A queen excluder is often included in a beginner beekeeping starter kit, and many beekeepers don’t know when or when one should be used. Beginner and experienced beekeepers often ask this question, so you are not alone! Will a queen excluder prevent swarming?
A queen excluder will not prevent swarming in the long run, but you may be able to prevent swarming for a few days. If your bee colony is determined to swarm, they will. If your queen is unable to leave the hive, the swarm may leave with a small virgin queen that can fit through the queen excluder.
Using a queen excluder to prevent swarming is not encouraged or recommended for several reasons, but a swarm guard may do the trick. Continue reading as I discuss the role of an excluder, why it will not prevent swarming, and why a swarm guard may be the ideal solution!
Why A Queen Excluder Will Not Prevent Swarming
A queen excluder can be described as a plastic or metal grid perfectly positioned in bee hives by the beekeeper.
A queen excluder will have holes in them that are tiny enough to allow the worker bees through to continue with their day-to-day tasks, but the larger queens and drones cannot pass through.
The main purpose of a queen excluder would be to prevent the queen bee from laying her eggs in some of the cells in the hive.
The worker bees will continue to fill the cells with honey, and due to the brood not being present in these cells, the honey can still be harvested easily.
Like removing queen cells, placing a queen excluder at the bottom of the brood box or along its entrance will not stop or prevent the swarming urges of a colony.
However, it could give you sufficient time to perform a split as soon as possible. A swarm will leave the hive and swarm with the original queen, which often means she has mated and her abdomen is too large4 to fit through the queen excluder.
Even though the colony will starve the queen bee for a few days before preparing to swarm, she will often remain too large to fit through the excluder.
In this case, you may see your bees leaving their hive, thinking they will swarm. But at some point, they will realize their queen is absent and fly back to their hive.
Over a few days, the colony will learn to leave their hive with a virgin queen and, at times, several virgin queens. This is because these queens are still small enough to fit their bodies through the queen excluder.
Colonies may also respond in this matter to queens whose beekeepers have clipped their wings.
Why A Queen Excluder Is Not Encouraged By Beekeepers
There are a few reasons why using a queen excluder is not recommended, as it could cause havoc in your hives.
A few reasons include:
Drone Bees Could Get Stuck In A Queen Excluder
If a drone bee gets stuck above the queen excluder, he will die or fatally hurt himself trying to get through.
The Brood Nest Could Become Honey Bound
If you use a queen excluder for one of your hives, you must pay close attention to your brood nest to ensure it doesn’t become overcrowded with honey. This could make managing your hives much more complex, especially if you are new to the art of beekeeping.
Use A Swarm Guard Instead Of A Queen Excluder
A swarm guard could be a highly useful tool. A swarm guard can be described as very similar to a queen excluder, but the only difference is that they are specially designed to fit over the entrance of a beehive.
Like a queen excluder, a swarm guard will prevent both drones and queens from passing, as the wires are situated closely together.
However, the worker bees can pass through with ease. Although swarm guards have their uses, they should only be used for short periods in special circumstances.
Let’s look below:
A Swarm Guard Can Be Used For A Colony That Wants To Swarm
If you see a swarm and notice all the signs that they may be itching to swarm, you can install a swarm guard immediately.
A swarm guard will stop swarming long enough until you can gather all the necessary equipment to set up a split. If you cannot do a hive split the same day, you can take the guard off just before dark.
This will allow the drones to return to the hive safely. You can perform the hive split the next morning to prevent swarming entirely!
Remember that this should only be done as a short-term solution and never for more than one day.
Use A Swarm Guard When Installing A New Bee Package
A swarm guard is most useful when you need to install a new package. Since the queen cannot leave the hive, the colony would be highly unlikely to abscond when a swarm guard is put into place.
You can generally leave the swarm guard in place until you know your new queen is actively laying eggs.
Since there will be no drones to get caught behind the swarm guard, and you already have a mated queen bee on the inside, it would be completely safe to leave it in your hive for a couple of days.
Use A Swarm Guard To Prevent Mice During Winter And Fall
No queens or drones will come or go during the fall and winter. In this case, you may use a swarm guard to prevent mice and other similar-sized predators from entering your hive.
However, you will need to stay on top of things and remember to remove the swarm guard before drones want to take flight in the spring.
A queen excluder may not prevent swarming, but it could be an excellent tool until you can perform a hive split. A swarm guard will solve the swarming problem, and it can be used for many other things, such as preventing predators and when you need to install a new colony of bees!