Queen Excluders: To use or not to use, that is the question

The debate about queen excluders is always ongoing. Some swear by them, while others have written them off. Most beekeepers are somewhere in between, and that is why the queen excluder continues to be useful.

Queen excluders only benefit beekeepers. Bees are orderly creatures. They organize the hives in the same way we do our houses. The nursery, the brood, is placed at the center of the hive. That helps to keep the young warm and safe. The bees store pollen and honey around the bee larvae. 

This arrangement in a wild nest works superbly for the bees. For a beekeeper, it’s a complication.

Whether you’re keeping bees as a hobby or commercially for honey, keeping the queen away from honey-super gives you a cleaner harvest. A queen excluder is just the tool to get it done. 

In a hurry or just plain curious?

✅ Here are the best queen excluders to keep your queen away from harm!

What is a queen excluder?

It’s a sieve that allows worker bees to go through to the super, where they store honey. Since the queen’s abdomen is larger than that of the worker bees, she can’t get through. It is placed between the brood box and the honey super. Harvesting honey becomes much easier because there’s no threat of harming the brood or the queen.

Pros of queen excluders

  • Eases harvesting – no need to worry about harming the queen or brood as you harvest.
  • Eases the job of finding the queen.
  • Better quality wax for rendering – comb that once contained brood has a lot of impurities.
  • Controls the size of the colony – Larger colonies tend to be more defensive because they have the insect power to spare. The queen excluder limits the space accessible to the queen to lay eggs, controlling the growth of the colony.
  • Fewer impurities in the honey-super – particles in honey can increase the rate of crystallization. Dealing with clean comb come harvest time will leave you with a purer product.

Cons of queen excluders

  • Encourages the building of burr comb that can interfere with ventilation in the hive
  • Small queens and virgin queens can still get through sometimes which eliminates the benefit of keeping the queen away from the super
  • Sometimes, the bees are reluctant to store honey above the queen excluder
  • Drones can get stuck above the excluder. In the absence of top entrances, the drones can die in the hive and clog up the excluder
  • Queen excluders are believed to trigger swarming behavior

Best queen excluders

Best for commercial use

4 Pack, 10 Frame Plastic Queen Excluder

4 Pack - 10 Frame Plastic Langstroth Queen Excluder for Beekeeping with Ten Frame Bee Hives for Keeping The Queen Separate from Honey Supers
  • FROM AN AMERICAN COMPANY: A queen excluder works by separating the brood nest from the boxes where the bees will store their excess honey, helping keep the hive organized and making honey harvesting easier
  • SAFE FOR BEES AND INCREASES CONFIDENCE: Smooth, oval gaps with rounded edges encourages bees to pass through the excluder without damaging any bee wings or legs; giving the beekeeper more confidence as to where their queen is in the bee hive, making it easier to find her among the frames and harvest honey
  • UNIVERSAL FIT: Our queen excluder is designed to fit all 10 frame Langstroth bee hives and is simply placed flat above the boxes where the queen laying eggs and below the boxes where honey is stored
  • IDEAL SIZING AND SPACING: The spaces in the grid are perfectly spaced large enough to allow the smaller worker bees through the holes, but small enough to exclude the queen and keeping her from entering the honey boxes; maximizing honey product in each hive
  • MULTIPLE USES: Besides keeping queens from entering honey boxes, queen excluders can be used for queen rearing, cut down into custom sizes to fit top bar hives, 5 frame nucleus hives and Flow Hives

When looking for a commercial solution, you want something affordable, durable, and effective. This plastic queen excluder is just right for the job. The holes are smooth and sized appropriately to keep the queen out of the honey supers without causing injury to any of the workers. It has earned the praise of many beekeepers.

Best for the hobbyist

Ambrose Bee supply 10 Frame Plastic queen excluder

Plastic 10-Frame Queen Excluder | Keeps Queen Away from Honey Supers | Essential Beekeeping Equipment for Beekeepers Looking to Harvest Honey | Durable Plastic Will Not Rust or Rot
  • Queen Excluder Keeps Queen Away from the Honey Supers
  • We Carry 8-Frame and 10-Frame Excluders, Each Available in Packs of 1, 6, or 12
  • Essential Beekeeping Equipment for Beekeepers Desiring to Produce Extractable Honey
  • Plastic Excluders are Durable, Corrosion-Proof, and Flexible for Long Use
  • Makes a Great Addition to Your Beehive

As a reasonably priced product, this queen excluder is a valuable addition to your apiary. You can buy one piece or get a pack of 6 or 12 if you need more. Plastic is not prone to rot or rust. 

As determined as bees are to coat all surfaces with propolis, the excluder seems to avoid getting completely glued down. Once again, durability is a huge plus with plastic excluders. That makes it a top choice for anyone who keeps bees for their own sake. 

Another great option 

Mann Lake Excluder

Mann Lake Excluder
  • Prevents the queen from laying eggs in honey super, while allowing the smaller worker bees to pass through into the honey super
  • Durable fully plated metal queen excluder is designed for years of use
  • Computer control welding
  • Precision wire Spacing

This metallic excluder is very effective. It’s durable and can remain in great condition for years. There’s no need to worry about chipping because the material used is very strong. The rigidity also works in favor of the beekeeper when separating the excluder from the hive body. It comes off neatly which is handy for the beekeeper.

Sometimes, if your excluder is very flexible, It can curve or bend as you try to get it off. Sometimes, bees are flung into your face when the excluder finally separates from the hive body. That’s not good news for anyone. You won’t have that kind of trouble with a metallic excluder.

Another great option

Mann Lake HD125 10 Frame Plastic Queen Excluder

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Mann Lake HD125 10 Frame Plastic Queen Excluder
  • Prevents the queen from laying eggs in honey super, while allowing the smaller worker bees to pass through into the honey super
  • Molded plastic leaves no rough edges to harm your bees
  • Fits 10 frame langstroth hives

For those that don’t want the metallic option, Mann Lake has provided a plastic option. It’s durable, light, and fits very well. It’s a little pricier than the other plastic options but the quality is undisputed. The edges are smooth, therefore kind to your honey makers. What more could you ask for?

Frequently asked questions: Queen excluders

Are queen excluders necessary?

If they were, nature would have provided one. Although they are not mandatory, they make beekeeping a little easier for the beekeeper. The debate on their necessity will never be settled because it’s based on preference. Some colonies do very well without them, filling supers with only honey, leaving the comb unblemished.

Other colonies put more energy into brood production than honey storage. Some beekeepers have noticed that captured swarms fall in this category. For those, a queen excluder is a handy tool. Storing supers that once contained brood can be complicated because it attracts wax moths.

The decision to use an excluder is simply up to you.

Do queen excluders reduce honey production?

Depends on who you ask. Those who don’t use it are convinced that it would be detrimental to honey production. As far as science goes, that isn’t the case. There’s a study that shows the opposite is true when working with African bees. Bees are very adaptable and I don’t think we give them enough credit. A queen excluder is an unnatural implement but so are modern beehives. The bees adapted to those so there’s no reason why they can’t adapt to a queen excluder and continue to be as productive as they ever were.

Do queen excluders encourage swarming?

Swarming is a natural behavior for bees and we are still trying to understand it. Several factors contribute to swarming. One significant factor is the spread of pheromones in the hive. The queen excluder doesn’t interfere with that. Even though it could contribute to the sensation of overcrowding, 

Its absence doesn’t guarantee that the colony won’t swarm. There are measures you can take to reduce the chance of swarming even with a queen excluder present.

If a colony decides to swarm, the presence or absence of a queen excluder probably won’t make a difference.

Do queen-excluders harm bees?

If the excluder is constructed well, the bees will be able to pass through without much difficulty. That’s why the excluder you choose matters. With a well-constructed excluder, the worker bee may go through a tight fit but it shouldn’t injure the bee in any way.

Final Word

A queen excluder is a helpful tool. Its effectiveness depends on the colony and is difficult to prescribe. The only way to know for sure is to try it.

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