Sugar Shake Season

Man in bee veil pouring sugar into a container filled with bees

Bee pupae with four brown circular mites on it's body

Comparison shows Varroa mite is twice size of tropilaelaps

A braula fly attached to a honeybee

Sugar Shake Season is held every autumn. The annual campaign is a joint initiative between NSW DPI, the Amateur Beekeepers Association NSW and the NSW Apiarists' Association.

During autumn beekeepers are encouraged to inspect their hives for exotic pests like varroa mite. Exotic bee pests are not present in Australia but have the capacity to devastate our honey bee industry if allowed to establish.

The best way to inspect for varroa and other exotic mites is to carry out a sugar shake test. During autumn, sugar shake your bees and the let us know the results of your test.

Inspect your hives in Autumn

Sugar shake your bees

Hives can be inspected using the sugar shake test. This method relies on the sugar particles separating the mites from the bee. This technique does not kill the bees.

Sugar shake kits can be purchased from beekeeping supply stores, or you can make your own.

Report suspect results to NSW DPI

If you think you have found an exotic pest like varroa mite, you must notify NSW DPI immediately. You can report suspected exotic pests by calling the Exotic Plant Pest Hotline 1800 084 881

Code of Practice requirements

From 1 July 2020, it is a requirement for all registered beekeepers in NSW to conduct at least 2 hive inspections per year for the presence of exotic bee pests including mites. Sugar Shake Season is a perfect opportunity to fulfil part of your obligation to comply with the Code.

Exotic pest mites

Varroa mites

Varroa mites (Varroa destructor and V. jacobsoni) infest honey bees (Apis mellifera) in every major beekeeping area of the world, except Australia. The mites are tiny reddish brown external parasites of honey bees. They mainly feed and reproduce on larvae and pupae in the brood. Mites also feed off adult bees, transmitting viruses, weakening the colony and resulting in death of the hive.

Primefact 861 – Varroa mites PDF, 410.15 KB

Braula fly

Braula fly or bee lice (Braula coeca) live in honeybee colonies and can be confused with varroa mite. The larval stage burrows under the cappings of honey comb, reducing its commercial value. Brauly fly is present in Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales.

Tropilaelaps mite

The tropilaelaps mite (Tropilaelaps clareae and T. mercedesae) is a parasite of honey bees. They are reddish in colour and about half the size of varroa mites. They mostly reproduce in the brood but some are found on adult bees. Symptoms include deformed pupae and adults (stunting, damaged wings/legs/ abdomens) and colony decline.

More Information