beekeeping equipment

How to make bees go through a queen excluder

A queen excluder above a brood box.

Beekeepers often believe their bees won’t go through a queen excluder. They will, but don’t expect it to happen immediately. Your bees need time to adjust.

Inside: Here are 3 ways to make your honey bees go through a queen excluder. Sometimes a little encouragement helps: when they find a reason to pass through it, they will.

Beekeepers often call them “honey excluders” for a good reason: worker bees hate to go through them. The theory I frequently hear is that the bees don’t want to build comb in places where the queen can’t go. But there are ways to entice your bees through a queen excluder.

  • One way to encourage bees through an excluder is to simply leave the excluder out of the hive until the bees have started to draw comb in two or three of the honey frames. Once they are “committed” to the project, you can easily add an excluder with good results. The bees will travel through the excluder to get to the combs that are under construction.

  • For a really stubborn batch of bees, you can put one frame of uncapped brood in the honey super. Pick a frame without any drone brood, if possible. Ensure the queen is down below, put the excluder over the brood boxes, and put the honey super with one frame of brood above that. The workers will go through the excluder to attend to the brood. Any drones that hatch above the excluder must be released manually because they can’t fit through the excluder.

  • New frames in the honey super can be sprayed with sugar syrup to entice bees through the excluder. I find it works best if you add a few drops of essential oil to the syrup. Anise oil or tea tree oil work especially well.

Follow the link for more about using queen excluders.

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  • It is amazing how well anise oil works to entice the bees to take down sugar syrup. I have 4 nucs on the go. As I was filling the frame feeder the bees were extending themselves out to get at it. It’s crazy. The sugar syrup is to get the nucs to build comb faster in our short summers. Pardon the pun but on one occasion the bees where making a bee line to get to the feeder to get at the sugar syrup. The anise is like a drug for them. It’s crazy.

    • Jeff,

      I have experimented with about 15 different essential oils, and nothing attracts bees like anise oil. I just bought another four-ounce bottle of the stuff.

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