What Is A Queen Excluder And Do I Need To Use One?

An excluder is a selective barrier that confines the queen and drones to the brood box. It’s placed between the brood box and the honey super, allowing only worker bees to pass through the holes.

Beekeeper opening a hive with a queen excluder on top

This means that no brood will be laid in the honey super – so fully capped frames of honey can be taken and harvested without brood being in them.

Queen excluders are made from either plastic or metal.

Plastic excluders are much cheaper and are more popular for this reason. They have the advantage of not providing any hiding holes for pests such as the small hive beetle. However, over time they can become brittle and break.

Metal excluders will last longer and are generally easier to clean as they don’t bend when you scrape beeswax from them. However, like all metals, they heat up on very hot days and may contribute to the hive becoming overheated.

I will outline the advantages and disadvantages of using queen excluders below.

I prefer to use one because I like to know where to find the queen should I want to requeen the hive

If an excluder isn’t used in a hive, then the queen will lay brood in an oval pattern at the center of the hive where it is warmest. This leaves the outer frames for honey storage.

Generally speaking, it is up to you as the beekeeper to decide if you want to use a queen excluder. Below is a summary of the advantages and disadvantages of using one.

Pros Of A Queen Excluder

  • Using an excluder separates the queen from the honey super/ supers ensuring frames of honey without brood can be taken and harvested.
  • The queen is confined to the brood box so she will be easier to find should you need to.
  • The wax in the honey supers will remain clean and light in color as no brood cocoons or excrement can taint the wax.
  • As many workers will remain in the brood box to tend the queen and the brood, fewer bees will need to be removed from the super when frames are taken for harvesting.
  • Pollen is often stored close to the brood because it is readily available to feed them. As such, little will be in the honey super so the honey won’t be discolored from it.
  • Using a queen excluder allows the beekeeper to manage the amount of brood the queen lays and where it is laid. The advantage here is that a colony with less brood has less to defend and therefore is more manageable.

Cons Of A Queen Excluder

  • Using a queen excluder may restrict airflow through the hive and on very hot days the colony could become overheated and the brood could die. Metal excluders also heat up in very hot weather, which may also contribute to overheating.
  • Worker bees may find it hard to get through the gaps in an excluder when they are carrying honey to be stored. This may reduce the amount of honey stored in the honey super.
  • Sometimes the worker’s wings may be damaged as they try to get through the gaps.
  • As worker bees vary in size and shape, the width of a single gap in an excluder may not suit all the hives in your apiary.
  • Queens also vary in size and may inadvertently get through the gap of an excluder and not be able to return. This is especially likely if the queen is a small virgin or a newly mated queen. If she starts laying when the bigger drones hatch they can be trapped above the brood box.
  • The brood size is restricted if you use an excluder and can encourage your bees to swarm because they don’t have room to expand. You must be vigilant, and give them more space to grow when needed.


Deciding whether or not to use a queen excluder is up to the individual beekeeper. You must consider the advantages and disadvantages and decide what is best for your situation and your individual hive.

If you are new to beekeeping, I’d suggest talking with experienced beekeepers that you will find at your local beekeeping club and asking them their opinions about queen excluders. Weigh their suggestions and then you will be better informed to make up your mind.

Scroll to Top