How to make a Sugar Roll jar

Varroa mite on bees thorax.

Varroa mite on bees thorax.

A sugar roll test is a simple way to monitor your varroa mite loads without killing a lot of bees. It is easy and fast and only a few items are needed. To make a sugar roll jar you will need a few supplies. You can get these supplies at a home improvement store and the grocery store.

• Wide mouth quart canning jar with a two piece lid. You can use other sized jars as long as there is a two piece lid.
• Screening-#8 mesh (8 squares per square inch) is preferred but you can use other screening as long as it allows the mite to fall through but keeps the bees contained inside the jar.
• Tin snips-used to cut out screen for replacing lid, refer to image below.
• Plastic white tub 11 quarts or more
• ½ cup measuring cup
• Confectioners’ sugar or powdered sugar

Sugar Roll Jar with lid and screen.

Sugar Roll Jar with lid and screen.

The first step to making a sugar roll jar is to remove the lid and remove the circular insert. Trace this insert on the screening using a pencil or black marker. Next you can take the tin snips and cut out the circular screen. Once the screen circle is cut out, place it under the threaded part of the lid to see if it fits. If it does not fit, trim with the snips until it does. Make sure there is no space for the bees to escape. Now your sugar roll jar is finished and ready for use.

Lids and cut screen for sugar roll jars.

Lids and cut screen for sugar roll jars.

There are many ways to perform a sugar roll. I prefer to first go into the colony and select a frame with sealed and unsealed brood. Then double check the frame to insure that the queen is not on it. If she is, gently move her to another brood frame in the colony or pick a different frame. Take the frame and tap it into the white plastic tub to remove the bees. I then shake the bees into the corner of the tub and take a full scoop of bees using the ½ cup measuring cup. Dump the bees into the sugar roll jar and screw the lid with screen on.

Tapping a frame into a white plastic tub for a sugar roll.

Tapping a frame into a white plastic tub for a sugar roll.

Shaking bees in a sugar roll jar.

Shaking bees in a sugar roll jar.

Next I will put powdered sugar over the screen and use my hive tool to push it through the screen into the jar. The time of year is the deciding factor of how much powdered sugar to put in the jar. If there is a nectar flow during the time of testing you will need to add more sugar. More sugar is needed to cover bees when there is a nectar flow because when you tap the frame in the plastic tub lots of nectar will cover the bees making it harder to remove mites. When you look into the jar, the bees should be completely covered in sugar. Once the bees are covered, take the ½ cup and place it over the screen. This will keep the sugar and mites inside the jar when you are shaking it. I usually shake the jar for about a minute. Shake the powdered sugar and mites onto the surface of the bottom of the plastic tub. If you want you can add more sugar and repeat if you feel you haven’t removed all of the mites. From what I have learned if you see 7 or more mites in a sugar roll, you should do something to reduce the mite numbers. Note: If there is a heavy nectar flow, it is not the best time to inspect a hive or perform a sugar roll. Inspecting a hive causes stress in the colony so it’s best to not disturb them for maximum honey production.

A case of sugar roll jars I made this spring.

A case of sugar roll jars I made this spring.

Written By: Rob Snyder

Rob Snyder has written 62 post in this blog.

I currently work out of the Butte County Cooperative Extension in Oroville, CA as a Crop Protection Agent. I received my B.S. in biology from Delaware Valley College, PA. There I attained a majority of my entomological knowledge from Dr. Chris Tipping and Dr. Robert Berthold. After graduation, I was an apiary inspector for 2 years at the Department of Agriculture in Pennsylvania. In my third year there, I still inspected some colonies but I mainly focused on The Pennsylvania Native Bee Survey (PANBS) where I pinned, labeled, entered data and identified native bees to genus species. Leo Donavall assisted me in learning the basics on positive Identifications of the native bees. Around the same time I began working on coordinating kit construction and distribution for the APHIS National Honey Bee Survey. I was also fortunate to conduct many of these surveys with fellow co-worker Mike Andree and Nathan Rice of USDA/ARS throughout California. All of these experiences have led me to where I am today, working to assist beekeepers in maintaining genetic diverse colonies resistant to parasites while reducing the use of chemical treatments in colonies. The BIP Diagnostic Lab at the University of MD is in an integral part of this process by generating reports in which we can track change and report to beekeepers vital information in a timely manner which may influence their treatment decisions.

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