What Beekeepers Should Know About Varroa Mites

  • 2 min read

Varroa mites or Varroa destructor are tiny red-brown external parasites of honey bees that are about the size of a sesame seed. Varroa mites mainly feed and reproduce on larvae and pupae in a developing brood, but can also feed and live on adult honey bees. Because of this, these pests cause malformation and weakening of honey bees whilst also transmitting numerous viruses.

How does varroa spread?

If a colony has a low infestation, it will generally show very few symptoms. Varroa are mobile, quickly spread throughout a hive, and cause a great deal of stress to the colony. As the mite population increases, symptoms become more apparent. Varroa can spread in many ways:

  • Emerge and attach themselves to adult bees, in brood, or infect larvae and pupae.
  • Honey bees robbing other infected hives.
  • Honey bees drift from infected colonies into non-infected colonies.
  • Beekeepers accidentally place non-infected hives in an infected bee population or apiaries.
  • Travel through other flower-feeding insects like bumble bees and flower flies.

Heavy varroa mite infestations can cause scattered brood, malformed honey bees, impaired bee flight performance, a lower rate of return to the colony after foraging, a short lifespan and underweight bees. In a colony, the symptoms can include abnormal brood patterns, sunken and chewed cappings and larvae slumped in the bottom or side of the cell. Ultimately, this will lead to a decrease in the honey bee population and eventual colony breakdown and death.

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If you want more detailed information on varroa mites, this article will help youunderstand the Varroa Destructor.

Part 2: What do beekeepers need to look out for in their hives?
Part 3: What is ‘alcohol washing', why it is important and how to do one?
Part 4: Why is good record keeping is crucial for each hive?