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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 18th year of beekeeping in April 2023. Now there are more than 1300 posts on this blog. Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here. Along the way, I've passed a number of certification levels and am now a
Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

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Monday, May 04, 2009

Powdered Sugar Shake at Blue Heron Hives

Yesterday (before the current monsoon rains hit Atlanta) we went to the Blue Heron preserve and did a powdered sugar shake on the hives there.

The idea of using powdered sugar is to cover the bees with sugar and encourage their grooming. In the grooming process, they knock off the varroa mites on their bodies. The mites fall through the screened bottom board and can't get back to the hive.

While there is research to suggest that this isn't really an effective mite control, I still do it because by using it in my oldest hive that almost died from Varroa vectored disease, I could really see a difference. The hive is quite healthy today.

Randy Oliver is trying to research this in three articles. Here's the first one and you can find the others on his site.

We used powdered sugar on all three Blue Heron hives. Sam, Julia's youngest son who is in the FOURTH grade, took amazing pictures of the process. I have labeled his pictures with his name on the slide show.

We found two things during the inspection - one great and one not so good.

Great: Julia's hive that appeared to have no queen at our Sunday inspection actually has a laying queen. We didn't see her but saw a good frame of brood and eggs - Woohoo!

Not so good: Our first nuc at Blue Heron came from a supplier who gave us the nuc without a queen . To make good on this he gave us a second nuc - this one had a big beautiful queen. We installed her in another hive, since the first queenless hive had successfully made their own queen.

In the second hive the bees were doing a lousy job of comb building in the second box. We cut out the bad comb, put a drawn frame in the center of the hive (instead of the frame of foundation that was originally there) and moved the frames around so that the badly drawn frames (without the badly drawn comb) were on the edges.

Here's the slide show. Click to see it larger and to be able to read the captions.


  1. We too, had a monsoon of 6 and 1/10" of rain over the past 3 days here in N.Alabama. But glad for it, better than a drought.
    I love your blog.

  2. Linda,

    Thanks for this post and the pictures. They're great. I have been considering using powdered sugar on my hives but will wait until the honey season is over. Best of luck,


  3. I don't know why you would wait until after the honey season is over. The powdered sugar doesn't affect the honey - the bees don't use it for honey, they groom it off. It's not nectar and they don't process it.

  4. What is the screened bottom board you are talking about? I just built my first hive. I bought it from a garden center, it didn't come with any screens. I have found out that I need a queen excluder, several tools that I don't have, and something to help fight off SHB (I removed combs and bees from an exterior wall of a house, and found it has SHB).

  5. You can find a screened bottom board at all the bee supply companies. There are probably plans for building one at Beesource.com. They are helpful for 1. Ventilation in the summer and help the bees not beard on the hive and 2. As the bees groom themselves and groom off Varroa mites, the mites fall through the screened bottom board and can't get back into the hive. With a solid bottom board the mites can make their way back to the bees.
    BTW, I like many beekeepers don't ever use a queen excluder. I own one because it came with a beginner kit I foolishly bought, but in fact I only use it as a rack on which to drain cut comb honey!

  6. Helen3:14 PM

    Thanks for posting those photos Linda. I too am using starter strips this year and today discovered some bad comb like yours! The bees made the comb from the bottom upwards. I'm thinking that you need a couple of fully drawn frames in each box to give the bees the idea of what to do.

  7. Nice post - hives pictures ..Keep Posting

    hives pictures


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