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It’s the time of year when beekeepers are buying in new queens and are faced with the uncertainty of whether or not the queen will be accepted in her new colony. The following  method was first described by L.E. Snelgrove ¹ in 1940 who claimed an almost 100% success rate.

The method is based on the principle that the new queen should adopt the receiving colony’s odour before being introduced.

The colony should be showing signs of queenlessness before carrying out the operation; this usually takes from a few minutes to as much as half an hour after removal of the old queen.

The “one-hour’’ method

  • Release the bees escorting the new queen from the cage in which they arrived.
  • Take a matchbox and place it three-quarters open over brood comb in the receiving colony at a point where the bees are thickest.
  • Gently close it with about 20 bees inside.
  • Put a pin through the side to keep it closed and put it in your pocket for 5 to 10 minutes.
  • At the end of this period partly open the box with your thumb over the opening and drop the new queen in among the bees.
  • Close the box leaving a very narrow opening for ventilation, put in the pin and return it to your pocket for half an hour.
  • The bees confined in the dark with no food will be more interested in trying to get out than the presence of the new queen.
  • The queen and the bees will soon have the same odour thanks to the warmth in your pocket.
  • Give a little whiff of smoke through the hole in the crown board to clear the way.
  • Place the matchbox upside down over the hole in the crown board and open it gently
  • The new queen and her new escort will then safely make their way down into the queenless hive.
  • Close the hive and don’t disturb for a few days.

Essential points :

  • The queen acquires the odour of the hive before being introduced.
  • She is hungry when she enters the hive.
  • She enters the hive accompanied by a friendly escort.
  • The hive is in a state of distress and looking anxiously for their queen.

¹ L.E. Snelgrove The Introduction of Queen Bees Furnell & Sons Aug 1940

by Alan Baxter

There have been many reports of winter and spring colony losses this year for which there
could be any number of causes. One answer to the mysterious death of a previously
productive colony is infection with a microsporidian, or spore-forming pathogen, called
Two types have been identified in Britain, N.apis and N.ceranae. They are similar in many
ways but the main difference between them is the seasonal nature of their impact on
colonies. N.apis can almost disappear in summer whereas N.ceranae is active throughout the
year and its impact is often more severe as a result.

What does it do?
Nosema affects the ability of the larva and the adult bee to absorb nutrients, shortening its
life and preventing the winter bees from surviving until the following spring. They are also
unable to produce enough brood food for the larvae resulting either death or a slow buildup
of the colony.
There are often no obvious signs of infection, although occasionally it is accompanied by
dysentery, in which case there may be staining around the entrance and on top of the frames, see below.

How do you know you’ve got it?
Diagnosis is by laboratory analysis, but you can carry out a rough test in the apiary:

  • Take a few young bees from the centre of the brood nest.
  • With forceps pull out the intestines from where they exit the body near the sting
  • The midgut, which is normally brownish in colour, in the infected bee is white and
    often distended.

To confirm the infection, take a sample of 30 bees from the centre of the brood nest and
euthanize them in the freezer and send them to someone with a microscope for analysis. If
you have your own microscope it’s quite simple:

  • Cut off the abdomens and crush them in a mortar and pestle. Add a few drops of
    distilled water and stir.
  • Take a drop of the soup and place it on a slide. Allow to dry.
  • Examine under a compound microscope at x 400. Nosema spores look like this:

How do you treat it?
There is no specific treatment for Nosema but it can be reduced by strict apiary hygiene, feeding and comb change. A less stressful method is a Bailey Comb Change for a weak colony. In some cases changing the queen can be effective.

Bailey comb change for a weak colony:

  • Place a clean brood box beside the colony
  • Find the frame with the queen and place in the new brood box
  • Add a frame of sterilized drawn comb either side of the frame with the queen
  • Add dummy boards either side and centre them
  • In the original brood box remove any frames with no brood and destroy the comb
  • Centre the remaining frames with dummy boards
  • Close the entrance
  • Add a Bailey board
  • Put the new box on top
  • Add a feeder with sugar syrup
  • Close the hive

Day 8

  • From the original brood box remove all frames with no brood
  • From the new box remove the frame that had the queen and place in the lower box
  • Centre the frames so they chimney upwards
  • Add more frames of drawn comb to the upper box
  • Check feed and top up if necessary

Day 15

  • Repeat as above

Day 28

  • All the brood in the original box will have emerged and the box can be removed
  • Put the new box on a new floor on the original stand
  • Add any supers
  • Close the hive

All the old comb should be burnt and the brood box and frames cleaned and sterilized for reuse.

by Alan Baxter


The subject of trapping is surrounded by controversy, mainly concerning its effectiveness and its impact on other species and can risk pulling beekeepers in different directions.
Naturally, we all want to be fully pro-active, use the best equipment and techniques available, and protect our bees.
However, it’s important to understand that traps are not a silver bullet that will solve the problem of the Asian Hornet in our apiaries – they are just one weapon in our defensive armoury as part of an Integrated Apiary Management Strategy.
o protect biodiversity, it is essential to avoid catching insects of other species as far as possible.  Even if they are released, the experience of being captured and imprisoned with other insects is highly stressful. It has serious effects on them from which they may not fully recover, including staying alive for very long after release or being able to reproduce.
Whatever the manufacturers and their supporters claim, as far as we are aware, no trap has yet been produced that is 100% guaranteed to avoid catching innocent victims.

There are 4 different types of trapping. The objectives are different, the logistics are different, the execution is different, the outcomes are different, and its important not to confuse them.  They are:

  • Spring queen trapping for queens emerging from hibernation.
  • Monitoring trapping throughout the season.
  • Decoy trapping in an apiary under attack.
  • Bait stations during track and trace for locating nests.

The purpose of spring trapping is to catch and kill queens newly emerged from hibernation at a time when they are most vulnerable. At this stage, the foundress queen is the head of a single parent family, and she has to forage to provide food for herself and for her young brood.  The theory is that if they are caught and killed at this stage, they can’t go on to develop their own colonies.
Apart from other dangers when she is out of the nest, the attrition rate amongst queens emerging from hibernation is very high due to fierce, deadly competition between them for nest sites. The period over which queens wake up from their winter sleep is long, and those coming out later enjoy warmer weather, a richer diet and are therefore bigger, stronger and more fertile. For every queen you kill another, better queen will always be waiting to replace her.
An organised spring trapping operation involves a substantial logistic organisation of material, personnel and of course cost.
The spring trapping of foundress queens, in a clearly defined area, can reduce the number of nests, but only:

  • if Asian Hornets nests were found in that area in the previous year
  • and were still active in the autumn when the young, mated queens, were produced.

Most queens hibernate within 200 metres of their original nest.  It’s essential that spring trapping operations should only focus on areas where there was already a nest, and which was not removed before gynes could have emerged.
Foundress queens are known to forage up to 1km from the embryo or primary nest, but in practice a radius of 600 metres is more likely as they don’t want to leave their eggs or larvae for very long. Therefore, selective traps are placed in a regular pattern round the old nests.
Traps should be put out in February  when daytime temperatures average 12 deg C, and removed at the end of May, a total of about 14 weeks.
In most areas it involves the cooperation of local authorities, and in all cases permission to access land and property every week for 14 weeks.
A  typical spring trapping operation would consist of:

  • a network of more than 200 traps
  • spread evenly over 10 km2
  • Placed in an even grid-like pattern 
  • Intervals of 350 metres and no more than 500 metres between them
  • At least once weekly visit to empty and renew bait.
  • Over 4 successive springs

For reference, the oft-quoted spring trapping campaign organised by the Government of Guernsey involved the placing of 260 traps on the island. The latest report can be viewed at:


Instead, closed monitoring traps should be put out randomly throughout the County in places where they can be checked every day, for example outside a kitchen or office window.  Family members, friends, neighbours, and colleagues can all be recruited to help. They can be checked at the end of the day and don’t need to be watched all the time.
Once an Asian Hornet has been caught in a trap, enhanced surveillance is put in place by the NBU or local AHAT using open bait stations to find and destroy the nest.
Monitoring for possible Asian Hornets and getting our bees Fit2Fight, is where our attention and energies should be focussed in spring 2024.

Traps can be deployed in the apiary to reduce the level of stress on the bees but not until hornets are actually present and hawking in front of the hives.
If there’s no hawking taking place, traps in the apiary will only serve to attract hornets to it.
Once hornets are visiting, the NBU or local AHAT will set up bait stations to start the process of tracking and tracing the nest.

These are simple handmade devices using everyday domestic items that are used during track and trace operations.  They are only used when operations are in progress.


  • Spring trapping campaigns are not appropriate in Hampshire in 2024 and would be a serious waste of time and money.
  • Monitoring traps should be deployed at random from February onwards to detect Asian Hornet queens that have blown in on the wind or hitched a lift.
  • Once hornets are found in the monitoring traps, bait stations can be set up to begin track and trace to find the nest.
  • Decoy kill  traps are installed in an apiary once predation has started to reduce stress on the bees, and bait stations set up to find where they live.

In addition to monitoring for Asian Hornets, beekeepers are encouraged to focus their energy on sharpening up their beekeeping skills and getting their bees Fit2fight in case we have incursions next year.

by Alan Baxter