How to perform a sugar shake test

10 easy steps to guide you through this basic technique

You'll need

  • sugar shake jar (jar with screen lid)
  • icing sugar mix
  • spoon
  • bucket or container filled with water
  • bees from the brood box
  1. Add a tablespoon of icing sugar mix to the shake container. (Mix is better than straight icing sugar as it doesn’t clump as easily.) Here's how you can make your own container.
  2. Add half a cup of bees – about 300. Bees from the brood box are best. A paper funnel can help.
  3. Screw on the lid with the 3mm aperture wire screen.
  4. Roll the bees in the sugar mix for two minutes to get them completely coated.
  5. Leave for a couple of minutes, then repeat rolling for two minutes. Be careful not to spill sugar.
  6. Without removing the lid, shake the sugar out into the container of water. 
  7. The sugar will dissolve. Mites will float. Bees remain in the shaker.
  8. If you use glasses for close vision, now is the time to wear them. A magnifying glass also helps. A white container makes it easier to detect any matter dislodged from the bees.
  9. If you notice anything unusual, take a sample on a paper towel and record the details. Then immediately contact the Emergency Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888 – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 
  10. The bees in the shaker can be returned by gently pouring them out onto the top bars of the brood box under the excluder if present.

This five-and-half minute video from the DPI's Tocal College shows the whole process.

Doug Somerville, technical specialist in bees from NSW Department of Primary Industries, demonstrates how to sugar shake bees 

The DPI has a two-page Prime Fact on Sugar Shaking you can print for reference.