What is a queen excluder? – And when should you use it?
August 28, 2019
In beekeeping there has to be some way to stop the queen bee from laying eggs in your honey! Otherwise, it’s quite disgusting. Can you imagine little egg parts in your delicious, sweet honey?
What is a queen excluder?
So, needless to say the purpose of a queen excluder is to prevent the queen bee from laying eggs in your honey. But how do you do this?
Well, the queen excluder is more of a gate that only allows the worker bees entrance (so they can produce honey) and stops the queen from passing.
There are a couple of different types of queen excluders in regard to what they are made of.
The one I prefer is a metal queen excluder. It looks like a metal gate that fits perfectly over the top of one of the hive boxes.
Usually you will want to keep the honey in the top boxes leaving the bottom boxes for the rest of the hive.
This also makes extracting the boxes for honey production easier.
There are different sizes of queen excluders too. If you have 10 frame hive boxes (hive boxes that have 10 frames placed inside of them) or 8 frame boxes (hive boxes that have 8 frames placed inside of them), then you will want to make sure that your queen excluder is the same size as the box you have.
When to use a queen excluder
A queen excluder should be used after the honey bees have already made enough food for themselves. Depending on the size of the hive boxes you have purchase will determine how long you have to wait until those boxes are full.
For example, I have smaller sized boxes (8frames that are all mediums) and will wait until 3 of my hive boxes are full.
The time frame of when to put on the queen excluder may vary from hive to hive. Usually depending on how quickly your hive fills up the hive, it could be as early as late spring to early summer.
This is because the honey flow season (or the time frame in which you collect honey for your bees) is in the late summer only.
Why would you only harvest honey once a year?
The queen will start laying her eggs in the early spring, the workers will start doing their thing (which is everything!!) so by the time that they have collected enough honey and food for the year, it’s roughly late spring early summer.
Also, keep in mind that sometimes you won’t get a chance to collect any honey for yourself. If your beehive is a bit smaller or they aren’t doing so well, you won’t want to harvest honey for yourself.
Can drones get pass the queen excluder?
Once the queen excluder is put on, the only type of bees that are able to get through this gate are the worker bees. They are small enough and can easily fit through.
The queen and the drones (male honeybees) are not able to fit their bodies through. However, sometimes I’ll open up my hive and will see a drone stuck in the queen excluder.
Or, unfortunately, I’ll find a dead drone who didn’t make it. This is rare and there isn’t much you can do about it.
How to install a queen excluder
Installing a queen excluder is super easy. You’ll start by taking off the lid of the hive, placing the queen excluder over the top of the first hive box that’s there.
You’ll then place the next hive box over the top of the queen excluder, then put the lid of the hive box on the top of that.
From this point moving forward, whenever you are doing a hive inspection you will want to be careful to make sure the queen does not get into the top part of your hive.
So in other words, when you take off the top boxes for inspection, make sure to set that box aside from the others as well as ensuring the queen excluder is put back on the hive box so there aren’t any gaps along the side for the queen to get into the top boxes.
Beekeeping Lingo Regarding Hive Boxes.
The lingo for the top boxes that you place on top of the queen excluder is called a “Super.” You may hear this from time to time if you are a part of a beekeeping club or have encountered other beekeepers.
However, it doesn’t mean you have to go out and purchase specific boxes for the bees to keep honey in. Honestly, the bees aren’t going to know the difference.
There are “mediums” and “deeps” for hive sizes which will come in handy when you go to purchase hive boxes. The “deeps” are deeper of course. However, they are very heavy, whereas, the “mediums” are more shallow but easier to carry. It really boils down to preference.
It is a lot easier (in my opinion) to keep all of your boxes the same size. It makes your life so much easier!
Queen excluders are necessary if you are deciding to be a beekeeper. This will keep your honey free of any eggs or baby honeybee parts.
Granted, you will still have some impurities when you go to strain your honey, however, it is minimal compared to if you chose to not use it.
These excluders are relatively inexpensive, easy to install and maintain.
And even though there are probably several kinds, you can bet that almost any type that you get will probably work.
If you’re like me, you’ll become so obsessed with honeybees that you’ll include things like a queen excluder on your Christmas list!
Every beekeeper has his/her own way of doing things or tools that they prefer to use. No certain way is wrong or right. Some ways or tools may be easier or easier to use for that beekeeper.
I highly advise that if you chose to become a beekeeper to try out different ways to see which way is easiest for you!
Please feel free to leave any comments or questions that you may have as well! I’m more than happy to talk about honeybees to anyone!