Sugar Shake

Here are some descriptions of how to perform a sugar shake Varroa sample on your hive:

The following was summarized from the BetterBee page.


  • Dry powdered sugar
  • Sampling jar with a screened lid. A parmesan cheese shaker or dredge works well (example).
  • Half-cup measuring scoop
  • Large plastic tub -- a big cat litter box or a plastic dishwashing tub works well.
  • Paper or white plastic plate.
  • Water spritzer
  • Timer

How To

1. Select a frame

  • The bees most likely to have mites are nurse bees caring for open brood. Select a frame that is the first one just outside of the brood area.
  • Look it over carefully to ensure the queen is not on it!!

2. Prep the sampling jar

  • Take the cover off the sample jar and set it aside.
  • Scoop a heaping hive-tool tip quantity of powdered sugar into the jar.

Dumping bees directly into the marked jar

3. Get the bees

  • Set the plastic tub on the ground near the hive. Select a brood frame, hold it firmly and give it a sharp downward shake directly over the tub. This will dislodge the bees and drop them, unharmed, into the tub. The nurse bees, unlike the foragers and drones, will stay in the tub for a short period. As soon as the bees are off the frame, put it back into the hive to keep the brood warm and safe.

frame drop/shake

  • Consolidate the bees in the plastic tub by giving one corner a sharp thump on the ground. This will drop all the bees down into that corner of the box. Don't worry if some bees fly off... we want the nurse bees, and they will tend to remain in the tub.
  • Use the half-cup measuring cup to scoop up a full measure of bees, and quickly dump them into the shaker container.


Dumping bees directly into the marked jar

  • Put the cover on.

4. Get the mite count

  • Roll the jar briskly but smoothly around in your hands, using both hands to keep it moving, forĀ 2 minutes. Keep the jar at an angle off of straight upright in order to increase the exposure of the bees to sugar.

Hive-tip quantity

  • Once the rolling step is done, set the jar aside to rest in a shady place forĀ 2 minutes. Don't overheat the bees in the sun.
  • Clean off the plate if necessary.
  • After the 2 minute rest, invert the jar over the plastic tub and shake it vigorously for 2 minutes to get all the powdered sugar, and any mites, through the screen and out of the jar.

Hive-tip quantity

  • Open the jar and dump the bees back in the center of the hive on top of the frames. The other bees will clean them and remove the sugar. Yum.
  • Take your time counting the mites. Close up the hive.
  • Spritz water on the powdered sugar and mites until all the sugar is dissolved and the liquid is clear.
  • Count all the mites. Use a magnifying glass if necessary.
  • Log the results.

Timing Sequence for Sugar Roll

2 min. rolling > 2 min. resting > 2 min. shaking

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