A “Powdered Sugar Shake” is another method of counting Varroa mites that beekeepers can use, it’s more intrusive than a drop count with a kiwimana meshboard. But it gives you an instant indicative count of the mites in your hive. Here is a step by step guide on “How to do a Powdered sugar shake”.
Icing sugar is the same as Powdered Sugar in some other countries, its ground down sugar granules. That you can either make yourself in a coffee grinder or buy in packets.
When the bees are coated with the icing sugar the varroa mites can’t hang on and are dislodged from the bee.
This method would be handy for commercial beekeepers that don’t have the time to return to the apiary after three days to check on the drop counts. Or for people that have remote hives away from home. You can do a Powdered Sugar Shake during your normal bee inspection.
How do a sugar shake and count mites in your hives
What you need
- A 500 ml preserving jar “Sugar Shake Jar” (The ones with the metal ring tip)
- A Table Spoon of Powdered Sugar/Icing Sugar
- Something to collect the bees
- White Plate with water
The centre ring of the preserving jar is replaced with mesh that bees can not fall through, but varroa mites can.
NB: 1/2 cup is a three hundred bee sample
- Fill the Sugar Shake Jar to 1/3 full, this is about 300 Bees. Collect Bees from at least three Brood frames, be sure not to collect the Queen by mistake.
- Gently roll the bees for 3–5 minutes to ensure all bees are coated in the icing sugar. Leave the bees for one minute in a shaded location.
- Shake Sugar and mites out of Sugar Shake Jar for around one minute, onto a white surface or plate. If the plate has water in it, it makes it much easier to see the mites.
- Return bees to hive. They will groom themselves and will be fine.
Count mites that have fallen out of jar.
Reading the Results – Thresholds
According to the great book by Mark Goodwin and Michelle Taylor “Control of Varroa – A Guide for New Zealand Beekeepers”, Section 10.3 “Economic Thresholds”
The threshold in New Zealand is 40 mites per three hundred bees, the book also states that this threshold may need to adjusted when Deformed Wing Virus is more widespread in New Zealand.
We read Randy Oliver’s great article from 2006 “Reconnaissance Mite sampling methods and thresholds” and he recommends:-
As a general goal, try to keep the mite level below a 1% infestation of adult bees at any time
This translates to:-
|Ether roll or Powdered Sugar Shake of 300 bees||about 3 mites|
|24-hr natural sticky fall||about 10 mites|
|10-min sugar dust drop||about 5-10 mites|
Sugar Shake Jars
We are going to sell these Sugar Shake Jars already made up, there are a good quality preserving jar with a stainless steel mesh at the top. Here is the product page:-
Here is a gallery of the process:-