Varroa Mite or European Foul Brood? How to tell the difference.


Beekeeping comes with its share of challenges, and when it comes to Varroa mites, beekeepers quickly realise that it introduces a new set of symptoms that may initially resemble other brood diseases.

Dr. Mark Goodwin sheds light on these nuances, emphasising the importance of recognising these symptoms for effective Varroa management.

Confusing Varroa Mite with Other Brood Diseases:

As seasoned beekeepers, you're likely well-acquainted with various brood diseases such as Chalk brood, European foul brood, and American foul brood. Each of these maladies comes with its own set of classical symptoms, making diagnosis a relatively straightforward process.

However, Varroa mites throw a curveball into this familiar landscape by introducing a new set of symptoms that share similarities with European foul brood.

Varroa Mite or European Foul Brood?

Varroa-induced symptoms may bear resemblance to European foul brood, adding a layer of complexity to the already intricate task of diagnosing bee diseases.

Dr. Goodwin acknowledges this challenge and highlights the need for beekeepers to familiarise themselves withthese distinct symptoms

We've compiled a checklist below of bee diseases and symptoms, and you can also view the full checklist and downloadable PDF here.

Symptoms Checklist:




European Foulbrood

Chalk Brood

Sacbrood Virus

American Foulbrood

Deformed Wings

Distorted wing shapes and sizes in adult bees.


Darkened Brood Cells

Brood cells appear darker due to the presence of mites.


Chewed or Pierced Brood Caps

Irregular openings in capped brood cells caused by mite activity.


Abnormal Pupae

Deformed or discolored pupae in the capped cells.


Reduced Bee Longevity

Shortened lifespan of adult bees due to mite infestation.


Ropey Larvae

Larvae in capped cells become ropy and discolored.


Sunken or Discolored Caps

Caps are intact but may appear sunken or discolored.


Foul Odor

Unpleasant odor emanating from the affected brood.




Irregular Cell Capping

Abnormalities in cell capping observed during inspection.






Downloadable Bee Diseases & Varroa Mite Checking Tool:

You can download a checklist created by Ecrotekhere, which provides insights into the symptoms associated with various bee diseases, including those induced by Varroa mites. 

Recognising the Red Flags:

Varroa-induced symptoms tend to manifest when mite levels reach a critical high.

Beekeepers must stay vigilant and swiftly respond upon detecting these symptoms, as they serve as an early warning sign that the colony is in distress.

Proactive intervention becomes crucial to prevent the imminent demise of the bee community.


In the intricate world of beekeeping, Varroa mites introduce a unique set of challenges by producing symptoms that may mimic other brood diseases.

Recognising these distinctive signs early on is paramount for effective Varroa management. Beekeepers, both in Australia and other regions, are encouraged to familiarize themselves with these symptoms, ensuring a swift and informed response to protect their valuable colonies.

As the beekeeping community collaborates and shares insights, collective knowledge becomes a powerful tool in the ongoing battle against Varroa mites.