Managing Varroa Resistance: Lessons for Beekeepers in Australia

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Beekeeping, a delicate dance between nature and the beekeeper, requires constant vigilance in the face of challenges. One formidable adversary in the apiary world is Varroa destructor, a parasitic mite that preys on honeybee colonies. However, the focus of this discussion is not just on Varroa itself but on a pressing concern for beekeepers worldwide – the resistance of Varroa to the very chemicals used to control them. In this transcript analysis, we explore the importance of resistance management, drawing insights from an experienced beekeeper's perspective in New Zealand.

Understanding Varroa Resistance Management:

The transcript emphasizes the critical nature of resistance management, a term that refers to the ability of Varroa mites to develop resistance to the chemicals beekeepers use for control. Drawing parallels with pest and disease management in horticulture and agriculture, Dr. Mark Goodwin emphasizes the need for beekeepers to stay vigilant in the face of evolving challenges posed by Varroa.

Key Takeaways for Beekeepers:

Alternating Treatment Classes:

  • A significant recommendation put forth in the transcript is the practice of alternating treatment classes. Beekeepers are encouraged to use different chemical classes for spring and autumn treatments. This strategic approach slows down the development of resistance, offering a more sustainable method of Varroa control.

Sampling Varroa Levels:

  • While alternating treatments is a step in the right direction, the transcript underscores the importance of sampling Varroa levels after each treatment. Unfortunately, Dr. Mark Goodwin notes a resistance management hurdle – beekeepers often fail to follow through with this crucial step. The absence of post-treatment sampling can lead to ineffective control and potentially significant hive losses.

Challenges in Beekeeper Behavior:

  • The transcript highlights a behavioral challenge among beekeepers – the tendency to assume that once a treatment is applied, the problem is solved. This assumption, often coupled with beekeepers going on holiday immediately after treatment, can contribute to the development of resistance. Dr. Mark Goodwin stresses the importance of dispelling this notion and instilling the practice of thorough post-treatment assessment.

Impact of Resistance:

  • The real-world impact of resistance is not to be underestimated. The transcript reveals that New Zealand beekeepers experienced resistance to some synthetic pyrethroids around 2010. The subsequent ebb and flow of resistance have resulted in hive losses, estimated at thousands each year. This loss, Dr. Mark Goodwin suggests, could have been mitigated with more proactive resistance management practices.


As the global beekeeping community grapples with Varroa and its evolving challenges, the transcript provides valuable lessons for Australian beekeepers. Resistance management is not just a buzzword but a crucial aspect of apiary health. The call to action is clear – alternate treatments, sample Varroa levels, and be proactive in addressing resistance. By learning from the experiences of our counterparts in New Zealand, Australian beekeepers can strengthen their approach to Varroa control, ensuring the continued well-being of their precious colonies.