Varroa Mite Sugar Shaker Test Kit
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Sugar shaking bees is a method used to detect external parasites, such as Varroa Mites*, Braula Fly** and Tropilaelap Mites** on European Honey Bees (Apis mellifera).
It is a quick and easy field method that does not kill the bees.
The Varroa mite have sticky pads that help them hold onto the bees. It is believed that the fine sugar particles used in the sugar shake technique break down that bond. The sugar covering of the bees stimulates grooming behaviour, further helping the mites to dislodge.
Sugar shaking is not the preferred method to detect varroa mite in a hive as it can fail to detect low infestations in the hive so regular monitoring is recommended if using this method.
When testing, weaker colonies are ideal as they may have been weakened by the varroa mite.
Ideally, remove a frame that contains nurse bees, shake a sample onto a sheet and tip around 1/2 cup of bees into the container. Add one tablespoon of icing sugar. Place the lid on and gently roll the bees in the sugar by rolling the jar for 2 minutes.
Shake the sugar contents (through the gauze) into a bucket of water. Inspect the water for varroa mites and other pests.
Inspection of the liquid can then occur to identify Varroa Mite. You are looking for a smooth edged, oval, reddish brown item approximately 1-2mm big that sinks quickly to the bottom of the liquid. If the liquid is gently swirled which is advised, the mite will appear heavier than other particulates in the fluid such as pollen grains, stingers, dirt and propolis.
On closer inspection with a magnifying glass, the oval shape will show small legs. Any suspected mites detected should be placed in a sealable jar with alcohol or methylated spirits and delivered to your local authority responsible for testing such matter for confirmation.
Native Australian bees are not affected by varroa mites and as such did not need to be tested.
*Current incursion (June 2022) occurring
** No known cases of these pests on the Australian continent.