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VARROA MITES – It’s not “if” you get them, it’s “WHEN” you get them…………………….

The mite is the small red dot on the bee to the left. Don't let size fool you, they are a fact of life, the curse of bees and beekeeps everywhere, naturally occurring both in feral and domestic beehives. Cure your hive and get re-infected by a neighbor’s infected bees. It’s a vicious cycle that takes determination and work to break the cycle.

The good news is that varroa mites are treatable, and with proper hive maintenance, can be reduced to a minor inconvenience. The key words here - proper hive maintenance.


Its ok, so do the neighbors!!……….goes the conversation. Well just how many do you have and to what extent are they affecting your bees? The next step must be to figure out the percentage of infection in the hive. There are several ways to do this, some fatal to the test bees, and some not. We will focus on one of the non-fatal methods of counting mites, the “powdered Sugar Sampling” method.

In theory, it’s quite simple actually. Collect a sample of adult bees (1/2 a cup or approx. 300 bees) from the brood frames. Take a wide mouth quart mason jar with a lid ring and a piece of #8 mesh screen, add 1-2 tablespoons of powdered sugar (icing sugar) and shake vigorously for one minute. Leave the cover on, invert the jar and shake onto a white surface (I use an old pie plate). Finally count the mites, remembering the formula #mites counted /# bees in the sample = # mites per bee (approximately). Treat according to count. That’s the theory anyways. :)

When to Treat:

Spring Shake = 2 to 3 mites? You should put an integrated pest management program into effect

Fall Shake = 10 to 12 mites? You should perform chemical treatment (miteaway strips, oxalic acid, etc)


  • Make sure the Queen is not on the frame you shake. It will not turn out well if she is

  • Use more than 1 frame for a better sample

  • Shake into a 5 gallon bucket or pail

  • Perform this in the spring (April ish to mid June) and late summer / early fall (late Aug / early Sep)

  • I treat with Mite away strips regardless of the fall count as a preventative measure to strengthen the hive for winter.

  • Did I mention make sure the queen is not on a frame you have selected for shaking?

REMEMBER: VARROA MITES – It’s not “if” you get them, it’s “WHEN” you get Them …. Be prepared.