Varroa Prescription: Powdered Sugar

29 Apr

So you’ve spotted creepy red dots on your bees. Even worse, they move!

Nasty little varroa parasite on my bee

Nasty little varroa parasite on my bee

Yep, that’s varroa, or the parasitic mite more officially and ominously called varroa destructor.

We found the lil nasties in our Kerry hive this spring and have been treating the besieged girls with powdered sugar for the past 3 weeks. It’s not as simple as slapping on a strip of Apistan, but it’s a more gentle approach of the kind advocated by practitioners of Integrated Pest Management

Honey bee coated in powdered sugar

Honey bee coated in powdered sugar

Here’s how it works…

Overview of Powdered Sugar Treatment for Varroa Mites

  1. Take a baseline count of varroa in your hive. Use the sticky board method to count the # of varroa (either total or average per square inch) that fall over a 24 hour period.
  2. Gather your equipment for powdering. After experimenting with plastic jugs covered in nylon, I like using a flour sifter best.
  3. On a clear sunny day, clean the bottom board and coat in Vaseline (or use a new sticky board).
  4. Then, one by one, remove and powder each bar of bees. Yep, every single one.
  5. After 24 hours, remove and clean the bottom board, noting with glee how goddamn many varroa were successfully cleaned off by the girls.
  6. Repeat once a week for three weeks. This repetition is critical as it addresses the varroa lifecycle.
  7. After three weeks, take another powder-free count of varroa using the sticky board method.
  8. Your new count will be significantly lower than the baseline. If not, consider more agressive chemical  treatment like Apistan.

More Resources on Treating Varroa

Counting varroa on your sticky board

Counting varroa on your sticky board


4 Responses to “Varroa Prescription: Powdered Sugar”

  1. Beegirl May 1, 2009 at 8:23 am #

    Fantastic shot here!

    • Anna May 20, 2009 at 7:54 am #

      just regular powdered sugar from the store works?

      • mistress beek May 20, 2009 at 7:58 am #

        Yep! I buy organic powdered sugar, but don’t think there’s any need to do so.

  2. steve syvanych May 1, 2012 at 8:20 pm #

    hmm…the IBRA people say no significant difference was found in their studies…just use apistan?

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