Cell Size Regression
Clearing Stores from Combs
The Shook Swarm or Shakedown Method
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 in UK 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 have occurred in the CSL. trials.
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 or the National Bee Unit at York. (While the service is still available.) Under no circumstances should you attempt to treat the disease yourself.
Called 'shakedowns' or 'shaking down' by our American cousins, 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.
|Fresh brood chamber||Full set of frames and foundation|
|Floor with entrance block||Spare queen excluder|
|Crown board (inner cover)||Rapid or hive top feeder|
|Sugar syrup feed||Container to put combs in|
If the equipment is not new, it is recommended that all items should be sterilised or scorched to reduce disease risk.
If there were any supers on the original hive, the method of dealing with them depends on the reason that you were shaking down the bees in the first place...
If you are shaking down for reasons of cellsize alteration, the supers may be returned to the colony once the new brood combs are fully drawn out.
It helps if the colony has a satisfactory, laying queen of young age.
A shook swarm is not very suitable for small colonies.
Clipping the queen may be a better alternative than a queen excluder under the brood box. A queen excluder can trap drones and brush pollen off the legs of worker bees.
A sufficient supply of nectar or sugar syrup must be available until all the foundation has been drawn (or at least well started on). Don't feed for 2-3 days if the colony has been shook swarmed in the treatment of EFB, otherwise the bees may store the infected honey in their stomachs and continue the infection. Seek guidance from the Bee Inspector
It may be necessary to use an empty super above the crown board to accommodate a contact feeder if that type of feeder is used.
Inserting a queen excluder between the brood box and floor will prevent the colony from absconding. This should be removed once the colony has started to build comb and the queen has laid eggs. Alternatively, the queen may be left in the cage and released using marshmallow or queen candy to delay her release until foundation is being drawn.
In Switzerland I have been told they keep shaken colonies in the cool for about 3 days before bringing them out and feeding them. This is very effective against EFB.