatory, they make beekeeping a little easier for the beekeeper.

The debate on their necessity will never be settled because it’s based on preference. Some colonies do very well without them, filling supers with only honey, leaving the comb unblemished.

Other colonies put more work and energy into brood production than honey storage. Some beekeepers find that captured swarms fall in this category.

For those, a queen excluder is a handy tool. Storing supers that once contained brood can be complicated because it attracts wax moths.

The decision to use an excluder is simply up to you.

Are Queen Excluders Necessary

Do queen excluders reduce honey production?

It depends on who you ask. Those who don’t use it are convinced that it would be detrimental to honey production. As far as science goes, that isn’t the case.

There’s a study that shows the opposite is true when working with African bees. Bees are very adaptable, and I don’t think we give them enough credit.

A queen excluder is an unnatural implement, but so are modern beehives. The bees adapted to those, so there’s no reason why they can’t adapt to a queen excluder and continue to be as productive as they ever were.

Do queen excluders encourage swarming?

Swarming is a natural behavior for bees, and we are still trying to understand it. Several factors contribute to swarming. One significant factor is the spread of pheromones in the hive. The queen excluder doesn’t interfere with that. Even though it could contribute to the sensation of overcrowding, 

Its absence doesn’t guarantee that the colony won’t swarm. There are measures you can take to reduce the chance of swarming, even with a queen excluder present.

If a colony decides to swarm, the presence or absence of a queen excluder probably won’t make a difference.

Do Queen Excluders Encourage Swarming

Do queen excluders harm bees?

If the excluder is constructed well, the bees will be able to pass through without much difficulty. That’s why the excluder you choose matters. With a well-constructed excluder, the worker bee may go through a tight fit, but it shouldn’t injure the bee in any way.

Final Thoughts

A queen excluder is a helpful tool. Its effectiveness depends on the colony and is difficult to prescribe.

Many new beekeepers (and even experienced ones) have found this tool helpful to them. The only way to know for sure if it is best for your hive is to try it.

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