- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Varroa mites, those blood-sucking little parasites that are major pests of honey bee colonies, can decimate and destroy a colony if left unchecked.
One way that beekeepers monitor their hives for mite infestation is "the sugar shake."
Basically, this involves a quart canning jar equipped with a mesh screen and a lid; and powdered sugar. Beekeepers brush bees from brood comb into a plastic tub or container--being careful, of course, not to brush the queen bee in there, too. They scoop a half of a cup of bees into the jar, add a couple tablespoons of powdered sugar, and then it's time to do "the sugar shake."
They shake the jar vigorously, invert it, and the mites come tumbling out through the mesh screen.
The result: sugar-coated bees and suffocated mites. And all's right with the world. Or "white" with the world.
Beekeepers then count the mites to determine the level of mite infestation and the kind of treatment, if any, that's needed.
Meanwhile, the bees return to their hive where their sisters quickly groom them ("Hey, what happened to you?").
The powdered sugar is harmless. A few minutes later, routine hive activity resumes as if The Great White Shake never happened.
For a brief moment in time, however, the test bees are the insect equivalent of Snow White.
Or the food equivalent of powdered sugar doughnuts or Mexican wedding cookies.