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Author Topic: Technique for Shaker Box Use  (Read 4267 times)

Offline sc-bee

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Technique for Shaker Box Use
« on: May 03, 2014, 01:32:36 pm »
I mentioned in another thread that the use of a shaker box and I needed practice. I found this writing by Michael Palmer on the technique of using a shaker box. A long read but worth it ..... I think :-D

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Everyone has trouble finding a queen from time to time...some more than others. When I'm working in my apiary, and having many queens to find, and having beginner helpers that couldn't find a queen if it crawled up their...nose, I had to come up with a way for my help to actually help. Standing around while the "boss" is looking for a queen isn't the answer. The colony has already been looked at by me, and I've decided that finding the queen is necessary. Inexperienced help usually makes a mess of it. My solution was constructing a shaker box.

What is a shaker box? Basically, a sound hive body with a wood bound excluder nailed on the bottom. The body should have no holes it it, and be scraped clean of all burr comb.
--Finding the queen(s) using a shaker box...
 First, you need to break down the hive. Experienced beekeepers know, that when looking for the queen, you don't start looking in the top of the hive...depending of course on the time of year. Use an absolute minimum of smoke...none it possible. Don't bang and crash. You want the queen to remain quietly on the comb where she is laying. Disturb her, and she'll run.

  So, remove the supers, and place them on an overturned outer cover. If you don't use excluders, and there is a chance the queen is in the supers, separate each super with an inner cover (escape hole closed) or whatever you have that will prevent the queen from running from one super to the next. Now, separate the broodnest boxes. Whatever configuration you use. Place each box on an upturned outer cover, and cover. This helps keep the bees and queen(s) quite on the combs. Leave the bottom brood box on the bottom board and cover. Step back, and think for a minute. What box is she most likely in? Look there first.

  As you remove each frame, looking for the queen, place it where you normally do...that would be in an empty box, or standing on end and leaning against the next hive in the row. I can hear the screaming! No, I don't just stand the frames in the dirt or grass. Instead I use either two inner covers, or two OSB boards cut the same size as inner covers. One on the ground , and the other on the first one and leaning on the next hive in the row. This confines the bees and queen to their combs...they can't crawl onto the hive, or into the grass. The first frame...outside frame is stood against the hive, and each frame is stood against it...in a slightly fanned arrangement, to prevent the bees and queen from being pinches or crushed. They stand like the pages of a book, and can easily be gone through again by just pulling each back and looking at the space between.

   Anyway...say you didn't find the queen in the top brood box. Repeat with the bottom box. Still couldn't find her? OK, that's where the shaker box comes in. What have you got before you? Supers stacked and separated. Brood boxes separated, and empty of combs...which are leaning against another hive, with bees confined to combs with use of inners or chip boards.

 Look in the empty bottom box, just to be sure the queen isn't running around there. Runny queens will often be on the sidewall, having run off the combs to escape the intruder...you. Place your shaker box on the ground next to your hive. Pick up bottom box and bottom board, turn upside down, and bang whatever bees are there into the shaker box.. Replace on stand. Scrape the end walls and frame rests, so frames will easily slide across frame rests.

  Place shaker box on the bottom...now empty...body. Leave a space on sidewall nearest you, about3 - 4 inches wide. Pick up first comb that was in bottom box. Shake ALL bees from this comb into shaker box. Drop comb down into bottom box through space at side. Slide comb under excluder with thumb and hive tool. Repeat with each bottom box comb, until all combs are replaced in bottom box, and slid under excluder...second comb pushes on first, third on second, etc, until all combs have been shaken clean of bees and are back in bottom box. Try to replace combs back in the order in which they were removed. Slide shaker box back over bottom box, until space is closed.

  Now what is before you? The bottom board, and bottom box. The frames have been shaken clean of bees and replaced in box. All the bees are now in the shaker box. Not a place a bee would wanna be. So, down they go through the excluder. If the queen was in that box, she'll be left above the excluder...usually in a corner, or trying to get down near one edge or another.

  Still no queen? Repeat with second box, placing bee-less combs back into second box as you go. Still no queen? Place shaker box on top of second box after all the beeless combs are back in it, and lift both onto bottom box. Repeat with third brood box, if you use three. Still no queen?? She's probably in the supers then. Check there, and shake the bees into the shaker box. Provided you are using a good excluder, one she can't find a bent wire, she will be in your shaker box.

  Note: One problem with this is bees boiling over. From time to time, a queen will climb up the inside wall of the shaker box, and escape down the outside. This is more likely in hot humid weather. Overuse of smoke will also cause them to boil over or fly. Be careful. A 2-4" strip of duct tape along the inside top edge of the shaker box will help. The bees don't like to cross the tape, and will cluster just below it. Scrape them with your hive tool, and they will fall back onto the excluder. Once you see that the bees are headed down, and are Nassonoving downward into the hive, you have 'em. Note: If they're on the outside of the hive and shaker box, and they're Nassanoving down, many will boil over and the queen(s) may escape. Just work slowly and watch. Don't let them get ahead of you.

        So, that's what I came up with as a simple solution to a major beekeeping problem. EAS Director's Award for Gadget, 1988.

   Proper use of a shaker box will enable even the most rank beginner to find the queen. I think many beginners put off doing important requeening work, because they can't find the queen. Using a shaker box will give them the confidence they need to get the job done.

  Note: Multiple queens. On another thread (Toolbox) George mentioned multiple queens being one reason for requeening/queen introduction failure. Very true, George. How often are there multiple queens in a colony. More, I bet, than most think. Certainly way more if you foster successful supercedure in your honey bee colonies.

   I've actually kept track twice over the years, wondering how often this happens. In 1988 (approximately...all the years are running together) I requeened 100 colonies. Direct introduction. Kill old queen, introduce new queen in introduction type cage. Leave new queen corked in cage for 3 days. Return to hive, and pull cage. From actions of bees on outside of introduction cage, you can tell if queen has or has not been accepted. Where queen has been accepted, the bees will be feeding her, walking lightly on the cage, and not show aggression toward her. If the queen has not been accepted, the bees on the outside of the introduction cage will be gripping on tightly to the screen, and humped over as it to sting the queen. These colonies will almost always have multiple queens. Of the 100 colonies I requeened that year, on that round, 7 had multiple queens. Now that's when I used to requeen everything, regularly.

        Fast forward to 2004. I requeened 50 colonies with some stock I bought in Quebec...as possible breeding stock. These were queens bred for low mite fall, and I wanted to see how they would do. Between 1988 and 2004, my beekeeping management changed considerably. I gave up requeening by the calendar, and learned to look upon successful supercedure as a good thing, and not as a failure of some kind. Of those 50 colonies, I found 17 with multiple queens. That's 30%. Not sure, but my gut tells me that I have been selecting for colonies that supercede successfully.

  So, when requeening a colony, and removing the old queen...do you stop there? Seems it's best not to. You remove the old queen, and replace with marked queen...only to find when you check, an unmarked queen. They did it again.
Whenever I requeen a colony now...if I think there is any possibility of multiple queens, I just shake all the bees through my shaker box and be done with it. The queen(s) will be found.

    
John 3:16

Offline ForrrestB

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Re: Technique for Shaker Box Use
« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2014, 04:21:01 am »
Great post, I am grateful because today I need to find a queen to do an artificial swarm from a huge hive and I was already playing with the idea of an empty box with a excluder on the bottom but I couldn't quite get it straight in my mind - this system is perfect, I will report back later how it went for me. 

Thanks again!

an American in Spain

Offline RHBee

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Re: Technique for Shaker Box Use
« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2014, 12:23:23 pm »
Thanks for the post Steve.
Later,
Ray

Offline RHBee

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Re: Technique for Shaker Box Use
« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2014, 11:36:27 pm »
Tried it out today. I confirmed that a colony was queenless. I had added a frame with four capped QC earlier. Today verified that they had emerged. All bees went into shaker. No queen found. I added a frame of brood/eggs. I'll check friday to see if they draw a QC. The no smoke portion of the procedure makes for a few stings. The tape does a pretty good job of keeping the nurse bees in the box. The field bees get testy.
Later,
Ray

Offline GSF

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Re: Technique for Shaker Box Use
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2014, 06:25:02 am »
Ray, Wouldn't a virgin queen slip through the excluder? (don't know, just asking)
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Offline sc-bee

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Re: Technique for Shaker Box Use
« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2014, 08:03:37 am »
The no smoke portion of the procedure makes for a few stings. The tape does a pretty good job of keeping the nurse bees in the box. The field bees get testy.

I may be wrong but I took the no smoke part as when searching for the queen before shaker use. After I began shaking I actually used a little smoke to assist with the clearing of the shaker box forcing them down through the excluder. However I did wear a jacket and a veil.

I too would think there is the possibility of a virgin getting through.
John 3:16

Offline RHBee

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Re: Technique for Shaker Box Use
« Reply #6 on: May 05, 2014, 03:36:15 pm »
Ray, Wouldn't a virgin queen slip through the excluder? (don't know, just asking)

Gary,  I considered that. That's why I added a frame of eggs/brood. If they draw a cell or two I'll know one way or another.

The no smoke portion of the procedure makes for a few stings. The tape does a pretty good job of keeping the nurse bees in the box. The field bees get testy.

I may be wrong but I took the no smoke part as when searching for the queen before shaker use. After I began shaking I actually used a little smoke to assist with the clearing of the shaker box forcing them down through the excluder. However I did wear a jacket and a veil.

I too would think there is the possibility of a virgin getting through.

Steve, I riled them up pretty good. Had to walk around a bit. They got me through my jeans. :shock: :-D
Later,
Ray