beekeeping equipment comb honey production

The queen excluder controversy: some things never change

Queen-bee-Pixabay photo

No two beekeepers will ever agree on the queen excluder controversy. Some folks think they are essential equipment; others think they just irritate the beekeeper and annoy the bees. So, rather than keep you in suspense, I’ll tell you right up front that I do not like them. That said, I have to admit to using one now and then. As I said in my very first post, it depends.

The idea behind a queen excluder is that the worker bees can easily pass through the wire mesh, and the queens cannot. They also exclude the drones. Beekeepers place excluders above the brood box to keep the queen from laying eggs in the honey supers.

The first problem is the difference between “can easily pass through” and “will easily pass through.” Most worker bees have a real reluctance to go through an excluder if they don’t absolutely have to, and hence the name “honey excluder.”

The theory is that the workers don’t like to go where the queen cannot. But, as I’ve said before, I’m not a bee psychologist and have absolutely no idea what bees think. However, the reluctance of the bees to pass through shows in their behavior. They tend to store honey in the brood chamber until it gets so bound up there are no free cells left for the queen to lay eggs. This overcrowded condition frequently leads to swarming.

If your bees swarm you won’t get a honey crop anyway, so you haven’t really gained anything by keeping them out of the honey supers. So what’s a beekeeper to do?

Here are some things that may help to keep your queen out of the honey supers.

  • Keep rotating your brood boxes to keep the queen in the bottom.

As the queen fills up the cells, she eventually migrates upward. You can keep her down lower by periodically reversing the position of your two brood boxes.

  • Make sure the brood box does not become “honey bound.”

If there is no place left for the queen to lay, remove frames of honey from the brood box and replace with foundation or drawn comb. Save the frames of honey for overwintering—it certainly won’t hurt to have a few of these on hand.

  • If you have a super of frames already filled with honey, place that box directly above the brood chamber and place the empty honey supers above them.

Queens generally won’t pass a “honey barrier,” so once you have a super filled you can just leave it in place and stack new supers on top.

  • Put an upper entrance just below the honey supers.

The theory here is that the queen will stay away from the light and not venture up past the second entrance. I never got this to work, but some people have had success with it.

  • If you are trying to produce comb honey, use square or round sections instead of regular frames.

Queens do not like these little spaces and will hardly ever go in one. I never use an excluder with section boxes and I’ve never had a queen decide to lay in one.

If you absolutely want to use an excluder, you can improve acceptance by putting the queen in the lower brood box, putting the excluder between the two boxes, and making sure there is uncapped brood in the upper box. The nurse bees will go through the excluder in order to care for the brood. However, if you use this method you have to periodically move brood into the upper box and give the queen new places to lay her eggs. If you don’t manage the two boxes, overcrowding in the queen’s box may induce swarming.

So how do I use an excluder? They are great for splitting a super-populous hive. Instead of spending forever finding the queen, you just put the excluder between the two brood boxes and wait four days. At the end of that time you look for eggs. Once you find eggs, take the other box for your split and introduce a new queen into it. You never have to actually find the first queen.



  • Interesting post. I have never questioned using a queen excluder – if I am putting on a super, I put on a queen excluder below it. All the beekeepers in my association say the same. But swarming is a serious problem, and often repeated swarming from the same colony – maybe this is why. Food for thought!

  • I’m new to beekeeping. My bee colony hardly grew when I got them last spring and I had to feed them over winter as very little honey in the hive. This spring (I am in Oz) they are going gangbusters. The bottom box was full and they built comb into the lid – this had brood in it.

    I put on super 2 without an excluder as the frames were not built out and there was brood and maybe the queen in the lid (a lot of bees in the lid). The bees built out the frames in super 2 in a few weeks. But now I don’t know what to do as I have not been able to find the queen – do I just leave them to their own devices?

    If so, will I get frames that just have capped honey at some point? I have actually put the excluder in between the brood box and the top box to see where the eggs are being laid so I can work out where the queen is – now having read your post I am worried this might cause swarming… What do you suggest?!

    • Lou,

      Your bees are highly unlikely to swarm at this time of year with a queen excluder or not. Also, your queen won’t be laying too many eggs this time of year. The brood nest will be kept small, producing just enough bees to overwinter and no extra–not like a brood nest in spring.

      Your queen excluder can help you find the queen by limiting the area where she can lay. But she is unlikely to be anywhere except in the brood nest or at the edges of it. If you can’t find the queen, but you are sure you have one, you can just leave them alone.

      The best way to assure getting frames of pure honey with no brood is to use a queen excluder, otherwise you risk getting some brood in the center. Depending on what kind of honey you are making, some empty brood cells in the center may not matter. For those producing comb honey it is more important to keep the queen out.

      I’m not sure if I answered your question. You can write again if I didn’t.

      • Raymond, you have a good testimony. And your testimony goes inline with my research on the best way to go with hives.

        The mean objective is to have enough honey capped in your hive frames; then, to achieve that you need a large bee colony, and to have enough bee colony, you need more brood boxes as in a well-constructed hive.

  • From Roseburg, Oregon.

    Can’t imagine what the controversy about queen excluders is all about.

    We have two hives. No. 1 started April 2010. No. 2 started April 2011.

    We have queen excluders on both hives. All western supers (or hive bodies if you will).
    All plastic frames.

    Hive No 1 has three western hive bodies, a queen excluder, and two supers.

    Hive No 2 had two western hive bodies, a queen excluder and three supers.

    We have taken 4 full frames off hive No 2 and 8 frames off hive No 1 prior to this, so far this year.

    Yesterday, I went out to prepare the hives for winter. Started with the new hive (No. 2). Took 4 frames of capped honey off, pulled that super, examined the hive bodies, put the queen excluder on top of hive body 3 which was full of capped honey, left a nearly full hive body number four over the queen excluder.

    That makes at least 3 gallons of honey of our new hive this year in seven months and 5 gallons off hive number 1.

    Hive No. 1 has been very prolific. We have taken more than 5 gallons of honey off this hive. It now consists of three western hive bodies, a queen excluder, and three western supers. Last I checked, it was wild with bees and filling the top super with honey. Decided to wait a while on getting this one ready for winter.

    Working with the new hive, there were zillions of bees, lots of activity, brood, pollen and honey everywhere. The more established hive is likewise full of bees.

    The question is, how does a queen excluder hurt? While everything is local, we don’t see any big down side. That said, the plastic queen excluders suck. The metal ones are marginally better. Best, I think, are the wood framed excluders.

    Love the girls even when they hurt me. Yellowjackets are from hell.

  • Hi Rusty

    Found your excellent site having done a Google search on queen excluders. I am new to beekeeping and have what appears to be a thriving colony. However, although there has a been a super on for some weeks, the bees are not pulling out the frames and seem reluctant to go above the excluder. As a result they are filling up the deep brood frames with honey, capped and uncapped at present. I think I will move the excluder and see if that encourages them to start using the super frames. I will also remove some of the brood box frames with just honey on and replace with fresh ones. How best to store those moved frames until needed at the end of the season?

    Regards – Chris

    • Chris,

      The safest way to store frames of honey for later is to wrap them in plastic, freeze overnight, take them out of the freezer without removing the plastic wrap, and store in a cool, dry place.

      Bees will move up when they are ready, but it is not unusual to have a first-year colony that never makes it up there. Not to worry.

  • Great information – thank you!

    I’ve never heard of putting a frame of brood up in the honey supers. I suppose you’d have to have all the same size deeps to do that. After the brood hatches do the bees then fill the comb with honey?

    • I haven’t either. The post suggests putting the queen excluder between the two brood boxes, with the queen in the lower brood box and open brood in the upper brood box. This encourages workers to go through the excluder. The honey supers then go on top of the upper brood box.

  • Hi Rusty,

    For the last 6-8 weeks during hive inspections, I’ve been finding the queens in the honey supers. Almost every time. I suppose the queens are either lounging or inspecting the warehouse, but from your post (and my understanding from other sources) queens don’t usually cross the honey barrier. There are plenty of other places for her to be laying in the boxes below. Any thoughts?

    • David,

      Interesting. Were they laying or just inspecting? I’ve always wondered what queens do in the late summer and early fall after egg production slows down. They quickly go from laying over 2000 eggs per day, which is more than one per minute, 24/7, to laying a few hundred a day. They don’t read or watch Netflix, they don’t go camping or fishing, so maybe they walk around. Seriously, it makes me wonder. I recently went looking for a queen when I was trying to show a guest what a queen looked like. I finally gave up, but when I picked up the lid to put it back on, there she was, just walking around. Call me crazy, but I think they get bored.

  • I use nationals, 14×12 brood boxes with standard brood boxes for supers, but never use a queen excluder. Queen rarely lays past the honey belt. I always leave a super on to overwinter the bees, seems to work well for me.

    • Sean,

      Sounds right. I think queen excluders are over-rated, although I do use one to keep my dog out of the chicken yard. Works great.

  • A tip I just learned at bee school: first let the workers draw out the comb in the honey super for about a week THEN put the queen excluder between the hive and the super. They won’t be as reluctant to pass through the excluder once they have already invested time and effort making comb up there.

  • Ok so Im sure you guys are super busy and may not have time to assist me with this, but I have no one else that I know of that I can ask bee questions too. Im a Georgia new beekeeper.

    So if you have time this is what I have…..So my bees SEEM to be doing great……I saw my QUEEN bee and she was marked, then a few weeks later I see no queen and they are building both swarm cells and supersedure cells.. So the queen cells built on the bottom of the frames I got rid of and the 2 in the center of the frame I left. well then the next week one queen is hatched and the other queen cell is opened from the side…2 weeks later……I still can’t locate a queen, but my bees SEEM TO BE healthy as can “bee”…haha! They are capping honey in my shallow super in abundance….but like I said I can’t locate the queen and now where at one time there was capped brood they recently hatched out, problem is I don’t see any at all queen, am I over looking her, and is it o.k at any point in time to have absolutely no capped brood in the brood chamber is this normal?? Can you dignose my problem or give me any pointers or advice as to what I should do at this point, given the small amount of information I just give you???

    • Brandon,

      From you supersedure cells one queen hatched and then she went to the other queen cell and killed her. When they’re open on the end in a nice round circle, they have hatched. When they’re open from the side they’ve been killed.

      The new queen will take a few days to mature, and then mating may take a few more days (more if the weather is bad), and then a few more days to mature. You would expect to see eggs within 2 to three weeks after she hatches. If you don’t see eggs by then, you should think about getting another queen; she may have gotten eaten on her mating flight.

    • You will be lucky to spot a young queen until a week (give or take) after her mating flight. Once she starts laying she’ll look very queen-like and act very much like … well.. a busy queen.

      Until then, if you *do* spot her, you’ll probably notice that she is a LOT lighter on her feet and quite a bit trimmer. Chances are, you won’t see her and since she’s not laying yet, there’s no proof she *is* there.

      Really, until she is mated and laying well, you don’t know what you have. However, do the math. If you saw emerged queen cells 2 weeks ago, as Rusty said above, if the weather cooperates (sunny, warm days ~70 degrees a few days either side of a week after emergence) you should start to see eggs in the brood comb. So if the weather has been decent, an inspection later this week should reveal eggs and possibly *very* young larvae.

      Then you can exhale. 🙂 The queen is there, even if you don’t see her.

      Kent WA

  • “…she may have gotten eaten on her mating flight.” This might be poetic justice considering what happens to a drone on *his* mating/maiden flight. Karma’s a b*tch, as we used to say. 8 )

  • I use the excluder to prevent queens from absconding; however, feral queens find a way through the excluder. Can anyone help?

  • Hi again Rusty,

    You hear it all the time—but doesn’t make any less true—Great Site!!

    I live just north of Sydney, Australia – near the coast and its pretty warm (compared to you guys I think) all year around. We are into our first month of spring and the bees are really hopping to it :-).

    Both my hives have 2 brood and one super, no excluder. I keep putting the queen box on the bottom and she very quickly moves up to the middle again (as your opening post suggested she would).

    My question: if I put a forth box on without an excluder will she still have a tendency to move
    to the box second from the top, or is there some bee mechanic at work that has her wanting to be one box up from the bottom rather than one down from the top?


    • Hi John,

      Thanks for the compliment!

      A colony without an excluder is said to have an “unlimited brood nest.” Many people prefer to run a hive that why, and some of the reasons are stated in the link.

      What the queen will do is a little hard to say. Most stay within three boxes, so I wouldn’t be surprised to find your queen heading into the third box if she felt like it. Placing solid frames of honey above the brood nest area will often keep her down in the nest area, but I’ve also seen workers clear a space for her.

      I’m not a fan of excluders. Since I’m not a commercial beekeepers who needs to squeeze money out of my hives, I usually let the queen go where she wants. If she lays some brood in the upper boxes, I just work around it, taking honey from places where she didn’t lay and moving frames around later in the season into a smaller configuration.

      So will your queen move up? Maybe yes, maybe no. The question you have to answer is how disruptive that would be to you, the beekeeper.

      How do you like that for a non-answer?

      • Question:

        Will the queen move down is she is in a higher super?

        I am having problems with queens not moving in lower supers if they are located in supers above the bottom super – they do not seem to desire to move down but move up – any ideas


        • Jack,

          I assume you mean brood boxes here, and not honey supers. I find that the queen will move down into lower brood boxes as the summer progresses (and especially once backfilling has begun) and then into higher brood boxes in the winter. On the other hand, not all queens behave the same way. This post on reversing brood boxes has some information on queen movement: “Reversing brood boxes: it it necessary?” and how people deal with it.

          I don’t know where you are or what you are trying to do, so it is hard to say more.

  • Hi Rusty,

    Perfect answer 🙂 And thanks for the links .

    And I’m slowly learning bees always don’t play by the rules anyway 🙂

    I put the middle brood box box on the bottom a few weeks ago, and a few undrawn foundation frames in the brood at that time and a couple of undrawn foundation frames in top honey box just to cycle out some plastic frames with wood ones ( I prefer ). My amazing queen
    has laid in the two fresh frames in the bottom, laid up into the middle box and then done a perfect laying pattern in one of the fresh frames in the honey super too – brand new eggs today.

    It’s a hive of activity – as they say!!


  • The higher up in the hive the warmer it gets, hot air rising and all that, so she has a tendency to move up to the warmer areas of the hive to lay her eggs, its a natural instinct.

  • Rusty,

    The often unnoticed affect of moving brood up above the excluder is where there are no queen footprints, there shall be an emergency queen cell started. Welcome to two queen hive separated by an excluder. Those get populous in a HURRY.

  • Hi. I recently started a new hive. The supplier was out of bottom brood boxes so he told me to just use 2 shallows on the bottom as my deep. I have 3 other hives, one I started a few months ago which is doing great, this one I started on Mothers Day weekend, and the population is still very small. I fed them twice so far, have the entrance reducer on, but they don’t seem to be doing well. Could it be the queen doesn’t like the set up of the 2 boxes together as a bottom box? Or am I being impatient? Upon inspections the queen is there with lots of larvae, nicely laid out brood frames with honey on top in an arch with brood in the center, but still the activity outside is minimal. My other hives look like grandcentral station about 430, 500 and hardly no one going in or out of the new hive.

    • Denise,

      I think that whatever you are seeing has nothing at all to do with the two shallows. If everything is as you say with lots of larvae, a nice brood pattern, and plenty of honey, you will eventually have foragers. Mother’s Day (May 10) until you wrote this (May 30) is only 20 days. It takes 21 days for the very first eggs to hatch. You won’t see many foragers until the brood starts hatching.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I’m in RI and a 1st time beekeeper with a fast growing colony that I started in late April. Eight (8) days ago I added a super above my two (2) deeps, the super consists of 10 frames with wax foundation. I included a queen excluder between the top deep and the super. After checking the super yesterday it was evident there were only a handful of bees in the super and essentially no comb has been drawn out. Even though the top deep is flourishing and full of bees, they seem to have no desire to move through the wire grid of the excluder. So, I’ve removed the excluder in hopes they’re more inclined to move up and draw out comb in the super. My plan is to periodically inspect the super to assess the extent to which comb is being drawn and to keep an eye out for eggs as comb becomes established. Should I feed the colony with sugar syrup until the comb is drawn out? If I do feed them, is it possible that what appears to be capped honey is in fact capped sugar syrup, or by definition do the bees only cap if it’s honey?

    Thanks for your time,

    • Ricky,

      Some folks like to feed syrup until the comb is drawn, but you have to keep an eye out because they will definitely dry and cap the syrup, treating it just like nectar. After the comb building starts you can add the excluder again, if you want. They are more apt to move through it once they’ve got a project going up there.

  • Rusty,

    I ordered 19 hives this May, and 14 of them are thriving. They have filled up two deeps, so I added a super for those 14 using queen excluders for all of them. The bees have been very reluctant to cross the excluder, and many of the hives still have completely empty supers after more than two weeks of having the super. They have resorted to swarming, and I have caught 2 swarms, and could not catch 3 others for various reasons.

    Do you think taking the excluder out may help them move up to the super? Could taking it out prevent their swarming?

    PS. I split most of these hives, taking two brood frames from the lower hive body of all of my hives, and a honey frame from the upper hive body. I used these frames and introduced new queens that I purchased to make nucs. I did this because I want more hives, and wanted to prevent overcrowding. They swarmed anyway.

    Any help would be appreciated .



    • Philip,

      They are called “honey excluders” for a reason. I find my bees are always reluctant to cross them, but some beekeepers have no problem. Like most things in beekeeping, I think they are a give-and-take: you get something and you lose something.

      Taking them out may encourage the bees to move up and maybe not. Try it. The same holds for swarming because all bee colonies are slightly different. But the decision to swarm is made weeks before it happens, so it may not be so closely related.

      If you are going to make splits to prevent swarming, you will do better by taking the original queen and putting her in the split. Moving the old queen more closely resembles actual swarming. Removing just a few frames may buy you a couple days, if anything.

      • NEWBEE comment:
        Can you prevent swarming if you put a specially made queen excluder on the FRONT entrance of the hive, to prevent the queen from leaving??
        Or are newborn queens small enough to get through an excluder?
        Does enslaving the queen trigger some ‘queen sex slave protocol’ that causes the whole hive to revolt, her sisters chew a hole in the box and smuggle her out? Aside from the ASPCA, someone must have thought of this by now… — To stop swarming by preventing the queen from leaving… right? ;^)

        I plan on taking my bee class at the end of this month, and put hives out in the spring. I’ve been youtubing days of bee videos, and reading blogs, but I’ve never seen this Rapunzel Tactic (coin the phrase!) mentioned before.

        -enjoy the journey

        • Don,

          Queen excluders that fit on the front of the hive are often called swarm guards and they are sold commercially. I know that Brushy Mountain Bee Farm carries one. The problem with them is that they can only be used for short periods of time. For example, if I think a colony is ready to swarm, I may add a swarm guard for the few minutes it takes me to accumulate the equipment I need to do a split or some other intervention. It buys me a little time.

          You cannot leave them on for long periods. For one thing, the frustrated colony my eventually leave with a virgin queen instead of the old queen. And yes, virgins are more apt to get out. But worse, your drones cannot get in or out, and you soon have a build up of dead drones inside your hive, which is not a healthy situation.

  • I am new beekeeper in NC and put on a queen excluder yesterday and added a honey super. Today I notice that there are small ants in and around the outside of the hive. Looks like they can get in because the excluder is not flush. I don’t plan to harvest the honey this year so I would rather just keep the hive more secure and remove the excluder. Would you concur?

    Also I have been feeding the bees 1:1 sugar water because I got them late in the season but the sourwood is blooming now. They are still going through a quart a day so should I keep feeding them or cut them back until fall? Thank you.

    • Hillary,

      There is no point in adding a honey super while you are feeding sugar syrup, unless you want to extract and bottle sugar syrup. If it were me, I would stop feeding syrup and let the bees collect that sourwood. I would leave the excluder in place and take care of the ants some other way. See Bad-ant advice and the ascension of bees. The good ideas are in the comments.

  • I am a new beekeeper and have two hives in roughly the same condition. I installed my packages of bees the first week of April. Both of my hives consist of a bottom box full of brood etc. The 2nd deep is completely full of capped honey, not even a small amount of pollen or brood. I added supers to both hives because that 2nd deep was completely full of bees. It’s been a couple of weeks and nothing is happening in the supers. I’m afraid my bees are honey bound? Would you recommend putting the empty boxes on the bottom, or in between the brood boxes and the boxes full of honey? Or would you only move a couple of frames? Should I expect a second brood box or is that too much for first year hives? Thanks so much, I really love this website and all of your wisdom!

    • Maizie,

      The phrase “honey bound” usually implies that the queen has no place to lay because she is hemmed in by honey stores. When the brood nest is expanding and the queen is honey bound, the colony will often swarm. However, this time of year I suspect the brood nest is shrinking and the honey stores are increasing.

      That said, what should you do? Your options may be limited by the size of your equipment. If your honey supers are deep boxes, you could add a box and put some of the honey frames from the second brood box into the third box and put the empty frames in the second. However, if your honey supers are smaller than your brood boxes (mediums or shallows) then that won’t work.

      If you have some extra deep frames, you could just take out a couple of the frames, store them (freeze first), and add some empty deep frames.

      Or, you could do what I would do, which is nothing. I’m guessing you have a queen excluder in place, based on the placement of this comment. Honey bees can be slow to move through the excluder, but they will when they are ready. Bees below an excluder tend to fill the frames all the way to the sides before going up, and I consider this a good thing for overwintering. If you want, you can just take out the excluder because it is highly unlikely that the queen will pass completeley through that full box of honey in search of a place to lay. In other words, the full box acts like an excluder.

      My guess is that the bees are not filling the honey supers because the nectar flow is basically over and there is nothing to fill it with. I don’t know where you live, but many parts of North America are in a nectar dearth and will see little honey accumulation until the fall flow, or maybe not even then.

  • Thanks so much Rusty! This was very helpful. I have a queen excluder on one of my hives and not the other. I was experimenting with the two different ways, and I only have deeps, so I don’t have to worry about the sizes. I was actually looking up suggestions on how to fix a honey bound hive. I wasn’t liking anything my search was turning up so I googled honey bound and your name and came upon this post. I love your blog and find it so helpful. I was able to get a few of my other questions answered by sifting through all the comments and replies. Thanks so much for the advice, I will surely take it :-)!

  • Thank you for the info! I live in CO and I’m new to beekeeping. I have had a queen excluder on for over 2 weeks and the bees are not doing anything in the medium super I have on top. 2nd box is full of capped honey (I think), however it could be capped syrup? I took all boxes apart yesterday and saw very little laying on the bottom box, mostly drone cells. I rotated the old trays to the outer edges and moved the newer ones in the center. I will try and move the excluder to see if any action happens in the top box. Do you recommend keeping a “bee check log”? It seems every time I go out to inspect, they are always doing something different. Bees are so interesting!

    • PJ,

      1. If you’ve been feeding syrup, the bees may have stored and capped it.

      2. The bees are getting ready for winter and if they haven’t begun building in the medium super by now, they probably will not this year.

      3. I keep notes if I need to remember to do something. Otherwise, I do not. It’s a personal decision, but I like to open a hive a see what’s there more than read about what used to be there. Notes, though, are good for learning.

  • Rusty, thanks for the thread and all the advice. I find this all very interesting. I too have found that excluders are a problem. I placed one on each of my hives this year to keep the queen from laying in the honey supers, but found the bees didn’t like to pass through, so no honey was put up. When fall was getting on, and the last of the goldenrod was passing I decided it was time to medicate and removed the excluder and guess what? They were in there putting up honey. My questions I quess is how to keep the queen from that honey super when she insists on going to the top box, and laying in that box without using the excluder?

    • Dale,

      It’s impossible to keep the queen from moving up without an excluder. It’s easier to entice the workers up through the excluder. One way to do it is put a frame of worker brood up above the excluder, sort of in the center. The workers will go up to take care of the brood, and while they are up there, they will start working those frames. Thing is, you have be careful not to accidentally move the queen up, and also you want to avoid having drone brood up there because the drones won’t be able to get out (unless you have an upper entrance).

      What I’ve done is as soon as the bees start drawing comb and storing honey, I then remove the brood frame and replace it with a new honey frame. Or just let the brood hatch out and then replace the frame. Once the bees get started up there, they will keep going.

  • I’m not sure if the queen excluder was part of the problem or not, but after my first year of my first hive, I only had a little over half of a deep box full of wax.

    I’m thinking the queen excluder was part of the problem, because every time I opened the hive, the queen excluder was glued down pretty good and it seems like they’d rather build on the bottom of the frames rather than on the next frame.

    I removed the excluder the first chance I got this year and I was pretty low on both honey and brood, I have not opened the hive since but I seem to be getting a lot of pollen in.

    I did get the bees in probably mid to late april last year, so it was after the fruit trees quit blooming, but has anybody else had that bad of a first year?

    • Roman,

      I don’t think it had anything to do with the excluder. If your bees only drew out half a deep, they certainly weren’t ready to start building in a super. I think for whatever reason, possibly a superseded queen or a weak one, the colony got off to a slow start. If they are bringing in pollen now, perhaps they will do better this year.

  • I recently used two excluders to isolate a queen in a vicious hive. Worked fine with one exception – dozens if not hundreds of fat little drones were trapped between the excluders & died.

    • Anathonn,

      That’s one of the main queen excluder problems. It’s good to release the drones every few days.

  • Hi I found your site very interesting. I am a new beekeeper, and have two hives. I joined the Devonshire Bee Association, (I live in Devon England) and found them to be really unhelpful. Also, they appear to be set in their ways, and when I questioned the use of a queen excluder, I was informed that I must keep it in place. However, on one of my hive inspections I found that the bees were overcrowded, and refusing to move up to the super I had put in place. I removed my queen excluder and today on inspection the bees had moved into the super and working on their frames, which is wired. I am purchasing another super tomorrow and will add this to the top of the super already there, but this time with un-wired frame so I can use some of this to cut out. I do not have an extractor. I was wondering what your thoughts are on this. Many thanks,


    • Sandra,

      Bees will move through an excluder when they are ready. It sounds like yours wanted to build more brood comb, but they won’t prepare for brood in places where the queen can’t go. If you don’t use an excluder, you must be prepared to cut around the brood if you want comb honey. If that’s okay with you, don’t worry about the excluder.

  • Hi Rusty

    Thank you, I shall cut around the comb honey. Also, another question, sorry to bother you, but I don’t have anyone else to ask, but when I inspected my hive this morning, the bees rushed to the top of the super as I lifted the lid off the hive. I was shocked to see so many bees pouring through. Unfortunately my smoker stopped smoking!! And, the next thing I was covered in bees. I managed to put the hive lid on, but squashed a few bees in the process which I feel really bad about, because I hate killing anything. Also a few bees followed me up the garden and one stung me. I feel like a really bad beekeeper, and low in confidence. I am wondering what I did wrong.

    Many thanks


    • Sandra,

      If I’m using smoke, I usually puff some into the entrance and then lift the lid just a wee bit and puff some there and close it. Then wait about two full minutes. It seems like an eternity when you’re just waiting, but it gives the bees an opportunity to recognize the smoke and go down between the frames. You really didn’t do anything wrong; bees are like that.

  • Hi. I am heading towards retirement and looking at beekeeping as a hobby. I’ve watched many videos and read many comments about the subject and feel quite confident that I can do this. We were lucky enough last year to have a bunch of bees colonise a small bird nest at the bottom of the garden, we’re talking a 6 inch cube bird box. It was fascinating to sit with our grand children and let them see the bees and explain what they were doing. I now feel the call to set up a bee hive as described in many articles I have read. My question is, if I build a beehive and just leave it what is the likely hood of a swarm finding it and colonising? We often see large singular bees from time to time exploring our back garden and presume that some may be queens looking for a hive. By the way this is a great blog and I shall keep it book marked for future reference.


    • Ubique Keith,

      Queen honey bees do not go out and look for a hive; worker bees (scouts) do that job. In other species, like bumble bees, the queens do look for a place to build a nest. It sounds like bumble bees colonized your bird box, as that is way too small for honey bees.

      The chance of a random swarm colonizing a new hive are slim. However, the odds can be increased greatly by baiting the hive with a pheromone lure that is specially designed to lure a swarm of bees.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I am a Master Beekeeper (Bob’s Beekeeping Course, Australia) and a practical beekeeper for over 15 years, working in the field with our gentle honey bees in Nigeria though visited some countries in Europe and Asia in honey bee related issues.

    This month (Sept. 2017) I have a field practical paper to present at Istanbul, Turkey during 45th International Apicultural Congress on “GOOD MANAGEMENT PRACTICES TO KEEP THE QUEEN BEE AT THE BROOD CHAMBER WITHOUT USING QUEEN EXCLUDER IN HONEYBEE (APIS MELLIFERA ADANSONII) FIELD MANAGEMENT”.

    I have answer to any question or problems concerning African honey bee.

    NOTE: Our bees does not swarm or abscond easily and are not aggressive. It depends on the beekeeper’s management.

    Lady, I love your experience in beekeeping. Just like mine.
    Let us move together.

  • Rusty,

    I am fairly new to beekeeping. I got my first hive of Russians last May. I did not take any honey from them last year to be sure they overwintered well. About a month ago I checked and approximately 90% of my 2 brood supers were full so I put a honey super on above a queen excluder. Last week I captured a swarm from a tree about 20 feet in front of my hive and put it in a new hive. I checked my original hive today and not a spec of comb was drawn so I removed the excluder. I have read the yes and no’s about excluders, but am now wondering did I get impatient or will Russian bees just not draw out comb above an excluder?

    Thank you for any help

    • Lester,

      The longer I keep bees, the less I think queen excluders have anything to do with honey production. The Russian bees have nothing to do with it either. Workers will go through the excluder when they are ready and not before.

      Since your original hive just threw a swarm, I wouldn’t expect them to be building comb. You just lost nearly all your foragers to the swarm, so there won’t be much nectar coming into the original hive. If anyone builds comb right now, it will be the swarm.

  • If I have a brood box that has been filled with capped & uncapped honey, can I put it on a growing hive as a brood box – will they move the honey up? Only the uncapped honey/nectar?

    If so, can I uncap the capped honey to get them to move that up?

    I put honey boxes with drawn empty comb above, of course.

    • Dave,

      I don’t have a good answer for you. I hear a lot about honey being moved around, but I haven’t seen it that much myself. It seems that most reports are of bees moving honey down from supers into brood boxes, but I’ve heard of it going up as well, but not as often.

      As to whether you can uncap the honey and thereby encourage them to move it, I just don’t know. Why not take out a few frames and to make room for the brood nest, and move the honey frames into an upper box, or save them till later? It might be more reliable.

  • I was considering moving frames up into honey boxes, but am concerned about whether it is ok to then extract and sell honey that has been stored in brood comb?

    Or am I being too picky, given that honey and nectar are stored here there and everywhere in comb of convenience as it is processed into the final honey under caps, even when the final location is in a honey frame?

    • Dave,

      It is fine to sell honey from the brood boxes, as long as it wasn’t treated with any prohibited chemical.

  • Hi,

    From my 18 years field experiences working and handling honeybees. I always believe on natural and organic honeybee management.

    Concerning queen excluder issue on honeybee management, I have written a well elaborate practical paper on “BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES TO KEEP THE QUEEN AT THE BROOD CHAMBER WITHOUT USING QUEEN EXCLUDER IN HONEYBEE MANAGEMENT”
    For your current issue of having uncapped honey in the brood box, the management practice required here is to move those frames containing capped and uncapped honey to the upper box(super) and position them preferably at the center of the super. Furthermore, create space at the lower box by placing drawn combs or empty frames preferably at the center of the lower box (brood chamber). This practice encourages the honeybees to continue honey storage at the super and the queen continue egg laying at the brood box without moving up. Therefore queen excluders are NOT NEEDED.

    Think good for the bees and beekeepers! Think Natural Management!

  • Hello Rusty. So we recently added a queen excluder on top of our brood box and added a super. I’m wondering if I should have left the excluder off?? Should our hive be at least 2 boxes deep before we add an excluder? I’m just not feeling confident about adding the excluder onto the single brood box. Was this a mistake? Should I remove it leaving 2 boxes open for the queen? Thanks in advance for your advice! Very much appreciated! April from PA

    • April,

      That’s just a management decision. You can overwinter the colony in one brood box or two. If the colony is only using one now, that’s probably big enough. The colony is not going to get larger at this late date.

  • A word of warning [from Scotland]. Decades ago I started using drone foundation in my supers and later on decided to try out using a full super over the brood nest instead of a queen excluder. Turned out that the queen won’t cross a box full of honey….except when there’s vacant drone cells above. Best crop of drones I’ve ever had but not much honey.

  • Rusty (or anyone),

    I’m new and simply do not know. Can two (separated) queens exist by “sharing” a colony of worker bees?

    In the case of: Brood box on the bottom. Queen excluder. Two honey supers. Another queen excluder. And a brood box on top, with an entrance. Both brood boxes having a queen.

    Can this work? Would this be a way to combine a very week colony with a stronger colony, or two week colonies together?

    I figure that I would need to use newspaper between the two colonies to let them acclimate to each other. But the main question is can two queens use shared workers?

    Thanks in advance.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I have two colonies that due to their location I want to be very aggressive about swarm control. I was thinking of trying the Demaree method instead of just opening up the broodnest. I don’t like the idea of drones getting all stuck in a queen excluder, so I was thinking of using a super of honey and then a Ross Rounds super over that (got it cheap at a yard sale!), then put the brood on top. It seems like it should work, but I was wondering what you think.

    • Paula Ellen,

      A separate issue: I’m not sure why you’re concerned over drones getting caught in a queen excluder. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that. The drones are normally in the brood box which is below the excluder. The drones come and go through the main entrance, so they have no real reason to go through the excluder.

      Then, your question. If I understand, you want to put your brood box above a Ross Round above a super of honey. Is that right? If so, how will this reduce swarming? I’m lost.

  • Hi Rusty,

    The demaree hive manipulation would reduce swarming. My question was whether the Ross rounds super placed on top of the bottom box would keep the queen down below. I have never used queen excluders in the past, but have read that the drones get caught in them and die. That was why I was hoping that perhaps the Ross rounds super would allow the drones to move freely while still keeping the queen down below..

    • Paula Ellen,

      Okay, I see. So using Demaree, you would have queen and sealed brood on the bottom, and then honey, then Ross Rounds, then the separated brood. Right?

      I’ve never tried Demaree without an excluder, but my guess is no, it wouldn’t work. The queen is going to smell her brood and she will go to it, especially as the sealed brood in the bottom emerges.

      Why not use the excluder and also put an upper entrance in the top box, say a one-inch hole? Then the drones could come and go.

  • Hey Rusty,

    I am a new beek this year. I installed a nuc in April of this year. They have been going awesome with pollen and nectar. I added a queen excluder and my first honey super about 2 weeks ago since they had the top deep about 80% full. I didn’t check on the lower deep until this last week and found about 6-8 swarm cells and the hive was “honey bound.” I removed the swarm cells and reversed the deeps, I then removed the excluder and added an additional honey super to create space. My question is this. Will I keep the colony or will I lose them to swarming since they seemed to have decided to in the first place? I have been vigilant for the last 4 days and they seem to be working as per usual since the “move.” I want to let them calm down again before I open the hive and check again on them. I live in the mountains of Oregon USA and don’t have a lot of beekeepers in my neck of the woods to consult with.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I have a hive I got from an old house (very carefully) my first hive. Since then tried to have them make a new queen unsuccessfully by putting two frames from the hive into a smaller box with 2 empty frames. They tried to make queens as I observed four large cells they created but did not successfully make a queen.

    Question #1 What could I have done to help them if anything?

    Also upon reading some of the posts on your site, I noticed my hive was bearding last weak so I put all the frames into a larger brood box except two and used two empty frames to fill the rest of the larger brood box leaving two frames in the smaller box and put two other frames with comb on them and today I opened up both and the smaller one which was the original has two super cells. is there something I need to do? my phone is 229-392-9443 feel free to call. By the way, the new larger box is doing great with the queen that I moved with them

    • Randy,

      When you put the two frames in the smaller box, did you check for eggs and very young larvae? They cannot make a queen without fertilized eggs, so that could have been the problem.

      By supercells, do you mean supersedure cells? Or do you mean queen cups? If they are supersedure cells the bees may intend to replace the queen; if they are just queen cups, it may mean nothing.

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