Horsley Board method of combating swarming and raising an additional queen

This page is credited in full to Dave Cushman who created it. His voice is expressed in black colour text and any additions or comments in blue belong to myself. Credit: Dave Cushman’s website.



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.

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.
Horsley Board

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

Move the entire colony one hive space to left or right, place the new stand and floor where the original one was.
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.
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.
The queen excluder, and the supers are then placed on the new box.
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.
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.
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.

Follow instructions “a” & “b” 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.)
Place one frame of open brood in the space in the middle after ensuring that there are no queen cells on this frame.
As “d” & “e” above.
The empty brood box is placed on the Horsley board.
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.
The empty frame that was pulled from the new brood box is added to the outside of the re-built nest and item “g” 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.

Written… 19 June 2001, Revised… 14 October 2002, Upgraded… 15 January 2006, Addition… 23 August 2006,
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Horsley Board method of combating swarming and raising an additional queen (alternative text)

The Horsley Board method of swarm control and re queening is probably best used when the colony is well advanced, covering at least nine B.S. frames of brood. It is also helpful to have a good nectar flow. It should only be used on colonies that you are happy to propagate from, if you have bees that are less than good you should use another method the first year so that you can re-queen with good stock. The method forms a circular pattern that can be repeated year on year.

Construct a board as shown in the diagram and description that occurs on the main Horsley board page.

In spring the hive is first reduced to one brood box during normal Spring management.

When the colony is strong with most frames full of brood, usually late May or early June this method may be employed whether queen cells have been started or not.
Stage one

Fill an empty brood box with frames of comb and foundation, take out the centre comb leaving a space. Lift the roof from the hive, and place to one side. Lift the hive off the floorboard and place on the roof, cover the empty brood box and place it on the now vacant floorboard. Put the supers to one side whilst you find the frame with the queen on, this is often easier said than done, however, If you do not find her at first, cover the brood box and leave it for a short while so that most of the flying bees can find their way into the new, empty brood box, this will relieve the congestion and make queen finding much easier. Having found the frame with the queen inspect it for queen cells and destroy any that may be found, place this frame in the space left in the brood box on the original hive site. Put on the queen excluder and the supers that were removed earlier.

Then place the Horsley Board on with the wedge uppermost and at the back of the hive. Close up the frames in the brood box from which you have taken the queen, and insert the spare frame at the outside, lift the brood box on to the Horsley Board and replace crown board and roof.

Open out the wedge to its fullest extent and leave the hive alone for three or four days. This enables the flying bees to return to the lower brood box and the bees that are left consider themselves queenless.
Stage two

Partly close the wedge leaving only just sufficient space for the bees to leave or enter, this will partially uncover the excluder panel and allow the bees free access.
Stage three

Examine the top box again after ten days and queen cells should be evident, and fairly advanced. As soon as, at least, one is seen… Open the wedge to its fullest extent closing off the excluder panel totally. Examine the top box again after another seven to ten days and look for a queen or eggs. If no eggs are observed indicating that the queen has either not yet mated or if she has she has not yet come into lay, close up and look again in another few days.
stage four

As soon as eggs are seen, lift the box off the Horsley Board and reverse the board itself so that the wedge is at the front of the hive. Partly close the wedge allowing only a small entrance as in stage two, the excluder panel will now be partially open and the two colonies will be able to work together and can be left in this configuration for the rest of the season.

At the end of the season, when the honey has been removed, the top box is placed onto the bottom box and the Horsley Board removed, No newspaper is required as the two boxes are actually the same colony the two queens will sort out if they wish to lay together or one may depose the other. 90% of the time it will be the young queen that remains for next season, but it is not a certainty.

If you wish to take your bees to the heather, there are some different preparations to make for the moors…
Having removed the honey supers that have been in place all summer. Re-build the hive so that it has stand, floor, the top brood box which contains the young queen, the Horsley Board with the wedge fully open towards the back of the hive, what was the bottom brood box with the old queen, crown board and roof.

When moving day arrives… Take off the top box and Horsley Board and add the excluder and the empty supers to the box on the stand. The stack, which now has all the flying bees from both groups, can then be transferred onto your heather floor for transport. Place the box with the old queen onto the original hive stand and they will be ready for uniting when the other group return from the heather, newspaper or some other method should be used as the bees will have lost any sense of being “one colony”.

If queen cells are actually being raised at the time of your initial inspection, when you are first looking for the queen, do not examine any further… Place the box with the full compliment of empty combs on the floor board, put the queen excluder and supers on this, then place the Horsley board on top, with the fully open wedge to the back of the hive, the original brood chamber and all frames are placed on this and crown board and roof completes the set up. The Horsley Board excluder panel will be fully closed, the flying bees will find their way to the original entrance and thus enter the bottom brood box. The depleted bees in the top box will tear down the queen cells. After a few days the frame with the queen on is placed in the centre of the bottom box and the top box with the brood and bees is left on the Horsley board and we are effectively at stage one again, but a few days later than planned.


Another way of playing with the bees.? Like the Snelgrove Board nothing is guaranteed.



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