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Sugar Roll to Detect Varroa


Ohio Department of Agriculture
Division of Plant Industry – Apiculture
8995 East Main Street
Reynoldsburg, Ohio 43068-3399

The sugar roll is a procedure to detect Varroa mites within honey bee colonies.

Equipment: Wide mouth canning jar (pint or quart) with two piece lid
#8 mesh hardware cloth
powdered sugar
window screen or any fine mesh screen that will let powdered sugar to pass though but not Varroa
Procedure: Retain the metal ring that comes with the two-piece lid.  Cut a circle out of the #8 mesh hardware cloth to fit inside the ring.  The hardware cloth may be secured to the metal ring lid so that the ring and hardware cloth become one piece.

Collect about 200-300 bees within the jar by scooping them off the frames.  Once collected, quickly replace the screen lid.  Though the hardwarecloth add between 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar.  The amount of sugar will vary depending on the number of bees collected.  Roll the bees and sugar within the jar until they appear to be coated (about 1 minute) and let stand for a short time.

The window screen should be placed on a solid surface protected from any wind.  Invert the jar and shake to recover the mites.  If mites are present the mites will fall though the jar’s #8 mesh hardware cloth onto the window screen.  Any extra powdered sugar will fall though the window screen.  However, the mites will not and can be counted on top of the window screen or dump them onto a clean sheet of paper to count

  1. It is an efficient procedure with about 70-90% mite recovery as compared to about 50% with an ether roll.
  2. Bees are not killed with very few being damaged, if any.
  3. Sugar coating induces bees to groom themselves.
  4. Sugar coating induces mites to release from adult bees
  5. Bees can be returned to the original colony.



Adapting this detection method to your own field conditions may necessitate that you change the amount of powdered sugar added, the time length the bees are rolled and where the bees will be shaken.


Prepared by: Gordon Rudloff
State Apiarist
Ohio Department of Agriculture
Dr. Marion D. Ellis, Extention, University of Nebraska, presented this detection method to the AIA on 1/20/2000