Sugar Shake for Varroa Check

Varroa mite (Varroa destructor and Varroa jacobsoni) is a serious, exotic parasite of adult European honey bees and their brood.

This simple sugar shake detection method is now used by many beekeepers throughout Australia.

The collection of bees from hives, as described below, may agitate hive bees, including guard bees. People inexperienced in handling bees should first read Safe beekeeping practices.


  1. Half fill the bucket with clean water.
  2. Place a heaped tablespoon of icing sugar into the jar after removing.
  3. Light a smoker and open a hive to be tested.
  4. Shake some bees from 3 combs containing honey bee brood onto a double thickness of newspaper or upturned hive lid placed on the ground. If brood is not present, shake bees from 1 comb taken from the centre of the cluster of bees. If you find the queen on these combs, place her back into the hive.
  5. Scoop or pour about 300 bees (half a cup) into the jar. Place the lid on the jar to prevent bees from escaping.
  6. Gently rotate the jar for 2 minutes ensuring all bees are dusted with sugar. Wait 2 to 3 minutes, and rotate the jar a second time for 2 minutes. Be careful not to lose any sugar. (You can reassemble your hive during this waiting period).
  7. Gently shake the icing sugar (and any mites) through the holes in the lid into the bucket half filled with water. The sugar will dissolve and any mites will float on the surface of the water. Do the shaking in a sheltered position protected from strong wind that could blow mites away.
  8. Release the bees from the jar onto the ground close to the hive entrance in case the queen is present.


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