We added our first honey super to Yellow Hive 2 (YH2) last weekend. The plan was to add the queen excluder beneath the first super, stop feeding, and start letting the girls make honey. The first two boxes go to winter feeding, and if we’re lucky, the girls will fill up a third box to share. Just when it was time to add the queen excluders, heck if they were’t the wrong size.
The queen excluder is a screen that’s placed over the top brood box. It allows the worker bees to pass through and into the honey supers; however, because the queen is much larger than the workers, she is excluded from entering the honey supers and laying eggs. Eggs in honey is just icky. Rose, from my club, assured me that the queen would not move up that high very quickly, so I still had time to exchange my 10 frame excluders for 8-frame.
To Use or Not to Use a Queen Excluder
Two days later I made an emergency run after work to visit my bee supplier. I took a short cut, which should have taken no more than 30 minutes. An hour and a half later, after getting lost and taking every wrong turn possible, I finally arrived to make the swap. Rose had mentioned the idea of not using a queen excluder. So I asked my bees supplier and he agreed that I didn’t have to use the queen excluder. “If you can monitor the queen’s location in the hive, then brood boxes can be rotated to ensure that she always remains toward the bottom of the hive and never makes it up high enough to lay eggs in the honey.”
Actually, many beekeepers don’t use queen excluders at all because they are high maintenance. The bees build comb on them, blocking the passage ways. Drones get stuck in them. Many also feel the excluder inhibits honey production because workers may be discouraged from passing through the screen and entering the supers. Some beekeepers call them honey excluders.
When to Stop Feeding?
Also, I figured I’d stop feeding once the first super was added. However, the girls are still feeding like crazy on the sugar water. With all the rain we’ve been getting, they’ve have been spending a lot of time indoors. During our class, we were told to keep feeding the 1:1 sugar syrup until they stop taking it. Since pollen and nectar are low this season, I’ll also add pollen patties to their diet to increase their protein. And I plan to spray the new frames with a mix of sugar syrup and Honey B Healthy in hopes that they might draw them out faster.
The Role of a First Year Beekeeper
Seasoned beekeepers in my club told us not to think about honey in our first year. As first year beekeepers, it is our job to grow the colonies so they can survive the winter. Their advice has served me well thus far, so I will continue to grow the hives. As much as I’d love some honey (and toward the end we might still get a box), I want my bees to have plenty of food stores for the winter, and I want their numbers to be strong. A strong colony is much more effective at fighting off pests and diseases, and a larger cluster is a warmer cluster.
So plans have changed…again. At least now I know our purpose and I have a plan for getting there. The bees come first. I won’t use a queen excluder…yet. I’ll continue feeding. Her highness can lay as she pleases, and the bees can draw out comb on the new frames and continue to grow their numbers and store food that can be given back to them in the winter. It’s the right decision. It’s the smart decision, finally. If they get to a third super while things are still blooming, then I may add a queen excluder so we can harvest a little bit of honey for ourselves. But the goal is to get them through winter and then next year, if all goes as planned…we shall be rewarded with honey!