Video: Mite Count Alcohol Wash

In the past I've used the "Natural Mite Drop Test" to check for varroa mite levels.

Recently I was reading an article by Randy Oliver who described two additional methods: Powder Sugar Roll and Alcohol Wash.

Initially I was against killing 300 bees from each hive to get a mite count but after reading Randy's article and thinking about it some more, 300 bees is a small number to sacrifice to keep the hive as a whole healthy, and the alcohol wash seems to have been adopted as the new "standard" way to get "the most accurate" counts.

Randy's article describes how he built a Mite Washer.

I didn't have any plastic bottles at the time, so I used a mason jar with screen mesh in the top lid.

Whatever your containers are, the procedure is basically the same:
Gather up 1/2 cup of bees from a frame with brood, put them into the jar, fill with alcohol, swish around and drain. Count the number of mites in the container where the alcohol was drained and divide by 3.

The 1/2 cup of bees is about 300 bees. Divide 300 by 3 to get a percentage of bees with infections.

Below is a short video of my first attempt at an Alcohol Mite Wash.

I'll mention that I discovered the mason jar created a vacuum when inverted and didn't allow me to "swirl" the bees around as well as Randy's device which had a lid with holes and allowed the bees and alcohol to swirl a little easier.

With my device, I had to swirl the bees in the alcohol holding the jar upright, and then tip it over to drain. The only down-side, was that during the "draining" mites could have gotten stuck smushed up against bees and may not have fallen down through the screen.

Thus, in the video you'll see me inverting the jar into a measuring cup, swirling some more and even some upward-downward shakes to encourage all mites to come out.

Not bad for a first attempt I suppose.

Anyways, here are the results:

Over Wintered Hive: 8 mites (8/3 = 2.666) is a 2.66% infestation.
Middle Package Hive: 3 mites (3/3 = 1.000) is a 1% infestation.
End Package Hive: 2 mites (2/3 = 0.666) is less than 1% infestation.

These numbers seem pretty low to me, but the process was quick and painless. Oh, not entirely painless though. Bees may not like the smell of alcohol. I got stung several times in the hand and haven't decided if it was because my gloves were covered in alcohol or if it was because I was messing with them.

Either way, I know where the mite levels stand now.

Comments For This Post: (1) | Post Your Comments! Hide The Comment Form
Dave says...
Date:   August 15, 2014, 7:10 am

Awful gutsy of you to be doing all that alcohol pouring and measuring cup balancing on top of an open hive. No wonder they were stinging at you LOL!

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