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Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

Testing For Varroa Mites

Testing For Varroa Mites

There are many methods available to test for mites. There is the alcohol roll, the sticky board test and the powdered sugar test. You may find that you prefer one of these over the others. Keep in mind that opinions differ on what is the economical threshold for when you should treat. Again, you'll have to establish your own levels and threshold in what is comfortable for you. 

Of these methods that works well is the powdered sugar test. It is fast, easy and gives a fair evaluate. The alcohol method is more accurate, but I find that most beekeepers shy away from killing hundreds of bees to test for mites. The powdered sugar test doesn't kill bees.

Here's how we do it. Get a quart jar used for canning. Cut a piece of screen the same size as the plate lid on the canning jar. In other words most canning jars have the ring and the seal plate. You will use the screen in place of the plate.

I like to gather up 400 bees, which is 1/2 cup. I shake them off of brood comb on to a bent piece of aluminum shaped like an L. This allows me to pour the shaken bees into my measuring cup. If I have too many I take my hand off the cup and let some fly out. Then I pour the bees into the quart jar which already has powdered sugar in it. I use about three hive tool tip scoops. Then I shake the bees around so they are coated good with the powdered sugar usually about 3 to 4 minutes. Now, take a paper plate and start shaking out the mites through the screen from the jar. You'll see mites fall out. Do this until you really aren't seeing any more mites falling out.

Next, do the math. There are many opinions about how to calculate the results but here is what I do.

I use 400 bees to give me a greater number of bees to test. Now, if I have 10 mites out of 400 bees, it means 10/400= 2.5 percent. But because my powdered sugar shake only revealed the number of phoretic mites, not those beneath the capped cells on pupae, I double it, bringing my percentage to 5 percent.

After doubling my percentage, my threshold is 6% or 3% if I do not double it. If I am over my threshold after practicing my non-chemical approach, then I will consider using formic or oxalic acid.