Kairos beekeeper Grace Madden on why some of our hives are all shook up
With the gentle hint of a warm spring and summer to come, we have hit the ground running this year. So far we’ve dealt with shook swarms, splitting colonies and a swarming colony (just one so far). This was all after we discovered one of them contracted dysentery over the winter which, once it sets in, catches hold and kills the colony.
After the devastating loss last year to EFB (European foulbrood, a lethal bacterial bee disease), we are doing all we can to make sure the bees have the best start going forward. One way of doing this is a procedure called a shook swarm, which should only be carried out if/when a colony is strong enough to survive it, such is the brutality of the process. It is exactly what it says on the tin: all the flying bees and queen are shaken into a new sterile hive with new frames and comb. The idea is that any lingering pathogens and mites that have survived from last year won’t transfer to the new hive. Then, all the old frames with eggs and babies are destroyed to ensure there’s no cross-contamination. That’s the brutal bit but, although it’s unpleasant, it is a necessary sacrifice. I don’t say this lightly but we must bear in mind the horrific loss of last summer and remember it is for the greater good (sometimes easier said than done). However, I’m happy to report that, since we did this a few weeks ago, they have bounced back as hoped.