How To Prevent And Control Varroa Mites In Your Hive

  • By: Jane
  • Date: January 28, 2024
  • Time to read: 16 min.
How to prevent and control varroa mites in your hive

Are you a beekeeper looking for ways to protect your hive from varroa mites? If so, this article is perfect for you! Varroa mites are detrimental parasites that feed on the blood of bees and can quickly spread throughout an entire colony. Without proper prevention and control measures in place, they can cause serious damage or even death among the honeybee population.

But don’t worry – there are steps you can take to keep these harmful pests at bay. Keep reading to learn more about how to prevent and control varroa mites in your hive!

Varroa mites have become increasingly common across the world due to their ability to adapt and proliferate rapidly. This makes it essential for beekeepers everywhere to stay one step ahead when it comes to protecting their hives. In order to do this, we must first understand where these pests come from and how they live within our colonies.

Varroa mites reproduce by entering into adult female bees and laying eggs inside them before emerging as adults themselves. They also feed off of pupae, larvae, and nectar-filled cells in the hive.

Fortunately, preventing and controlling varroa mite infestations isn’t impossible – with the right tools, knowledge, and dedication any beekeeper can make sure their colonies remain safe from harm!

With this article, you will gain insight into some of the most effective methods available for keeping varroa infestations under control while providing optimal care for your beloved bees. So let’s get started!

Definition Of Varroa Mites

Did you know that Varroa mites are responsible for the death of millions of honey bee colonies around the world? These tiny, parasitic creatures can wreak havoc on your beehive if left unchecked.

It’s important to understand what they are and how to prevent them from taking hold in order to keep your bees healthy and productive. In this section, we’ll discuss the definition of Varroa mites and their treatment options.

How to prevent and control varroa mites in your hive

Varroa mites (Varroa destructor) are small parasites that feed on honeybee larvae and adult bees alike. They reproduce inside the hive by laying eggs into uncapped cells or within sealed brood cells. The female varroa mite will lay up to 12 eggs per day, which then hatch out as larvae before maturing into adults.

Adult varroa mites have a reddish-brown coloration with 8 legs and two large claws at the end of each leg used for clinging onto their host bee.

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However, it’s best practice to use an integrated approach combining several different treatments in order to get effective results against these parasites. With proper management techniques and regular monitoring, Varroa mites can be prevented or controlled in any beehive.

Now let’s move on to discussing the impact of Varroa mites on honeybees…

Impact Of Varroa Mites On Honey Bees

Varroa mites are one of the biggest threats to honey bees and can have devastating effects on a hive. They feed off the hemolymph of developing larvae and adult bees, causing them to become weakened or even killed if left untreated.

In addition, they spread several viruses that can further weaken colonies across entire apiaries. Without treatment for varroa mites, it is likely that an infested colony will die out within a few years.

These parasites also reproduce quickly in hives with large populations of bees, leading to rapid population growth which puts additional pressure on already-stressed beekeeping operations.

How to prevent and control varroa mites in your hive

The presence of these pests can cause decreased honey production, lower quality brood comb, and ultimately more money spent on medical treatments for infected bees.

As such, it’s important for beekeepers to take measures to prevent and control varroa mite infestations before they get too severe.

It is essential to identify signs of infestation early so that appropriate steps can be taken to eradicate the pests from a hive before too much damage has been done. Varroa mite prevention techniques range from using chemical controls like oxalic acid vaporization to introducing beneficial predators such as tracheal mites into hives.

Regardless of what methods are used, swift action should be taken once evidence of an infestation has been identified in order to protect colonies from being wiped out by this dangerous pest. Moving forward, identifying signs of an infestation is key in protecting healthy bee colonies from varroa mites.

Identifying Infestations

what to do about varroa mites

As the old adage goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” it’s important to understand how to identify an infestation of varroa mites in your hive before taking action. If you can catch an infestation early enough, then treating for varroa mites may be relatively easy and successful.

To help prevent any damage or disruption to the colony caused by these destructive parasites, here are three ways you can spot signs of an infestation:

1) Monitor Bee Health: A sure sign that your hive has been invaded by mites is a decrease in bee health; if bees begin showing symptoms such as discoloration, deformed wings, and shorter lifespans then there’s likely a Varroa problem in your hive.

2) Look For Mite Droppings: Another way to determine whether your hive has been infected with Varroa mites is to look for their droppings on the bottom boards. These will appear as small red stains near dead bees or cocoons where adult females have laid eggs inside larvae cells.

3) Inspect The Bees: Lastly, inspecting the bees directly should give you some clues about potential mite activity; for instance, searching through larvae cells for traces of mites could indicate an active infestation. Additionally, looking at clusters of bees on combs may also reveal evidence of infection since they tend to congregate around areas where female parasitoids have deposited eggs into brood cells.

With the right knowledge and tools at hand, identifying an infestation of Varroa mites can become much easier. Having this information beforehand makes monitoring levels of these pests more accurate so that appropriate steps can be taken quickly when necessary.

Monitoring Varroa Mite Levels

It’s important to monitor the number of varroa mites in your hive. This can be done with a few simple tools and a little investment of time.

The first tool is an alcohol wash, which you can use to measure the number of mites on adult bees. You simply collect several hundred adult bees from around your hive, put them into a container, add some rubbing alcohol and shake for about two minutes. The mites will fall off the bees and float up to the surface – count them up!

The second method is drone brood trapping, which involves placing frames filled with drone comb near the entrance of your hive during late summer or early autumn. As drones are more susceptible to infestation than worker bees, this allows you to assess how many mites have been picked up by drones before they emerge as adults. Once again simply count the number of mites that are collected in these traps!

Finally, if you want to get even more accurate readings then you may need to consider sending samples away for laboratory testing so that any treatment decisions can be made based on real data rather than guesswork.

Knowing exactly what levels of varroa mite populations exist in your hives gives you greater control over their management. To further reduce the risk posed by these pests it’s also important to implement good sanitation practices within your apiary.

Sanitation Practices

Good sanitation practices are a must for preventing and controlling Varroa mites in your hive. Keeping the honey bee colony clean, as well as their environment is essential to protecting them from infestations of these pests. Here are three main ways you can practice good sanitation:

  • Regularly inspect frames and boxes for signs of varroa mites
  • Discard any dead or diseased bees found inside the hive
  • Practice routine cleaning of all surfaces in the hive

In addition to regular inspections and cleaning, it’s also important to provide your bees with adequate protection against parasites like the Varroa mite. Providing supplemental food sources such as pollen patties or sugar syrup can help to boost their immunity, making them more resistant to disease-carrying insects.

bee feeder

Additionally, monitoring levels of humidity and temperature within the hive will help keep conditions hospitable for healthy bee populations. Finally, providing natural treatments such as essential oils and herbal remedies can also be useful in keeping varroa mite numbers down.

With proper preventive measures in place, you’ll have an easier time treating infestations should they occur. To further prevent and control Varroa mites in your hive, chemical treatments may need to be considered…

Chemical Treatments

Chemical treatments are a popular way to control varroa mites in the hive. They work by killing the mites and their larvae, preventing them from reproducing. While chemical treatment can be effective in eliminating mite infestations, it is important to follow directions carefully and monitor your hives for signs of resistance.

It is also important to note that some chemical treatments may have adverse effects on bees or other wildlife if not used properly.

The most common type of chemical treatment is an oxalic acid-based product applied directly to the bee cluster either in vapor or liquid form. This type of treatment usually needs to be repeated every two weeks until all traces of mites are gone.

Another option is a synthetic pyrethroid insecticide applied as dusting powder or strips placed within the hive. However, this method should only be used when absolutely necessary due to its potential toxicity levels for both bees and humans.

By following these safety measures, you will help ensure successful results in controlling varroa mite populations without putting yourself or your bees at risk. With the proper use of chemicals, you can effectively prevent further damage to your colony caused by these destructive pests.

Now let’s examine how biological controls can also help reduce varroa populations in the hive.

Biological Controls

As the saying goes, ‘Prevention is better than cure’; this certainly applies to varroa mites in bee hives. The best way to prevent and control these pests is through the use of biological controls.

Biological treatments involve introducing beneficial organisms or natural enemies into the hive that can compete with and reduce the number of varroa mites present. A range of biological treatments is available for controlling varroa infestations including parasitic wasps, predatory beetles, and entomopathogenic fungi.

Parasitic wasps such as Aphelinus abdominalis ( seen below ) are tiny creatures that parasitize adult female mites, reducing their numbers significantly over time.

Aphelinus abdominalis

Predatory beetles such as Stethorus punctillum ( seen below ) feed on larvae and pupae of the mite, again helping to bring populations down.

Stethorus punctillum

Entomopathogenic fungi such as Beauveria bassiana ( seen below ) attack both adults and immature stages of the pest which helps eradicate them from colonies quickly.

Beauveria bassiana

All three types of treatment have been proven effective in keeping varroa levels low and manageable when used properly.

Biological treatments offer an alternative option to chemical treatments for those who prefer not to use chemicals in their hives but require some guidance on how to apply each type correctly so they work effectively against varroa infestations.

Although they may take longer to see results compared with chemical treatments, careful monitoring will ensure success – making it easier transition onto the next step: drone brood removal!

Drone Brood Removal

Removing drone brood from your hive is an effective way to manage Varroa mites. Drone brood provides a food source for the mites, so by reducing it you can lower their numbers and reduce damage to the colony. There are several ways to go about this, but one of the most straightforward methods is simply removing frames of drone comb as soon as you spot them.

Drone Brood Removal

It’s important not to throw away these combs immediately after taking them out of the hive; instead, place them in a sealed container or bag and leave them outside your home for at least 24 hours before disposing of them properly.

This will give any remaining mites time to die off due to a lack of food sources. Alternatively, if you have access to a freezing chamber, freezing the combs overnight is also very effective at killing off adult mites.

Drone brood removal isn’t something that needs to be done often – simply inspecting the bees every few months should be enough for catching new infestations early on.

However, when there’s been an outbreak in your area or it’s particularly hot and humid (which typically increases levels of parasitism), then frequent checks may be necessary.

Having said that, with regular monitoring, this method can help keep your colonies healthy and free of mite infestations. To further protect against Varroa mites, consider setting up a screened bottom board in each hive.

Screened Bottom Board

A screened bottom board is a simple and effective way to control Varroa mites in your hive. Studies show that up to 60% of the varroa population can be eliminated through this method. By using a screen, you are able to prevent the mites from entering or exiting the hive while still allowing bees to move freely.

This table outlines the advantages and disadvantages of using a screened bottom board:

Low cost
Easy to install
Natural process
No chemicals used
Requires regular maintenance
Can reduce ventilation
Difficult for small colonies
Using A Screening Bottom Board

The use of a screened bottom board offers an efficient, natural way of controlling Varroa mites without having to resort to chemical treatments. I

t is also important to note that it requires only minimal effort on the part of beekeepers, as they need not worry about regularly changing outboards or monitoring populations.

However, it is essential that routine inspections are conducted in order to ensure proper hygiene levels within the hives and detect any further infestations early on so appropriate action can be taken quickly.

By combining different methods such as screening with other Varroa treatment options like heat treatment, beekeepers can enjoy successful results when it comes to eliminating these destructive pests from their hives.

To get started, all one needs is a selection of supplies – including screens, frames, and wax foundation – along with some basic knowledge on how best to protect their apiary against these unwanted visitors.

With the right combination of strategies and products at hand, beekeepers have the potential to create safe havens for their colonies free from varroa mites.

Heat Treatment

After setting up a screened bottom board, the next step to take in preventing and controlling varroa mites is heat treatment.

Heat treatments can effectively reduce or eliminate mite populations without harming bees. Generally speaking, this method involves raising the temperature of the hive for a specific period of time to kill off any mites that are present.

The most common way to conduct such a treatment is by using an electric heating pad placed on the outside of the hive. The temperature should be raised gradually over several hours until it reaches around 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit (38-43 Celsius).

If done properly, heat treatments can be very effective at reducing or eliminating Varroa mite populations in hives.

However, they must be done with caution and care in order to avoid injuring or killing your bees.

If you don’t feel comfortable conducting this kind of treatment yourself, then you may want to consider hiring a professional beekeeper who specializes in mite treatment for bees. With their help and guidance, you’ll be able to ensure that your hive remains healthy and safe from Varroa mites!

Now that we’ve looked at two ways of combating varroa mites—screened bottom boards and heat treatments—it’s time to move on to another strategy: the sugar dusting method.

Sugar Dusting Method

sugar dusting method

Treating a beehive infested with varroa mites is like going to war — you must choose your weapons wisely. One of the most effective, albeit labor-intensive, treatments is sugar dusting.

This method involves sprinkling powdered sugar onto frames and throughout the hive in order to disrupt the mite’s reproductive cycle. The sugar coats the mites, preventing them from attaching to bees or crawling around freely. As they consume it, their digestive system becomes clogged leading to eventual death.

Be sure to wear protective clothing when performing this procedure as any contact with powdery substances can cause irritation to the skin and eyes. It’s also important that all areas within the hive are treated thoroughly for maximum effectiveness; otherwise, residual mites will still remain active inside the colony.

Using sugar dusting requires patience and diligence but can be an excellent way to control varroa mite populations in your hive if done correctly. With its help, beekeepers can protect their hives from these destructive pests so that colonies may thrive well into future seasons.

Now let’s move on to discuss another weapon against varroa mites – essential oils…

Essential Oils

Building on the previous section’s discussion of sugar dusting, another method to prevent and control varroa mites in your hive is using essential oils.

Essential oils are natural plant extracts that can be used as an alternative or complementary treatment for varroa mites in bee colonies. They come from various plants like lemongrass, spearmint, eucalyptus, and thyme; each with their own unique properties which make them a safe and effective way to combat these pests.

When it comes to application methods, there are several options available depending on the type of oil you choose. For example, some oils may require direct contact with the bees while others can be applied directly onto the frames inside the hive itself.

One important thing to remember when working with essential oils is that caution should always be exercised as certain types can cause harm if not handled properly. Always read instructions carefully before applying any products containing essential oils and follow all safety guidelines provided.

With proper use, however, this method can provide an effective solution for controlling Varroa mite populations without harming your bees or putting them at risk of disease or infection.

Next, we’ll look at other solutions such as plant extracts that can help protect against varroa mites…

Plant Extracts

Using plant extracts to reduce and ultimately control varroa mites in your hive is a great way to go. Plant extracts are natural, safe for the bees, and can be used as both preventative measures and treatments.

Plant extracts such as rosemary oil or thyme oil have been known to effectively repel varroa mites when added directly to the hive. These oils must be diluted with water before application, however, since even small amounts of essential oils can cause harm if not properly administered.

Additionally, it’s important that you use only pure essential oils from reputable sources so as to avoid introducing any toxic substances into the hive.

The best time of year for using these types of remedies is during late summer and early autumn when temperatures are still mild enough but there isn’t an abundance of food available for the mites.

This will give them less opportunity to reproduce, hence reducing their numbers significantly over time. It’s also wise to keep track of your progress by regularly checking the number of mites within your colony; this will help you determine whether or not further treatment is necessary.

Without further ado, let’s move on – next up we’ll look at managing varroa mites using pollen patties!

Pollen Patties

Pollen patties are an effective way to control varroa mites in your hive. By providing additional nutrition and reducing stress, these bee treats can help keep the colony healthy and strong.

As a bonus, they also act as a natural repellent against mites—the bees will consume them before the pests have a chance to feed on them.

To use pollen patties, spread them thinly over the top of the frames or hang one near the entrance so that all of the bees can access it easily. The patty should be left in place for at least two weeks, but no longer than six weeks; otherwise, it may attract other pests like wax moths or ants.

If you notice any signs of infestation during this time period, remove the patty immediately and take further steps to treat your hive.

By taking preventative measures such as using pollen patties and keeping a close eye on your hives for signs of trouble, you’ll be able to protect your colonies from invasion by varroa mites.

With careful monitoring and prompt treatment if necessary, you can ensure that your bees stay safe and healthy. Now let’s move on to splitting colonies as another step in preventing mite infections…

Splitting Colonies

Splitting colonies is an effective way to combat Varroa mites. It involves dividing a single hive into two or more, allowing for the growth of multiple healthy colonies. This method can be used in either spring or fall and works best when done over several years.

Here are five steps you should take when splitting a colony:

  • Make sure your equipment is ready before beginning.
  • Inspect each frame carefully for signs of infestation and discard any frames that may have been affected.
  • Transfer bees from one box to another in order to maintain the balance between both hives.
  • Raise new queens and introduce them into their respective colonies as soon as possible.
  • Monitor the progress of each hive regularly, paying close attention to varroa levels and other potential issues.

By taking these simple precautions, you can ensure that your hive remains free from Varroa mites while also promoting the growth of strong and healthy bee populations in your area. Splitting colonies is an essential part of controlling Varroa mite numbers, so make sure to keep up with it on a regular basis!


In conclusion, Varroa mites are a serious threat to honey bee colonies and it is important for beekeepers to understand how they can be managed. There are a variety of methods that can be used to reduce the impact of this pest on hives, including sanitation practices, essential oils, plant extracts, pollen patties, and splitting colonies.

For example, one apiary I know of in Michigan was able to significantly reduce its varroa mite levels by using an integrated approach combining essential oils with colony splits.

By monitoring their mite levels regularly and taking active steps to prevent infestations from occurring in the first place, they were able to maintain healthy populations of bees without having to resort to chemical treatments.

It’s up to us as beekeepers to take responsibility for managing the health of our hives and protecting them from pests like Varroa mites. With proper management techniques such as those discussed here, we can help ensure healthy populations of bees for generations to come.