Bee Martini – Shaken Not Stirred

Sugar Shake

I promised a story about my “Sugar Shake” adventure with the bees.  This experience was a first for me and possibly my bees.  I can’t say for sure about the bees as they could have lived with a bee keeper previously who’d performed this unusual feat with them.  It’s done for their own good but I’m suspicious they do not know this.  I  am also not sure they took offense to it.  I mean, being coated in powdered sugar sounds quite jolly to me.

This time of year beekeepers are preparing the hives for winter.  Checking for pests, making sure there is adequate food for the winter, looking for the queen or signs that she is there, generally assuring themselves that they’ve done the best job possible to help the bees survive the winter.  Depending on which part of the country you live in this may be done from August – October.  Texas, being a warm state, doesn’t require winter prep until September or October.

Anyway, “Sugar Shake” is a method used to check for Varroa Mites, nasty little creatures that can destroy a hive.  I’m overjoyed to say that none of my hives seem to be infected!  This means I do not have to purchase or apply any miteacide to my hives.  I would’ve treated with an organic product but fortunately it won’t be necessary.

Now, “Sugar Shake” involves a pint size glass jar with a screened lid,  3-4 tablespoons  of powdered sugar and as many bees as one can catch in the jar!  Scooping flying insects into a jar, full of sugar is a feat in itself.

Bee Martini – shaken not stirred

The next step is to cover the screened end with a gloved hand and shake as if mixing a martini!  I imagine it’s this part that is quite startling for the girls inside the jar.  I discovered that my girls remained calm and crawled right out of the jar or happily walked away when I shook them out.  After mixing the bees up with the sugar, I shook the sugar through the screen, much like sifting flour, onto a piece of white paper.  The idea is that the sugar will dislodge any mites and allows the beekeeper to “see” them as they fall off of the bees onto the paper.

No sign of mites!

At this stage the bees are completely covered in white dust and anxious to be released from the jar.  Not to worry, their sisters clean the sugar off of them and use it to stock the pantry in the hive.

Sending them back to the hive

This event took 2 days to complete.  I also flip-flopped supers to place the ones full of honey closest to the center of the hive to make it easier on the bees to reach the honey during winter.  It is said that a cluster of bees can starve to death if the honey is not close enough to them in the cold months.  Praying this won’t happen to my sweet bees.

Coated with powdered sugar this little girl’s wings are moving ultra fast. I suspect she wanted to get back inside before I took her on another adventure.

New adventures such as this are thought provoking for a bee keeper.  I noticed that after the first couple of hives the process became easier and progressed more smoothly.  For those of you reading who are also bee keepers or interested in bees I am still feeding my smallest hives, either swarms or removals who were without food.  They are taking the syrup quickly and building up their food stores.  They seem to know fall is here and cooler weather could be just around the corner.

For those of you looking for some good food I’ll be posting a delicious pasta recipe as well as my newest favorite cocktail later in the week.




About The Orange Bee

Food Blogger - Bee Keeper - Mom - Wife - Lover of Life
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18 Responses to Bee Martini – Shaken Not Stirred

  1. Charles says:

    Wow, what an interesting post – I had no idea such a thing was done to bees to check for mites like this (and nor did I know it wouldn’t actually harm them). I presume you only do a few bees from each hive? If the hive has mites is it certain that all bees in the hive will have them?

    • Yes I only did a few bees from each hive. Scooping them into the jar is challenging since they can move rapidly. If the hive has mites it doesn’t mean all bees will have them but mites could spread other diseases to the bees that would do them in. I do not want that. So far so good! Nice of you to stop over!

  2. Did it give them a headache? I’ve always been fascinated by bees and I have to say that my Dad and I are loving your posts

    • Why thank you – nice to hear your Dad’s in on reading my blog! I hope their heads didn’t hurt – I tried not to shake too hard and they did seem to be able to walk around and fly like normal after they were released from the sugar jar.

  3. Sondra Hay says:

    Wow. Who knew! How do you find out all these tricks? It’s all so facinating, interesting, and
    educational. THANKS!

  4. flyfishbrat says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I was fascinating.

  5. Ray says:

    Linda, I fully expected a martini recipe. Peggy is on a Lemon drop martini jag, her fav being mixed and served at Ted’s Montana grill. That aside I’m thinking of requesting an evening event at Mark and Claire’s where we collectively create/invent the best ever (or maybe only) honey bee martini (with only the best gin and the Orange Bee’s awesome honey). Mixing, tasting, and voting while last as long as we do. Happy to hear the Bee’s are Mite free. ok.

    • I LOVE that idea! Could we possibly try some with vodka? I can’t do gin but think a honey bee martini with vodka could be a new and famous cocktail! Count me in – I’ll bring the honey! Whoo Hoo! Claire?????

  6. Karen says:

    All I have to say is that I’m glad I’m not a bee.

  7. Jill says:

    This is so interesting to me. I know nothing about bee keepers and the like. Great post!

  8. bishop9396 says:

    I am stil contemplating trying to keep a backyard hive… I have concerns that the neighbors may be concerned. There are classses her in Houston for backyard keepers…may just have to make time a learn a little more…thanks for sharing your knowledge.!

    • I’d be happy to share anything I can to help you. You might just ask if any of your neighbors are deathly allergic – or offer up your first jars of pure local honey. The bees – if you only have one hive will not be a nuisance to you or your neighbors. If your neighbors have flowering plants they are attracted to then they will visit but it’s not harmful to humans! Keep me posted – it’s a delightful hobby and more rewarding than I can describe.

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