May 12

Lesson 25 – Controlling Varroa Mites Without Medication

The Powdered Sugar Drop

Some of you are very much into natural beekeeping, so it is only fair that I post natural methods to help you with your hive.  I have made the decision to use vaporized oxalic acid to treat my hives in late fall.  It is at least 90% effective and has no detrimental effects on our beloved bees at all.  This being said, powdered sugar does not get rid of every single mite, but it greatly reduces mites in a colony if treated properly. Along with green plastic brood comb and screen bottom boards, powdered sugar treatments can significantly reduce your mite load.  You will want to get rid of as many mites possible once we are into late summer. DO NOT carry a mite infestation into winter. Many mites carry viruses and can kill your hives during the cold winter months. But, if you can reduce your mites then the winter generation of bees will emerge without being bitten by a mite.

How do you conduct the powdered sugar drop?
IN A NUT SHELL: Pour one cup of powdered sugar onto the top of the frames in one deep hive body for a minimum of 3 consecutive weeks on the same day each week. A six week treatment is even more effective. The powdered sugar falls between the frames, coats the bees and causes the mites to lose their suction cup grip on the bees and then falls through the screen bottom board, or off of the bee on their next flight. I strongly recommend a six week application so you can be sure to break the mite’s brood cycle.

If you treat only once, but the bulk of your mites are within the capped brood, then that treatment will only help with the mites that are out and on the bees or comb. But as soon as the other bees emerge, the mites spread again. That’s why a six week application is so effective.

A MORE DETAILED EXPLANATION First, purchase some powdered sugar. There is a debate on whether the corn starch found in most store bought confectionery sugar may or may not be good for bees. Most of us aren’t too worried about the small amount of corn starch compared to how effectively it helps reduce mites. However, if you have a good blender and some time, consider taking granulated sugar and grinding up your own corn starch free powdered sugar. A good blender will do it very fast, but keep in mind that the sugar does become pretty warm when you grind it up into powder. The volume stays the same, so to make 2 cups of powdered sugar use 2 cups of granulated sugar.

Use 1 cup (8 oz) of powdered sugar per hive body and do not treat your honey supers because You do not want powdered sugar in the honey. But, if you time things right, you can treat as soon as you take off your honey supers.  Next, head to the bee yard with your smoker, hive tool, sifting screen, powdered sugar and humble feeling of knowing that you are a beekeeper!
In this next video, you can watch this process being completed.

The Powdered Sugar Drop for Mite Control
Okay, let me answer a few questions that the video may prompt you to ask.
1) Why use a screen. Because it holds the bees beneath the treatment. Otherwise, they will fly up and out of the top as soon as the powdered sugar starts falling between the frames. YOU WOULD TOO!
2) What about the powdered sugar on top of the frames. Leave it, or brush it between the frames. Remember, bees love sugar!
3) Why didn’t I have an inner cover on this hive. Because I have a special spacer attached under the top cover that does the same thing and makes it easier for me to lift open the top.
4) Why did you put your first deep on the ground? Because I use both common placement methods. In the video I placed my super on the inverted top cover, but placed my deep on the ground. I usually do not place my boxes on my top cover because they stick. I set them on the ground like I did my top deep, always putting the front down so I can place it back on the hive in the same orientation that I took it off. NEVER place a hive body on the ground with the frames down, like it sits on the hive. You’ll smash all your bees on the bottom. Tilt it to its front, like you see me doing in the video. By the way, when you place the supers or deeps on an inverted top cover, you can also kill bees, and even the queen. But by placing it on the ground no bees are smashed. The queen does not fall off and the bees do not mind.
Finally, you must be stringent about your schedule. For six weeks, keep track of what day you did your powdered sugar drop. If it was Monday, then repeat the process every Monday for a total of six weeks. Do not fudge or skip or haphazardly complete the process.