Ether Roll Technique: Unveiling Varroa Mites in Australian Beehives

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In the ever-evolving landscape of beekeeping, monitoring techniques play a crucial role in identifying and addressing threats to hive health. This blog delves into the Ether Roll technique, a monitoring method that provides a clear yes or no answer regarding the presence of Varroa mites in beehives. While the technique may lack precision in quantifying mite numbers, its simplicity and accessibility offer valuable insights for Australian beekeepers facing the Varroa challenge.

Understanding the Ether Roll:

The Ether Roll method involves using engine starter fluid containing ether to determine the presence of Varroa mites in a beehive. While not as exact as other monitoring techniques, it offers a quick and straightforward answer, making it a useful tool for beekeepers seeking a preliminary assessment of their hive's Varroa status.

Implementing the Ether Roll Technique:

To conduct an Ether Roll, beekeepers need only a jar with a makeshift mesh lid and engine starter fluid. Approximately half a cup of bees is collected from frames with capped broods. It's essential to ensure the queen is not among these bees, as the Ether Roll results in the death of the sampled bees. The fluid is sprayed into the jar, coating the bees, and the jar is then rolled to dislodge any Varroa mites.

Safety Precautions:

Given the flammable nature of ether, it is crucial to perform the Ether Roll in an outdoor environment, away from people, pets, and potential ignition sources. Safety measures, including closing up the hive and removing the smoker, are emphasized to minimize risks associated with the procedure.

Interpreting Results:

The Ether Roll provides a binary outcome – either a positive confirmation of Varroa presence or a negative indication. While it doesn't quantify mite numbers, it serves as an effective initial step in determining the need for further intervention.

Lessons for Australian Beekeepers:

  • Quick Assessment: 

  • The Ether Roll offers Australian beekeepers a rapid and accessible means of gauging Varroa infestation within their hives, enabling timely responses.
  • Yes or No Clarity: 

  • In regions like Australia where Varroa is an emerging threat, the Ether Roll's simplicity can be advantageous for beekeepers seeking a straightforward answer to the Varroa question.
  • Supplemental Monitoring: 

  • While the Ether Roll is a valuable tool, it can be complemented by more precise monitoring techniques, such as the alcohol wash or sugar shake, for a comprehensive understanding of Varroa levels.


As Varroa mites continue to pose challenges for beekeepers in Australia, the Ether Roll emerges as a valuable monitoring technique. Its simplicity, coupled with a quick yes or no response, equips beekeepers with essential information to address Varroa threats effectively. Embracing a multi-faceted approach to monitoring ensures a comprehensive understanding of hive health, supporting the resilience of Australian beekeeping in the face of evolving challenges.