Tuesday, July 21, 2009

LESSON 58: QUEEN EXCLUDERS

Hello from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms, located in central Illinois! We are a husband and wife team operating a family beekeeping business and we love it! It is a blast not just because our hobby turned into a business, but because we enjoy being together and working together with our children. And, we enjoying helping the beekeeping community as well.





LESSON 56: QUEEN EXCLUDERS

What's the real story about queen excluders? Do they work? Do I recommend them? Will they cut down on your amount of honey? Why are there different kinds of queen excluders.

A queen excluder is a metal or plastic device which looks much like a metal shelf in your refrigerator. The metal ones are made up of small metal rails close enough together so that the queen cannot squeeze through but the workers can. Beekeepers use them below a honey super to prevent the queen from going up into the honey super and laying eggs. There is now a plastic queen excluder on the market that works just as well.

PROS & CONS

PROS: The queen is excluded.


CONS: The queen is not always excluded. A small queen can sometimes squeeze. Drones get stuck. The bees often place stray comb between the openings. It does seem to slow down the progress of the bees filling the super above it. It's another high maintenance item.

TIP #1: Never use a queen excluder below a honey super that has undrawn comb. Make sure your comb is drawn out first. It is sometimes a challenge to get the frames drawn out by the bees on honey supers. A queen excluder can make it more restrictive and it can take longer. So do not place it on until the super frames are somewhat drawn out.
TIP #2: The metal queen excluder has support wire beneath the main row of wire. Those support cross bars should always face the brood nest area. This will prevent the queen from slipping through the wires.

So when you've placed it above the brood nest correctly, the wires will run the same direction as the frames below, and you can rub your hand across the queen excluder without feeling the cross bars. They will be on the bottom side of the queen excluder, running the opposite direction as the frames. We do this because when a queen tries to squeeze through she will slide along the wire, but when she hits a cross wire, she cannot continue to try to work through.

Some beekeepers are so opposed to queen excluders they call them "honey excluders". Indeed, they can restrict the passage of foraging and transport bees, and clogged with drones and wax, the passageway is even more restrictive.

MY OPINION AND APPROACH

For a new beekeeper, a queen excluder can be a big help. However, I do not use queen excluders. Instead, I monitor my queen and if I see her in the upper super, I pick her up and move her back down into the deep hive bodies.

The queen will not lay in a cell that has honey in it. So, my goal (and the bees) is to place honey in the super before she gets up there to lay, forming a honey barrier. So that is also why I like to "top super" which means I add empty supers on top of supers the bees are already filling. I don't have to worry about the queen going beyond the honey barrier.

I've noticed that if I give the queen plenty of room in her brood nest, the lower two deep hive bodies, then she rarely gets up into my supers. If she does, she lays just a small amount of eggs in the center frames and only toward the very lower bottom part of the frame. So I wait and let the brood hatch, then the bees clean up the cells and finish filling it with nectar and curing it into honey and sealing it off.

Thanks for joining us for today's lesson and I hope this has been helpful for you. Remember, we are here to help you succeed as a beekeeper. Please feel free to call us for supplies or equipment you might need. We also raise our own queens, so call us if you need to replace your queen.


Or call us for any beekeeping need you have: 217-427-2678
Visit us online at:
www.honeybeesonline.com
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EMAIL:
david@honeybeesonline.com

Until next time, remember to Bee-Have Yourself!
David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

2 comments:

Jack Isbell said...

I am having problems with feral bees I catch, the queen is getting through the excluders and absconding what can be done

Barbara Lindberg said...

Hi Jack. This must be a swarm you have collected that has a queen? You could fill the entrance with grass to slow the bees down being able to exit. As the grass dries the bees can move it aside but hopefully after a few days they'll decide to stay. Are you giving them frames of drawn comb to work with? Also is there any honey in the box because that always makes bees happy, especially if there's honey dripped on the frames.