The shook swarm method of comb renewal.

The shook swarm or Shakedown method is a simple and effective process that has the benefit of invigorating the bees that are shaken. It can be used for a number of reasons, including switching a colony of bees on to a fresh set of combs or foundation in order to separate the bees from any pathogens, disease spores or residues of treatment chemicals, that may lurk in the combs, although a Bailey Comb Change may be a better option in some circumstances. It has become a useful manipulation where a colony is heavily infected with varroa and is now an accepted method of treating a colony that has been infected with EFB. It can also be employed during the process of re-training the bees on to foundation of different cellsize to that which they are conditioned (either upsizing or downsizing). Where you may consider that the bees or the beekeeper may benefit from such re-sizing.

The manipulation itself is incredibly easy, for disease control purposes you will require a completely new or freshly sterilised hive and a full complement of frames, each with foundation which should be fresh. If cellsize regression is your aim you may well use some starter strips.

Timing of the operation, in the case of disease will be unlikely to enter into the calculations, but for best survival conditions it is wise to limit the time frame for performing this operation to the range April through to the end of July. Late shaking is thought to explain a few of the failures that Occur.

In order to control European Foul Brood without chemicals or antibiotics, many trials of this technique have been carried out by the National Bee Unit at the Central Science Laboratory, whose address is Sand Hutton, York, YO41 1LZ. They have a website and their page on the topic can be read here. EFB is a ‘notifiable disease’ under the Bee Diseases Control Order 1982. If you do suspect your bees may have EFB, you should contact your local Regional or Seasonal Bee Inspector. Under no circumstances should you attempt to treat the disease yourself.

The shook swarm is really an artificial swarm made by shaking the adult bees from a set of frames into a new hive. Originally, shaking the bees on to fresh foundation was used as a method of swarm control, however today shook swarming is used as a method of replacing brood comb in one operation for reduction of disease (or reduced risk of disease), but has also gained popularity recently as a means to aid the modification of the size that the bees use for the cells of the brood comb.

In keeping with the vigour that is often observed when a natural swarm is hived, shook swarms usually build up rapidly and produce a good honey crop. In any case, unlike a normal swarm a shook swarm consists of all the bees in the colony rather than only some of them.

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