Icing Sugar Shake: An Easy and Effective Varroa Monitoring Technique for Beekeepers

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In the intricate world of beekeeping, ensuring the health of your hive is paramount. Varroa mites pose a significant threat to bee colonies, making monitoring essential for early detection and intervention. In this blog, we explore the Icing Sugar Shake technique, a non-invasive and straightforward method to check varroa numbers in your hive. Using everyday items from your kitchen cupboard, this method provides beekeepers with a quick and practical way to safeguard their colonies.

Materials Needed:

  • Icing Sugar
  • Measuring Cup (half a cup)
  • Jar with Mesh Lid
  • White Tray


  • Preparation: Gather a half-cup scoop, a jar with a mesh lid, icing sugar, and a white tray.
  • Bee Collection: Open the hive and carefully collect about 300 bees from frames with capped brood. Be cautious to avoid the queen during this process.
  • Shaking Bees: Shake the bees into the jar lid or another tray to facilitate the collection process.
  • Choosing Brood Frames: Select frames with capped brood, ensuring the queen is not present. These frames provide the most accurate representation of Varroa levels.
  • Shaking Bees for Icing Sugar Shake: Shake the bees into the white tray from frames with capped brood. Double-check to confirm the absence of the queen.
  • Applying Icing Sugar: Measure half a cup of icing sugar into the jar lid with the shaken bees. Roll the jar to ensure the bees are covered with sugar.
  • Shaking Off Varroa: Shake the jar, causing the sugar-coated bees to drop into the white tray. The icing sugar disrupts the grip of Varroa mites on the bees.
  • Examining Results: Observe the white tray for any varroa mites that have fallen off the bees. Varroa mites will appear as little brown specks among the sugar.
  • Interpreting Results: If the number of varroa mites is significant, it indicates a potential infestation, prompting the need for further action.
  • Returning Bees to Hive: Once the examination is complete, gently return the bees to the hive. This process provides a non-invasive check for Varroa mites while offering the bees a feeding of icing sugar.

Benefits of Icing Sugar Shake:

  • Non-Invasive: The Icing Sugar Shake is a gentle monitoring technique that minimizes disturbance to the hive.
  • Quick and Easy: Utilizing common kitchen items, beekeepers can swiftly perform this check right at the hive.
  • Visual Confirmation: The white tray provides a clear background, making it easier to spot varroa mites among the sugar-coated bees.
  • Early Detection: Regular monitoring with the Icing Sugar Shake allows beekeepers to detect varroa issues early, enabling timely intervention.


As beekeepers, it is our responsibility to protect our colonies from the threats posed by Varroa mites. The Icing Sugar Shake technique emerges as a valuable tool in this endeavor, offering simplicity, accessibility, and effectiveness. By incorporating this non-invasive method into your hive management routine, you empower yourself to make informed decisions and safeguard the well-being of your bee colonies. Remember, early detection is key, and the Icing Sugar Shake provides a practical means to keep your hives thriving.