Mistake #143 and Varroa sugar rolls

During Saturday’s volunteer session, I saw a lot of deformed wing virus (DWV) in the observation hive. I had been planning to perform varroa sugar rolls to assess for mite infestation. Though I haven’t seen any DWV on my bees or any mites (another reason to take pictures during an inspection, you can pour over the pictures and see if you missed anything during the inspection). Seeing all those bees with those sad shriveled wings made me plan to do a varroa sugar roll Sunday, come hell or high water.

To do a varroa sugar roll, I followed these instructions. The result of this will give you a guideline for treatment, if you have 5 mites from the sugar roll then you should treat. I decided that if one hive had 5 mites, I would treat both simply because there is bound to be some drift of the bees from hive to hive.

The varroa sugar roll is not a treatment, it is a quick test/sample of your bees to help you decide whether you need to treat or not. I need to treat…sigh. See below.


Mites! Those little brown spots are Varroa mites. Three in Melissa and 5 in Demeter.
Wide mouth quart jar with a screen top. Shake some powdered sugar in there and shake the bees a bit. Listen for that uptick in humming! Happy bees...NOT. They sit for a minute or so and then you shake them some more over a white surface. Hear a louder hum! THEN you get to dump them out. 🙂

We did it just as the instructions said. I thought we needed to use a brood frame so we did but I don’t think we needed to. We used flashing curved into a C-shape as a funnel.

Funnel using flashing.

Steven shook them onto the flashing, I funneled them into the jar, got that lid on and sifted the sugar in. I read somewhere that 100 bees is the equivalent of 2 fingers-width for a quart jar (all the other values I saw were using weight which didn’t seem practical in the field). Then you shake them about a bit to spread the sugar around. Anyway, I got some Mite-Away Quick Strips from Jim Fraser in Damascus and I’ll be applying them next week.

Why is Varroa a big deal? Bees have an exoskeleton that protects them from many pests and viruses that constantly surround them. But when the Varroa mite is around, it bites the bee and gives an access point for these viruses that normally do not affect the bees to any great degree. In addition, the mite actually feeds on the bees. This is what you will see:


Then on the adult:


This is Deformed Wing Virus (only one among several viruses that can affect bees):


So what was my mistake?? Beekeepers should get this one. When we were done with Demeter, I didn’t want to dump the sugar covered bees and remaining sugar into the top super that had beetle traps, because the sugar would get in the traps and clog them up. So I dumped the bees in front of the hive. We shook bees from the brood frame…those were nurse bees. They’ve never left the hive. After they had cleaned themselves up a bit they were still outside and it was going to be dark soon. After about 30 minutes, it hit me. They had no idea where to go! I went out there with a dust pan and brushed as many as I could into the pan and dumped them into the hive. I felt so bad because I couldn’t get them all 😦


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