Wednesday, July 1, 2009

To Exclude or Not to Exclude - Queen Excluders

Four days ago I added a queen excluder and honey super to Hive #2. I also left them the hive feeder - but only because they must build comb in the super before they can store honey - so I'll keep an eye on that.

Then my friend Henry called. He's been a beekeeper for well over 30 years and he called to give some advice. Whenever Henry gives advice, I listen.


He said to take the queen excluder out of the hive, otherwise the bees will likely swarm.

His explanation was that bees don't really like to go through the bars of an excluder and so they won't - at least not at first.

The advice was to remove the excluder, let the bees move freely and build the comb and start to fill it with honey. Yes, the queen might go up into the honey box and lay a few eggs, but she'll stop, Henry advised, once the bees get that super filling with honey.

Then later, check to be sure the queen is not in the honey super and put on the excluder. Then the bees won't be able to resist going through the excluder to get to their honey above.

So I returned the very next day and took the excluder off of Hive #2.

I also thought I'd better do a really brief inspection on Hive #1 to see if they had filled any more frames in the brood box. The last inspection they had 6 of 10 frames full.

I didn't plan to do this inspection for another 4 days. Thank God I did check it!

(photo - adding medium honey super with plastic foundation to hive #1).

Their frames were chockers with capped and uncapped brood - 8 out of 10 frames. They were more than ready for their honey super, so I added it right then and there, leaving them with the hive feeder on top of everything.

I did a little googling around about queen excluders and like many things in beekeeping, there's lots of opinions out there about them. But it seems the prevailing opinion is that it's more of a "honey excluder" than a queen excluder. That nickname being given because the bees swarm and leave rather than go through it with their nectar.

This web site had some good information: http://www.beeclass.com/DTS/queenexcluder.htm

It seems queen excluders have a few different uses: They can be used as Rotating boxes to keep the queen below; they can be used to create splits - watch for eggs to see where the queen is.

There are 3 different kinds of excluders - plastic, wood frame and metal. The bees will fill the spaces with burr comb - I have a metal excluder and I was told it's easiest to freeze the frame and then bang it to get the comb out.

Then there's this whole other group of beekeepers who don't use excluders at all. Instead, they rely on monitoring to know where their queen is and what she's up to. I think this method is probably for the more experienced beekeeper. I believe rotate the boxes to keep queen below.
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