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Beekeeper’s Notes: Shaking Bees To Re-House Them

Published on: 1 Apr, 2019
Updated on: 31 Mar, 2019

Hugh Coakley keeps bees in Worplesdon.

There are some beekeeping techniques that can seem a bit drastic.

A method called ‘shook swarm’, which is vigorously shaking bees into a new hive, fits that description.

And it can look very dramatic with a cloud of bees around the beekeeper’s head, protesting at being disturbed.

But it can be a good way not only to move bees from one hive to another but also to change old wax in a hive for new, or even sometimes to control disease.

Proof that the queen is present and laying after a ‘shook swarm’. The photo shows the tiny white eggs in the wax comb inside the hive a few days after a ‘shook swarm’. Click on the image to enlarge it. Just marvel at the perfection of the wax construction!

The bees need some convincing that it is being done in their interests though. They can object.

I carried out a ‘shook swarm’ last week on a colony of bees that one of my colleagues had given me over the winter with them protesting and massing outside their new home.

Just after shaking the bees into a new hive with new wax foundation. The bees are massing outside as they aren’t too thrilled with being vigorously disturbed.

They quickly gravitated into the new hive though. Within about ten minutes, they were more or less all inside and assessing what needed to be done.

And such a drastic and sudden change doesn’t seem to hold back the colony from building up strength, which is what you might expect.

If anything, the shock of suddenly being put into an empty hive seems to give the colony the impetus to get busy.

It can be a bit hairy because, unless you actually see the queen going in, you aren’t quite sure that you have got her.

Anyway, five days after the ‘shook swarm’, the queen is there and laying.

So, the ‘shook swarm’ has worked.

Hopefully, they will thrive. Fingers crossed.

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