Here’s what happened in one of my hives this year when I installed a honey super without a queen excluder:
The queen laid eggs throughout most of the honey frames. A full shallow super full of comb honey ruined.
Many beekeepers claim that a queen excluder acts as a “honey excluder” because worker bees, arguably, would rather stay down below before trying to squeeze through the excluder. Subsequently, the bees may fill up the brood nest with honey before they go above the excluder, which can leave the queen honey bound and the brood chamber crowded, which encourages swarming.
The same beekeepers usually argue that queen excluders aren’t necessary because the queen won’t cross a natural honey barrier (a ring of honey) above the brood nest.
To which I respond with a definite MAYBE. I’m not saying they’re wrong. However, the queen in one of my excluderless hives got into the honey super and the result was a big ugly mess that I’d rather not deal with again. Maybe queen excluders aren’t the greatest invention around. Too bad. I’ll live with them for now.
Cutting drone brood from an otherwise beautiful frame of comb honey…
Postscript: Tony Bees, who drills access holes in each of his honey supers, uses queen excluders and it seems to work well for him. I think I’ll try it.
Something that’s good to know: I’ve learned that it’s best not to use a queen excluder on honey supers that don’t have drawn frames. Once the bees have drawn out the frames, then I add the queen excluder.
May 2019 Postscript: I suspect I had brood in the honey super because I placed the honey super over a box that already had frames of brood up top. There was no honey barrier to keep the queen down. I would consider a honey barrier to be a ring of honey that’s at least half a deep frame thick, but I’m not sure. This wouldn’t be an issue if I went with all medium supers for my hives, which I’m still very tempted to try.
December 2019 Postscript: I’m trying to shift into using all medium supers for my hives, for the brood box, honey supers, the whole deal, and I’ve tossed the queen excluders too. The results haven’t been too bad. I get small batches of drone brood here and there, but not much. As times goes on, I want to do whatever makes my beekeeping simpler. That’s probably why many old beekeepers aren’t keen on trying new things. I get that.