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Best Management Practices (BMPs)

Beekeepers Pollinating Agricultural Crops

elearning modules
Module 1:
Best Management Practices
Varroa Control
Why is Varroa a problem for honey bees?
Varroa reduces colony vigor by feeding on
honey bee hemolymph and fat bodies.
They also vector viruses and facilitate
infection by other bee pathogens.

As a rule, in colonies with brood, mite

populations double about once a month
and even quicker when the colony has
large amounts of drone brood, or when
Varroa are transmitted from neighboring
Varroa feeds on the hemolymph and fat
of a
Honey bee.
What is hemolymph?

Hemolymph is fluid that fills the body cavities

of an invertebrate.
Hemolymph functions like blood for the
What is the relationship between Varroa and
bee population growth?
Varroa mite populations increase and decrease in
synchrony with the seasonal pattern of honey bee
development. Mite populations reach their highest levels
soon after the brood and adult honey bee populations
reach their peak, when there are more brood bees on
which Varroa reproduce. The time of year when colonies
have decreasing populations of bees is critical
because the colony needs to be healthy enough to rear
sufficient numbers of bees to survive the dormant/winter
This graph shows a typical bee and Varroa population growth
throughout the year. Notice the critical time to control mite
the population is mid to late summer before mites go above
the acceptable threshold.

Graph used with permission from Randy Oliver at

What is the acceptable level of mites ?
Varroa mite levels below 2 to 5 mites per 100 adult bees (i.e., a 2 to 5 percent
infestation level). Current data suggest that using this treatment thresholds may
be a successful strategy for decreasing overall colony losses. Use the chart
below to determine when treatment is right for you.

The Honey Bee Health Coalitions Tools for Varroa Management, A Guide to Effective Sampling & Control is
available free to all and can be accessed at:
Now that we know about Varroa, we
can discuss how to check and treat
for Varroa.
Does your colony have
Varroa mites?


How do we check?
Start by monitoring your bees mite
populations often. Waiting too long to confirm
elevated mite population numbers is risky. A
delay in treatment can reduce a colonys
likelihood of survival over the winter and
contribute to spreading mites to other
colonies. Generally, a beekeeper
should perform Varroa monitoring
assessments at least four times during the

How do we do this?
There are two sampling methods that provide the
best estimates of mite populations. Both involve
removing mites from the bodies of adult bees,
then counting the mites to establish a standard
percentage measure of mite numbers (i.e.,
number of mites per 100 adult bees). The
recommended sampling methods are the
sugar shake or the alcohol wash.

For more information and a demonstration of both

sampling methods, please watch the Honey Bee Health
Coalitions video:
1. Powered sugar
shake method
The powdered sugar shake method
is non-lethal, so the bees may be
returned to the hive after testing.
With the alcohol or soap wash
method, the bees will be
2. Alcohol wash
Perform the alcohol
wash away from the smoker.
Alternate Sampling Methods for Varroa
While the two most accurate ways to determine the number of Varroa mites present
during any time are the powdered sugar shake and alcohol wash methods,
some beekeepers continue to use methods that are less efficient and less
accurate or are difficult to obtain consistent results. Project Apis m. and The Honey
Bee Health Coalition do not recommend relying on the methods identified in
the following.

The Honey Bee Health Coalitions Tools for Varroa Management, A Guide to Effective Sampling & Control is
available free to all and can be accessed at:
What are the effective
methods of varroa
Use miticides to remove the mites.

So, what exactly is a miticide?

A miticide is a
chemical or
combination of
compounds that is
fatal to the
parasitic mite.
How do I choose a miticide, and help assure
its efficacy?

Consult The Honey Bee Health Coalitions Tools for Varroa

Management, A Guide to Effective Sampling & Control at:

The site also has videos addressing the various topics included in
this E-Learning Module.
Varroa mites have exhibited resistance to
some miticides in some regions.

Check with your local cooperative extension

office or apiary inspector to find out which
miticides are most effective in your area.

Rotate your treatments to help prevent


Treat judiciously and follow label instructions


Please consult The Honey Bee Health Coalitions Tools for

Varroa Management, A Guide to Effective Sampling &
Control at:
True or False:

The stronger the hive is in summer,

the less likely it will be heavily
infested with Varroa in the late
summer or fall.

A stronger colony in summer give the

mites a healthier setting to reproduce in
very high numbers. They can
overwhelm the colony and cause its
demise in a very short time!
True or False:

Your neighbors bee Varroa levels

matter in your struggle to keep your
colonies healthy.

Other beekeepers in your area can

easily spread Varroa to your hives.
True or False:

Once you have treated with a strong

varroacide, leave the colony alone for
several weeks to give the treatment time
to work.

You need to recheck periodically

for mites.
Finally, what can a beekeeper do to
insure the colony is free of the
devastating effects of this parasite
called the Varroa mite?
1. You can check your Varroa treatment of
choice for efficacy, which means more
monitoring and careful management.
2. Always, go back and check for

Varroa can multiply rather quickly.

Again, this requires constant
monitoring and a good management
Any questions? Want more information?