Varroa mites are an external parasite that can kill honey bees. It is one of the contributing factors in colony collapse disorder, as well as spreading viruses such as the deformed wing virus.
We use small cell bees as a method of controlling mite population as well as using a screened bottom board in out hives to allow mites to fall down and be removed from the hive.
However, we still need to check for mites in the fall before we close the hives for the winter, and there is a very simple method in using powdered sugar to control varoa mites
Method of Varoa Mite Control Using Powdered Sugar
- Screened bottom board and chloroplast cover sheet
- Oil or shortening
- Flour sifter or mason jar with holes in lid
- Spread oil or shortening on chloroplast sheet, this will cause the mites that fall off the bees to stick to the board so that they can be counted. Insert this oiled sheet of plastic into the screened bottom board – most have slots or runners already attached for this purpose. My supplier includes the chloroplast board with the bottom board as part of a set.
- Next you need cause the bees to groom the mites off of themselves, as well as reduce the mite’s ability to stick to the bees. Powdered sugar does the trick as it is safe for the honeybees, stimulates grooming, and is a small additional food source. I used a helper to keep the flour sifter full of powdered sugar, as the bees got a little agitated as I sifted them with flour. But basically you open the hive and cover each box with powdered sugar.
- I check the board after three days to count the mites. If you do this in the fall and count 50-60 mites on your board you need to treat for mites using whatever method you are comfortable with. In the spring, the numbers are lower, as the mites will reproduce quicker because they prefer to reproduce in drone cells. In the spring treat for mites if you count 10 on the oiled board.
- Repeat as necessary, but not more than once every 10 days.
This is a meld of the two main ways to count mites, some insert the oiled board and do not add sugar. Others use the sugar in a mason jar and shake bees into the jar and then count how many bees have fallen off into the jar (I have attached this procedure as a pdf). My way is not standard, but it not only allows me to check for mites, but do a basic treatment at the same time.
The difficulty with treating bees with powdered sugar is that most store bought powdered confectioner’s sugar contains starch. Bees cannot process the starch and it leads to deadly constipation.
Now you can see how easy it is to powder your own sugar. Which is useful for the kitchen as well as for beekeepers.
I will warn you that powdering materials is very hard on your blender, and for marital bliss you should consider a thrift store blender with a mason jar attachment.
Simply pulse ½ cup of sugar at a time until it is very finely powdered.
Making powdered sugar in a blender is not hard, but it is hard on the blender – go slow and don’t try to make pounds at a time. You may even consider getting a used blender from a yard sale or goodwill.
While this post uses the powdered sugar in the beehive, you can use it for any purpose – confectionery, pyrotechnic, or for bees.
One day I may have to do a video on using powdered sugar to make a “cremora” charge like the Hollywood special effects guys use to get fireballs.