City, I don't understand how you think it's fun to dress up in a bee suit on a 95 degree day, breathe smokey air and have the Jahaddi bees in your hive try to commit suicide on your fingers and face!
Yeah! Fresh bees, queens, and hives w/o varroa, hive beetles, and wasted stores and mite treatments add up to a big savings in time and money. Fresh queens are much less likely to swarm, 80%, and a swarmed colony won't make honey! Not an opinion.
In central Minn. you need 120# of honey to get bees through the winter, at $2.00/ lb. whsle plus treatments, plus wrapping them, plus worry, if you take the honey and store the equipment inside, what an incredible savings in time and effort. Don't get soft about the bees, they hate you and will do anything to kill you! You can spend the winter sitting around the fire drinking and singing the Gophers' fight song every time they beat the Hawkeyes!!
Talk to the beeks that go south every winter and get a queen and 2 frames of brood for every colony you want to start. Pay their price so they are happy to see you. Guess I will have to explain how to build nucs.
Queen excluders are called honey excluders by beehavers that don't know how to use them. Like any other tool, used properly, an excluder will save you time in the honey house, you won't have to work around patches of drone brood or get brood juice in your honey or be surprised by a bunch of workers wondering if your face is their lost queen, you won't worry where the queen is when you harvest and you don't have to search through honey supers if you need to find the queen. It's also a great tool when splitting colonies or pulling brood. You can't do comb honey without one.
To use a queen excluder, I'm assuming you are keeping your bees in single deeps and supering on those, I am also assuming you can speak and understand beek, you'll need a colony with at least 7 full frames of bees and brood in a single. Place a metal rimmed QE on the colony, exposed wires down. Place one wet, empty, super on the hive on top of the excluder. replace your lid. If you are having a good honey flow, check back in 4-5 days. The workers can't refuse a good, wet, super, and will make every effort to get in it. Don't put more than two supers on at a time, keeping them crowded, just a bit, will get them to fill the supers efficiently. On ten frame supers with drawn comb, use 9 frames so you get fat, heavily filled, supers. Harvest in mid August.
If you are not beekeeping in singles, you should think about it, your honey harvest will go up, less weight to handle too. You do have to know your bees better especially swarm indicators.
Mike, you do know what this bit did? City is going to ask 4000 questions!! I know it Kevin!