Old comb can become brittle and also harbour diseases such as Nosema. In addition the cells get smaller over time where the bees have not cleaned them out completely and small cells mean smaller bees and smaller bees cannot carry as much pollen and nectar.
In addition the shook swarm method will reduce the amount of varroa in the hive since most of the Varroa is in the cells of brood.
Doing a shook swarm can also be used to treat EFB (European Foul Brood) but this must only be done under the supervision of the Bee Inspector who you will already have notified that you suspect EFB.
Are there any other ways to change brood comb?
Yes you could just swap a few frames out every so often or you could do a Bailey Comb exchange. Both of these are less disruptive but they are also less effective in dealing with Varroa and Nosema.
So what do I need to do a shook swarm?
- A clean brood box.
- A full set of clean frames for the brood box
- A feeder with strong syrup
- Remove the super with lid and queen excluder and put out of the way
- Move the old brood box to one side.
- Place the new brood box with its clean frames where the old brood box was.
- Remove two frames from the centre of the new brood box
- Remove the frame with the queen from the old brood box and place it in the new brood box.
- Remove one more frame with brood into the new brood box.
- Shake the rest of the bees from the old brood frames and into the new brood box.
- Put back the super with lid and queen excluder.
- Remove the old super and take it for cleaning.
- Place the feeder in the top of the hive.
Yes there are many variations on this theme. There are those who place a queen excluder below the new brood box to prevent the queen absconding. Others suggest clipping the queen's wings. Some suggest that you do not feed and others say you should feed. In the end you do what you fel is right but at least this has given you the idea.
Have a play
At the top of the page is an animation which I hope makes it clearer.