Varroa Mite Australia: Lifecycle of The Varroa Mite



In this insightful exploration, Research Associate Sarah Cross delves into the intricate biology and lifecycle of the Varroa mite, focusing on the Varroa Destructor in New Zealand. As we delve into the complexities of hive dynamics, understanding Varroa behavior becomes crucial for ensuring the well-being of bee colonies. Moreover, the lessons learned from New Zealand's experience with Varroa provide valuable insights for Australia in anticipating and preparing for potential varroa mite challenges.


How Varroa Infiltrates the Hive:

Imagine the Varroa mite as an opportunist, gaining access to the hive by attaching itself to adult bees, particularly on their abdomens. This transmission happens through natural processes such as drifting or robbing, serving as the initial entry point for these tiny yet impactful creatures.


Once inside the hive, the Varroa mite strategically detaches from the host bee and promptly seeks out larvae. This transition can be compared to a traveler finding residence in a foreign city, adapting to its new surroundings and intricacies.


The Lifecycle of Varroa:

The life cycle of Varroa unfolds beneath the capping of a developing larva, facilitated by worker bees sealing the cell. Unaware of the covert Varroa presence, worker bees inadvertently play host to these mites as they feed on the larvae. Post-feeding, the female Varroa lays an egg, with the initial egg maturing into a male. After hatching, the female engages in mating, enabling the continuous laying of fertilized eggs.


However, the timeline is constrained, given that the worker brood remains capped for a limited period. Consequently, the female Varroa must expeditiously lay eggs, nourish on the larvae, and ensure maturation before the cap is removed.


Drone Brood: Varroa's Strategic Choice

Varroa are strategic in their selection of host, selecting drone brood (or housing male bees) for egg-laying purposes. Laying eggs in drone comb allows for an extended maturation period, meaning the Varroa can produce two mature offspring upon hatching, which in turn increases the rate of their population growth.

Feeding on Pupae:

While residing under the capping, Varroa engages in active feeding on pupae, extracting bodily fluids from the larvae. This feeding process may result in deformities or compromised health for the emerging bees.

Implications for Australia:

Understanding the nuanced behavior of Varroa mites in the New Zealand context serves as a vital repository of knowledge for Australia. As Australia navigates the potential introduction of Varroa mites, these insights offer a strategic advantage in preparing for and mitigating the challenges posed by this invasive pest. Proactive measures, drawn from the experiences of other regions, become imperative for safeguarding the health and resilience of Australian bee colonies.


  • Varroa infiltrates the hive by attaching it to adult bees during transport.
  • The predominant duration of Varroa's life cycle is spent beneath the capping, specifically within pupae.
  • Varroa strategically favors drone comb for egg-laying to expedite population growth.
  • Feeding activities are focused on pupae, potentially impacting the health of emerging bees.
  • Insights from New Zealand's experience with Varroa offer crucial perspectives for Australia in anticipating and preparing for potential varroa mite challenges.

    Up next: How to Detect and Monitor Varroa Mite