Whole apiary shook swarm trial

January 2021 - Whole apiary shook swarm EFB trial

Bee Diseases Insurance Ltd (BDI) and the National Bee Unit (NBU) launch a two-year trial this season (2021) to encourage the use of whole apiary shook swarm as a means of reducing the reoccurrence of European Foulbrood (EFB).

The trial was originally due to start last year but was postponed because of the pandemic.

EFB is a statutory notifiable disease of honey bees and beekeepers are legally obligated to report any suspected diseased colonies to the NBU under the Bee Diseases and Pests Control Order 2006 (as amended).

Infected colonies are normally destroyed or shook swarmed when a local bee inspector confirms EFB. Equipment and honey destroyed following this inspection can be subject to compensation provided by BDI.

A review of BDI and NBU records shows that EFB frequently reoccurs within an infected apiary. In an attempt to break the cycle, the two organisations are working together to encourage the use of shook swarming of non-infected colonies.

BDI is offering greater cover for the duration of the trial period – 2021-22:

  • Additional compensation for beekeepers who shook swarm the non-infected colonies in their infected apiary. The compensation will be on the same basis as for infected colonies.

  • Similar compensation if the beekeeper is willing to accept the destruction of combs in empty equipment located within the same apiary.

The new initiative will also apply to apiaries shared by up to three beekeepers if they are all fully insured and agree to participate. Beekeepers who chose to shook swarm all their non-infected colonies within an infected apiary will be compensated under the terms of the current scheme.

Apiaries with more than three beekeepers are not covered by this pilot because of the bee inspector’s logistical difficulties in contacting all owners within the time they have available.


  • There is no change in cover and compensation rates provided for infected colonies.

  • The full cost of the pilot scheme will be funded from BDI reserves and will not result in any increase in subscription rates during the period of the trial.

  • The normal claim reduction formula will apply (BDI calculation).

  • This is an offer only. The beekeeper does not have to accept and claim for shook swarming of non-infected colonies.

  • Colonies too small to shook swarm at the time of inspection will be covered if the beekeeper undertakes to shook swarm the colony when it is strong enough and destroys the original combs.

  • BDI reserves the right to withdraw the whole apiary shook swarm offer at any time.

The NBU and BDI will analyse the results in general and the re-occurrence rates in particular at the end of the study. These will be used to assist in the guidance issued for dealing with EFB in future.

For more information about how the Whole Apiary Shook Swarm pilot, click here.

Photo credit: Crown copyright