Many beginners struggle to decide whether to begin beekeeping with a queen excluder installed. This blog post will show you the pros and cons to help you decide if you need one in your beehives!
What is a Queen Excluder?
A queen excluder is made up of either plastic or stainless steel, designed to prevent the queen from travelling from one box to another. Most beekeepers do this to separate the brood box and honey supers, preventing the queen to lay brood on honey supers. This enables you to extract pure, clean honey. If you extract honey frames that contain brood, this can contaminate the honey with dead brood and debris, which can lead to fermentation.
The queen excluder is really good at fulfilling its purpose. It makes it easier for beekeepers to harvest honey, without the risk of contamination and visually pleasing honeycombs! This means you save the time and effort inspecting through each honey frame if it contains brood or not, especially for high scale apiaries.
Since it is confining the queen into the brood box, it makes it easier to find the queen. For beginners, this makes it easy to practice queen spotting. Additionally, it’s also easier to identify if you need to requeen.
Although the idea of the queen excluder is beneficial for the beekeeper, it’s not exactly the same for the bees. For one, it can reduce the bees lifespan. Although the bees can fit through the gaps, the consistent rubbing through the plastic/metal gaps shortens their lifespan and can even damage their wings.
During the season of the abundance of drones, you will also see a number of dead drones around the queen excluder. This is because their heads are bigger than the worker bees that when they go through the queen excluder, they do not fit! You will see a lot of dead, beheaded drones. (*sad*)
As its purpose is to restrict the queen to the brood box, this can have some ramifications. Depending on the performance of your queen, the brood box can be quickly filled with eggs, which leads to the tendency of overcrowding. When the bees feel like their space is getting overpopulated, this will cause them to start swarming.
Owning a queen excluder also requires regular maintenance. This is due to bees building burr combs around it, or filling the gaps with wax or propolis.
So, should you get a queen excluder?
Every beekeeper has their own techniques in beekeeping, no doubt about that. If you go ask a group of beekeepers a question, be prepared to take in multiple different answers. The question if you should have a queen excluder depends on your goals as to why you are beekeeping. Are you beekeeping to produce some honey? Or are you beekeeping for pollination? Or are you beekeeping just to keep bees around?
Many beekeepers prefer the practice of natural beekeeping, where you let the bees be and do their own thing without much intrusion. There is no wrong reason as to why you’re beekeeping, but identifying your goals can help you answer the question if you need a queen excluder. We hope this post gives you more information and helps you with your decision making. Goodluck!
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