A Powdered Sugar Roll

I was reminded that it was about time I checked my bees for Varroa mites. I haven’t yet seen signs of problems, but before winter, I will need to decide whether the bees need to be treated in some way for mites. There are a few ways to check for mites. One is to count the number of mites being dropped from the hive by placing a greased bottom board in and then counting the mites on it after a day or two. Since its still hot here, I don’t really want to close off the screened bottoms of the hives. I decided to do a powdered sugar roll. The idea is simple. You catch some bees in a jar, add powdered sugar, and roll the bees around in it. The powdered sugar dislodges the mites and you pour out the sugar (and mites) through a screen in the lid. You count the mites and return the sugar coated bees to the hive.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I think I may have needed to catch more bees. I just scooped up some and that turned out to be ~20 for each hive. The instructions suggest 100-300 bees. Call this a run through…

I used a mason jar and cut out a circle of #8 hardware cloth to fit (leftover from the hive bottoms).

Of my ~20 bees per hive, I couldn’t find any varroa.  I think thats a good sign, but I can’t guarantee I did it right.  I think I will try again a bit later in the fall and try to use more bees.  I might also see if I can see someone experience do it before then.  That way I know I am doing it well enough.

It was interesting watching the bees when I returned them.  They didn’t seem to have any trouble being  accepted by their sisters.  The bees immediately started grooming them (you could see their little tongues).  The other thing I though was funny was that a number of the returned bees immediately started fanning (butts up in the air, wings beating hard).  They normally do this to call other bees home (like saying “follow my scent, home is this way”).  I guess if a bee get lost/disoriented it assumes there were others with the same problem and wants to help them out?

Now for two off topic, gratuitous pictures.

I found this guy on an empty hive (owned by the landowner where I keep my hives).  He/she was just hanging out and stood still for the photo.

I mentioned that we are in a drought here.  To get to my hives, I drive past University Lake (just outside Chapel Hill, NC).  Here is a shot I took while driving by on my way home.   The west end of the lake looks more like a pasture.  I hope we get rain soon.

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