Barnsley Beekeepers

Horsely Method

Horsely Method

Developed by Yorkshireman Arthur Horsley, the board which carries his name is commonly used to control bees about to swarm. Similar in principle to the Snelgrove Method, the horsley board is often favoured over the latter because of it’s simpler design and method of operation. Like all other swarm control boards, the horsley board allows the separation of queen from the eggs and brood whilst maintaining a single, vertical arrangement to the colony.

The Horsley Method

After studying the Snelgrove Method, Arthur Horsley considered it to be complex and not suitable for use in more distant out apiaries where the timings of the manipulations associated with snelgrove were deemed impractical. He went on to produce his modified board as a more simplified swarm control board that required fewer interventions than snelgrove.

This method involves the separation of the queen and flying bees from the eggs, brood and nurse bees in two separate brood boxes within the same hive. It is primarily aimed at controlling a colony that has begun swarm preparations, albeit it is possible to use it pre-emptively. Once the colony is split, one box sits above the others in a vertical arrangement. The horsely method is predominantly used for raising one or more new queens rather than maintaining a single strong colony as can be achieved with The Demaree Method of Swarm Prevention or Snelgrove Method.

The horsley board uses a hole covered by a square of queen excluder. This remains open for the first part of the process allowing all bees but the queen free access throughout the hive. An entrance in the side of the board is later opened. The entrance is attached to a metal sheet which closes off the patch of queen excluder as it is pulled open. At this stage the top box (with the brood and nurse bees) become separate from the queen and flying bees. A patch of mesh continues to allow the mingling of scent between the two sides of the divide.


This method requires an additional brood box and a horsley board.

Keys to Success

The keys to the success of the horsley method are:

  • Preparedness (having the necessary extra equipment ready in advance)
  • Recognising the signs of imminent swarming or carrying out regular (7 day) inspections from April onward to find queen cells
  • Having a marked queen to aid the finding and isolation of her

Method (for use once queen cells have begun to appear)

Day 1-

  1. Have prepared a second brood box with foundation and/or drawn comb.
  2. Remove the roof, supers, etc from the mother colony and find the queen (hold her in place with a marking cage to prevent losing her during subsequent manipulations). Place the brood box to one side.
  3. Place the second box on the old floor and remove a couple of frames from the centre to make a gap.
  4. Place the queen on a frame containing some unsealed brood in the gap in the second box ensuring there are no queen cells on this frame. Remove the marking cage, close up the gap and add a spare frame to the edge.
  5. Check the mother box for queen cells and (if any) and either:
  •  select one large cell and remove all others to be able to raise one new colony or,
  •  leave all or several if they are wanted for Making Up Nucleus Colonies or to allow the bees to select their own queen.
  1. Rebuild the hive with queen excluder on the second box, followed by  the supers, horsley board, mother brood box, crown board and roof. Locate the horsley board so that the entrance is uppermost and faces the rear (opposite side to the main hive entrance).
  2. Close the entrance of the horsley board.

Day 3 or 4 –

  1. Pull open the entrance on the horsley board. This stops the free passage of bees across the patch of queen excluder. The flying bees will return to the main entrance below.

If the board is being used to pre-empt swarming, then a number of emergency queen cells will have appeared. Either select one of these to raise a single new colony or allow all or most to develop if intended for Making Up Nucleus Colonies (in which case they should be removed before the queens emerge (as soon as 16 days after the splitting of the original colony).

What next?

At this stage the colony has been artificially swarmed and the top, mother box with the brood has lost its flying bees.

What happens now depends on how much increase the beekeeper wants to make. If only one queen cell has been left, this can be left for a few weeks until the queen has started laying. After this the top box can be relocated. If multiple queen cells have been left to develop to make up nuclei, these will need dealing with in the week following sealing of the cells (otherwise the newly emerging queens will either fight until only one is left or the top box may swarm).

This method is given as guidance only. After trying one or more key methods of swarm control, the beekeeper should go on to experiment and develop their own variations to suit their own preferences.