Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Sugar shake and mite drop

I decided now that it was getting colder, I would do a sugar shake and a mite drop count. You take powdered sugar and sift it over all of the bees in the hive. Taking care to brush it down between the frames. As the sugar gets on the bees, they start cleaning themselves. The powdered sugar gets on the varroa mite feet and they cannot hang on while the bee cleans. The mite then falls through a screen on the bottom of the hive. You slide a board in on the bottom coated in either cooking spray or crisco. The mites stick to it and you can count them.

Needless to say, the bees were NOT happy to have the 10x powdered sugar thrown on them. Even my calmest hives became mad.

After 24 hour I came back and pulled the boards. I counted the number of mites on each board.

There is a lot of junk you have to sift through to find the mites, but the grid system makes it easier. Below you can see a mite that I have circled.
Here are the totals and breed of queen for each of the 5 hives I shook:

Glenn Carni: 3
Kona Italian: 10
Tate breeder Carni: 6
Kona 2nd Gen Italian: 7
Kona Italian: 85

I have several options for the Kona that got 85 mites. I can treat with chemicals (don't want to do that as I am staying as natural as possible), do another sugar shake in a few days and then another a few days later (probably do this), or do nothing and let them either die off or deal with it. I would have to say that 1 out of five failing the drop test is not bad.

I think I know why the mite levels are so high in that hive. I have some old drone comb in the hive and the hive still has drones, and the queen is still making drones in it. Varroa LOVE drone pupae. None of the other hives have either drones or drone comb.


  1. I'll have to seek you out for advice on the sugar shake test next year. I didn't do it this year and didn't treat either. My babies may not be in a good shape next year. I thought I could do it in October but learned natural treatments couldn't be done then because of the cold temps :( I'm bummed.

  2. It is never too late to sugar shake. At the very least you give your bees some sugar, and you reduce the mite load naturally.