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Detection and assessment of varroa infestations in honey bee colonies are important for successful beekeeping. We examined the use of inert dusts to dislodge mites from adult honey bees that were isolated from their nest. Six dusts (powdered sugar, fine sugar, wheat flour, talcum powder, corn starch and baking soda) were evaluated for their ability to dislodge mites from adult bees collected in jars. We obtained the highest recovery rate with powdered sugar (92.9 ± 5.5%) and talcum powder (84.0 ± 5.6%). We also examined mite survival after recovery with inert dusts and compared it to mite survival after recovery from brood. After 24 h mite survival was significantly greater when mites were recovered with corn starch, powdered sugar, and from brood (F = 22.88, d.f. = 6,35, P <0.0001). Finally, ether and powdered sugar were compared as tools for detecting and assessing the degree of infestation. Powdered sugar did not differ from ether in detecting or assessing low (1-5 mites per sample) infestation levels (F = 2.81, d.f. = 1,49, P = 0.1). At medium (6-30 mites per sample) and high (> 30 mites per sample) infestation levels, more mites were recovered with powdered sugar (medium: F = 14.28, d.f. = 1,29, P = 0.008; high: F = 6.34, d.f. = 1,17, P = 0.023).