Beekeepers have different opinions on the use of a queen excluder. Some can’t live without them, while others never use them at all.
Queen excluders come with a lot of beginner beekeeping kits and the beekeeper must decide to use it or not. This article will discuss everything about queen excluders – how to use them, gap size and dimensions, benefits, disadvantages, and if you should use a queen excluder or not.
What is a Queen Excluder?
A queen excluder is a device used in a beehive to keep the queen out of the supers. It is made out of a flat sheet of metal or plastic, containing holes that worker bees can pass through, but is too small for the queen to get through.
The queen excluder is used to prevent the queen from laying eggs in the honey supers. This makes it better for harvesting honey, as you do not want eggs and brood on honey frames.
Queen Excluder Gap Size
The queen excluder gap size is important, as it needs to be big enough to allow worker bees to pass through, but not so big that the queen can fit. While the queen excluder gap size can vary depending on the manufacturer, in general they are between 4.3 to 4.9 millimeters (0.17 to 0.19 inches) in width.
Queen Excluder Dimensions
Queen excluder dimensions can vary depending on the manufacturer’s design. However, the most common dimensions are:
- Width: 14 to 16 inches
- Length: 18 to 22 inches
- Thickness: 3/8 to 3/4 inch
These dimensions are made to fit Langstroth beehives, which are usually made to industry standards.
Benefits of a Using a Queen Excluder
There are many benefits of using a queen excluder.
- Separates brood from honey – The main benefit of a queen excluder is that it keeps the queen out of the supers, where honey is being stored. This prevents brood on frames meant for harvesting honey.
- Promote a healthy brood pattern – With the queen kept in the brood chamber, it is easier for beekeepers to manage the brood, which results in a healthier brood pattern and stronger colony.
- Easier hive management – Hive management is easier when the queen is kept in a designated area. It’s easier to find the queen and some actions can be done without disrupting the queen and brood.
- Maximize honey production – When brood is kept only in the brood chamber, bees in the supers can focus on storing honey instead of raising brood. This can increase the amount of honey stored.
- Prevents swarming – Keeping the queen in the brood chamber helps to ensure that the bees have enough space to raise brood, preventing swarming.
- Can help control varroa mite population – It is thought that using a queen excluder can help control varroa mite population by allowing less brood in the hive.
Disadvantages of Using a Queen Excluder
There are also a few disadvantages of using a queen excluder.
- Impeding bee movement – Using a queen excluder can possibly create traffic congestion in the hive, especially if the holes are too small for workers to easily pass through.
- Risk of injury to the queen – If the queen does try to pass through the excluder, she could become injured. Drones may also get injured or die passing through an excluder.
- Limits brood chamber space – A queen excluder limits the amount of space the colony has to raise brood.
- Increased labor and expense – While excluders are not particularly expensive, it is still another piece of equipment to buy, maintain, and store.
How to Use a Queen Excluder
The queen excluder should be installed in early spring. When the weather gets warmer, the queen will naturally migrate down to the lower brood box.
However, it is important to check exactly where the queen is. Before installing your queen excluder, make sure that she is in the brood box, because you don’t want her stuck in the supers.
To use a queen excluder, place it in the hive above the brood box. It needs to be between the brood box and honey super. Make sure that the queen excluder is level and evenly spaced.
Then, monitor the hive to make sure that the queen is staying in the brood chamber and worker bees are able to freely pass through to the super.
When to Remove the Queen Excluder
The queen excluder should be removed after the beekeeper harvests honey from the supers. During the winter, the bees form a cluster and move to the top of the hive. If the queen is stuck in the bottom of the hive, she will die.
Use a Queen Excluder or Not?
It is common for new beekeepers to wonder if they should use a queen excluder or not. This is a personal decision for beekeepers, as there isn’t a right or wrong answer.
I personally do use queen excluders on my hives and have had no problems with them. I feel that the benefit of keeping the queen and brood out of the supers far outweigh the disadvantages.
A queen excluder is a piece of beekeeping equipment that is used to keep the queen bee out of the honey supers. This is done so there will be no eggs and brood on the frames meant for harvesting honey.
The queen excluder gap size is sized to allow worker bees to fit through, but is too small for the larger queen. Using a queen excluder or not is a decision made based on the beekeeper’s own personal preference.