Tag Archive | excluder

The Tradeoff: Bees or Honey?

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.

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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.

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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!

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Staying Ahead of the Bees

Sunday, June 9, 2013 (Day 30)

Yesterday the temps were in the high 80s to low 90s – sunny, bright, no wind, and a a tad bit humid. The girls are going crazy again, out foraging and flying actively about the hives. I did check the feeders. Green Hive 1 (GH1) still has a good quarter of a bucket filled with sugar water. Yellow Hive 2’s (YH2) bucket was completely empty, so I had to run in and throw together a quick batch – part of which I ended up throwing out because the feeders needed to be cleaned and I didn’t realize it until I’d already poured.  Ugh!

Staying ahead of the girls is a lot harder than I’d imagined.  Based on the amount of new comb they produced last week, their super high activity levels, and their feeding frenzy, I decided that I need to do a better job of keeping up.  They work fast!  So my strategy is to stock up.

Last night I mixed close to a gallon of sugar water for the feeders.  This morning I visited my bee supplier and picked up six medium boxes, frames and foundation, and two queen excluders. We are assembling and painting as fast as possible (AFAP) so I can get two more boxes on during my next inspection, which I hope will be tomorrow or Tuesday. Being true to their gender, the girls don’t like to wait.

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Here’s the good news…once these new boxes are added, I’ll have three brood chambers on each hive. Then I’ll add a queen excluder.  The queen excluder is a screen that is placed over the top of the last brood chamber.  Worker bees can get through the screen to draw comb and make honey in the honey supers (the boxes that are placed above the queen excluder).  The queen is too large to fit through the screen, so she will remain in the brood chamber to continue laying eggs and creating more bees.  This keeps the brood or eggs/larvae out of the honey.

My point is, each week we’re getting closer and closer to honey!  Yay!

Keep in mind though that the first filled honey super goes to the bees for winter feeding. Whatever is left will be for us. But let’s not lose focus.  The first year is about growing the colonies and keeping the bees alive. We are not to expect honey, so I will not jinx by making unknown promises.  However, if the girls decide to reward our efforts with some sweet liquid gold, then bring on the honey!!!