Mite Kit ContentsFrom an initially skeptical reception1 the sugar roll or sugar shake (instructions in the later picture) seems to have become the standard method of assaying a colony’s varroa mite load for backyard beekeepers. While most beekeepers improvise their sugar roll equipment (easily done2), the Michigan Pollinator Initiative sells this handy kit, which provides all the properly-sized needful things in a compact carrying bucket that doubles as the mite-counting receptacle. It even comes with the powdered sugar although you must add your own water.

Mite Kit InstructionsIt also contains an instruction sheet just in case you can not quite recall the procedure. (Clicking on the thumbnail will show a larger, more easily read image.) As usual, the bees refuse to read the instructions and cooperate. They insist on impatiently crawling and flying out of the bucket, scoop, or jar so it is quite useful to have a helper.

While we intend no criticism, for it is an admirably constructed kit, we have made a few alterations and addenda.

Mite Kit Addenda
  • We found it easier to scoop the sugar from a hard plastic container than the bag. A suitably sized one still fits in the bucket.
  • Even though the time to roll and shake (rattling optional) is not precise we found ourselves clumsily trying to read a watch while suited up. A small plastic one minute sand-timer simplifies this and fits into the bucket.
  • If checking more than one hive the bucket needs to be wiped dry between tests. Otherwise the sugar will clump on the next jarful of bees. So a roll of paper towels is needed even though it sadly will not fit in the bucket.

1Inaccurate results were being obtained because of user error. Bees not taken from the brood area. Not enough bees sampled. Bees not shaken long enough. etc. The commonest error seems to be forgetting to wait the two minutes to let the mites drop.
2The hardest part seems to be finding the #8 hardware cloth to replace the metal disc of a mason jar. For some reason most stores carry coarser mesh, so that the bees fall out, and finer, so that the mites do not.