It’s now two weeks since I shook-swarmed my bees. Doing either an annual shook-swarm or the Bailey comb exchange is compulsory for all hives kept at the Ealing Association apiary, to help prevent disease.
I think some new beekeepers are nervous of doing shook-swarms, and I was too until it went really well this year. The bees took me destroying all their brood and shaking them into a completely new home very well considering and have got on with building up the colony again brilliantly. Two weeks on, they have drawn out nearly seven frames.
Here is one of the frames, with lots of pollen and nectar stores and some capped honey towards the top. They nibbled clean a whole slab of pollen substitute this week, plus I could see bees bringing all sorts of colour pollen back in their baskets, from pale butter yellow to green to golden orange.
We saw the queen making her way round the hive, marked with last year’s colour, a smart navy blue. She is laying well, we have some capped worker larvae now and in a little over a week’s time a new generation will emerge to help the older bees out. If they continue expanding at this rate the brood box will be full up within a couple of weeks!
Pat, one of the very nice members of the Ealing association, showed some of us one of his colonies. Pat is very jolly and has a way of explaining things and answering questions clearly without making you feel stupid, which is very nice when you’re a beginner and still learning. His colony are also doing well after being shook-swarmed.
Pat told us that although the Bailey comb exchange method (see the National Bee Unit’s Replacing Comb (pdf) factsheet for an explanation of this) of gradually swopping old frames for new without destroying any brood may be gentler, in his opinion it is not nearly as effective at preventing disease, especially varroa, as mites are able to travel up and find more brood to feed on. So I’m glad I did the shook-swarm.