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Horsley Board method of combating swarming
and raising an additional queen

A man named Horsley developed this idea which is in essence an "automatic" swarm control method.

The principle is of an openable and closable entrance that is coupled to a slide which closes off a panel of queen excluder when the entrance is opened.

This method is more commonly used in Yorkshire, compared to other areas of the country, (I suspect Mr Horsley was a Yorkshire man). The diagram below shows the mechanism in both positions. The stainless steel parts are liberally coated with Petroleum Jelly. The pivots may be small screws or rivets. The connecting rod is slotted into the opening wedge. The version shown is for top bee space, if it is to be used with bottom bee space it will require a rim on its underside.

Versions exist both with and without a mesh panel in the centre of the board to allow heat from below to rise into the chamber that has the brood. I personally did not bother on those items that I made for myself, but those that I used to sell had such mesh panels over holes that were intended for porter escapes.

Horsley Board



The equipment you will require...
A Horsley Board,
a brood chamber with a full complement of frames,
preferably of drawn comb, but a mixture of drawn combs and foundation will suffice.
A spare stand,
and a spare floor.
The original stand and floor will be "spare" at the end of the procedure and can thus be cleaned or maintained.

An empty brood box, a bee brush or goose wing,
a piece of board about 300 mm wide and 500 mm long and a cloth about one metre square will all be helpful if the queen cannot be found. A couple of cover cloths may be useful if much searching is required for queen finding.



When a colony is found to be producing Queen Cells... and the queen can be found.

  1. Move the entire colony one hive space to left or right, place the new stand and floor where the original one was.
  2. Put the new brood box on this new floor with the frames of comb in the centre and any foundations towards the outside. Remove the central frame thus creating a space.
  3. Find the queen and place her, and the frame she is found on, into the space in the middle of the new brood box, removing any queen cells that are found on this frame.
  4. The queen excluder, and the supers are then placed on the new box.
  5. The Horsley Board goes on next, with its entrance wedge on the upper side and to the opposite face of the hive to the main entrance. It should be in the closed position allowing traffic through it's small panel of queen excluder.
  6. On the Horsley board sits the original brood box, containing it's frames complete with their queen cells, and the empty frame that was pulled from the new brood box is added to the outside to make good the space created when the queen was found.
  7. finally the crown board and roof are positioned, leaving the original stand and floor to be carried back to the car.

If the queen can not be found.

  1. Follow instructions "1." & "2." above, then place your board to form a ramp from the ground to the hive entrance. Spread the cloth so that it overlaps the ramp and the surrounding grass. (This speeds up the process as bees do not get "lost" in the grass.)
  2. Place one frame of open brood in the space in the middle after ensuring that there are no queen cells on this frame.
  3. As "4." & "5." above.
  4. The empty brood box is placed on the Horsley board.
  5. The bees must now be brushed from all brood combs, and hive parts, on to the cloth covering the ramp. Ensure you do not to damage the queen in this process and do not shake any combs that contain any queen cells. When all bees have been brushed from a frame it is placed in the empty box on the top of the hive. The frames are placed in this box in the same order as the original frames were in the original box.
    The bees will walk up to the entrance and the queen will be restricted to the lower box, most of the younger workers will return to nursing duties in the upper brood box via the small excluder panel. See Hiving a Swarm, which has an illustration of the cloth and ramp.
  6. The empty frame that was pulled from the new brood box is added to the outside of the re-built nest and item "7." above is implemented, but this time there is an old brood box to be returned as well.

Cover cloths (manipulation cloths) over boxes may help to keep the bees calm particularly if the weather is not bright and sunny. They are more important where the queen cannot be found and thus the boxes are open for longer.

After 3 to 4 days open the entrance wedge on the Horsley board which isolates the bees in the top box from the queen and those below the Board. Older bees will leave by the new entrance, but return to the "main entrance". This reduces the number of bees in the top box and should ensure that no swarm will issue when the first new queen emerges.

Do not disturb for four weeks after which time there should be a newly mated queen laying in the top box. This "new" queen can be used for increase or to replace the old queen by uniting.

There is an alternative way of using the Horsley Board which uses the old queen and a freshly raised one as a "two queen" system. I have covered this in alternative Horsley method document.

If increase is desired...   As soon as the new queen is proven to lay then she can be removed, along with a frame of sealed brood and a frame of open brood, from the bottom box to form a nuc that can be housed elsewhere. Then the whole procedure can be repeated with a subsequent trade off of slightly lower honey surplus.

Originally written by Dave Cushman. Edited by Roger Patterson.