State of the Bees: Sugar Roll

This is yet another beekeeping update, and very belated. The events in this post were from 05/21/2017.

After the last bee update, I knew there were mites present in at least one of my hives and I needed to do a mite check. The method I employed to do said mite check, was via a sugar roll, suggested by theProspetOfBees who commented on my last blog post (thanks!).

With nice warm weather scheduled for that weekend, I set about getting my necessary materials together:

  • A wide-mouthed canning jar and two piece lid
  • #8 (1/8th inch) hardware cloth
  • Powdered sugar
  • Measuring cup
  • White tub

The canning jar, lid, powdered sugar, measuring cup, and white tub (I used a small bucket) were all pre-owned. Well, technically I got a new bag of powdered sugar just for the bees, but that wasn’t hard.

I went to the local hardware store for the hardware cloth (after calling and confirming they had the right size), and the employee who helped me was a former beekeeper! He also might’ve been the guy who recommended the sheet metal guy I got the hive roofs made. Basically I wish he could help me every time I go there, CAUSE HE IS GREAT.

After getting that (which I think was around a buck since I got so little), I took it home, traced out the size needed with the lid and a sharpie, then used my hardware cloth cutters and VOILA. READY.


A little friend ready to watch the action.

A friend came over and we popped open the hives, and began the…interesting task of scooping up 1/3 cup of bees. People use different size measuring cups, theoretically 1/4 cup = 200 bees. And ideally you don’t want more than 1% varroa mites. (At least, this is my current interpretation.) The first one measuring cup was definitely not full, but I think I got at LEAST 100 bees. Then comes the fun process putting ~ 1-2 tablespoons of powdered sugar in the jar and shaking them up for a minute. Obviously, they aren’t too happy about this, and I felt bad, but it was VERY IMPORTANT. Ideally you cover the opening while shaking so no mites accidentally fall out and corrupt your count but I either didn’t see this in any of the instructions or they weren’t in any of the instructions I read. After that you let sit for 2-3 minutes, then you tip it upside down in your white container and shake all the sugar out. The idea is that the powdered sugar makes the varroa mites fall off the bees, and then you shake out all the sugar and loose mites.


Supply table. Yep, those are sugared bees in that jar!

The first hive had ~ 1-2 mites which obviously isn’t great, but I wasn’t too concerned. I noticed that the hive was still maintaining their varroa graveyard at the end of the hive, so they’re being very hygienic. There were several dead ones there. I’m both concerned and pleased. After all the abuse, I dumped the bees back into the hive to get cleaned off. Unfortunately some didn’t make it as the shaking was too vigorous.


Dumped sugar bees.

The second hive appeared to have zero or possibly one mite after their shake, and I got more bees for that one. YAY! They too had some in a “graveyard” area at the end of the hive. The moisture was still slightly present, and I can only assume it is caused by them evaporating nectar and from their body condensation. At this point they have three entrances open and I think the airflow is helping a lot.

We didn’t do too terribly much during this hive inspection since it took me a while to do the sugar roll, but we saw some uncapped larva brood which was fun. They still hadn’t built out much more lengthwise, but the combs towards the front were now VERY large, built out larger than the one below.


Looking at a couple combs!

About a week(?) later we got some REALLY warm temps that were sustained for several weeks, so at that point Devin and I gave them all but 2-3 bars at the end where they could continue to have a little varroa graveyard separate from the hive.

I went ahead and have left them alone so they don’t constantly have to repair the damage of me tearing into their hive, though I will probably do an inspection in a week or two and another sugar roll. From all outward appearances they seem to be THRIVING, with new records of “most bees I’ve seen doing orienting flights” every couple days.



4 thoughts on “State of the Bees: Sugar Roll

  1. Fascinating… (can’t do the Spock eyebrow thing). I’m picturing those white bees in the photo back in the hive thinking, “What just happened?”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Congratulations on your first sugar roll.

    And thanks for the mention.

    Looking at the instructions in that kit we recommended we find to our surprise that it does say “shake/roll the jar until all bees are coated”. We do not know anyone who shakes to coat. We tilt the jar as far from vertical as we can without spilling sugar out the lid and rotate it about its symmetry axis so the bees are tumbled rather than shaken. Then there is no need to worry about losing mites out the top.

    And while we are giving advice, we stay out of the hives when temperatures are in mid-to-high eighties Fahrenheit or above. We had a new wax comb full of brood drop right off the bar when we gently touched one edge on a hot summer day.

    Liked by 1 person

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