So! We have covered the infestation of varroa mites in this earlier post. After 7-10 days of treatment, we needed to see if we had overcome the little parasites by doing a mite count. This is done by conducting a “sugar roll”. It’s a little like a baking class. First you take out a frame of bees. Shake them into a bucket. With a 1/2 cup measure, quickly scoop the bees until level (about 300 bees). Gently dump them into a ball jar with several tablespoons of confectioners sugar, cap the jar with a screen on top and begin to roll them back and forth until they are sufficiently covered in sugar. Let them sit while you reassemble the hive.
Now! Gently shake the jar, upside down, into a white pan with water in it. The sugar will dissolve, leaving only the mites visible. The bees will be adequately alarmed and once all the sugar is out, can magically be returned to their hive to tell their sisters of their incredible experience! They will have help cleaning off all the powdered sugar and will be back to gathering pollen and nectar in no time!
Why this works: Some super smart human discovered that the grain size of powdered sugar is just small enough, that when a bee is covered in it, the varroa mite can’t get a grip on them and fall off. Since sugar is not foreign to the hive (albeit, this is highly refined sugar) it does not harm the hive in any way other than the surprising experience for the bees captured and rolled.
For each hive we saw 2 mites. That is a great count (none would have been better of course!). Check out the photos. The lighting was lovely that day for me and my little beekeepers!