4 Effective Varroa Mite Treatments

Varroa Mites are external parasites that attack honey bees and cause the disease, varroosis. These mites can significantly bring down the production of honey bees by increasing deaths in bee colonies. As a result, this can impact the economy of the entire beekeeping industry.

After years of extensive research at Dadant, we’ve found a few proven and effective treatments to control Varroa Mites. Some of these treatments include mechanical procedures, whereas others involve bio-pesticides or synthetic pesticides. Be careful when using these particular chemicals, as they may prove to be a threat to the bees. Proper research, along with the instructions, must be followed to avoid any harmful effects. Continue reading to discover the numerous ways to control the varroa mites.

Varroa Mite Treatments

1. Mechanical Control

a. Use Drone Comb: Varroa mites prefer to infect the drone brood consisting of growing male honey bees. These large-sized drones take longer to grow, therefore, attracting female mites (as they can reproduce more). So, place drone combs in the hive to attract and capture the mites. Remove the frames once the mites are trapped. Repeat the process if the mite population has increased dramatically.

b. Powdered Sugar Dusting: This technique helps in removing varroa mites from the hive but doesn’t kill them. Take a sticky board and insert it into the hive with its greasy side up. Remove the frames one by one after smoking. Dust the frames with powdered sugar (avoid sugar that has corn starch) and put them back in the hive. Open the hive after a day and remove the sticky boards. Scrape aside the mites and sugar accumulation and burn it.

2. Mite-Tolerant Stocks

a. Russian Strain: These are bees that are imported from the Primorsky region, far-eastern Russia by the researchers at the USDA Honey Bee Research Lab in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. These Russian bees exist along with the original species of varroa. Research has shown that these bees are more tolerant towards the attack of the mites because of their longer exposure to the mites. They can, in fact, resist varroa two times more than any other commercial stocks. After a prolonged period of time, the Russian bees are now available for purchase in the U.S.

b. VSH Stock: USDA researchers determined the Varroa Sensitive Hygiene (VSH) trait of honey bees. In this procedure, the bees detect and remove the pupae that are infected by the mites. These bees are crossed with other commercial stocks to infuse the notable trait to other bee strains.

3. Bio-Pesticides

a. ApiLife VAR®: Approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ApiLife VAR® helps to treat varroa mites. The ingredients that constitute this product are the essential oils — thymol, eucalyptol, and menthol. According to various studies, ApiLife VAR® can kill between 65% and 97% of the mites.

Take a tablet, break it into four pieces and place them in the four corners of the hive between the brood frames. Repeat this treatment every week by replacing the old tablet with new. Practice this for three weeks. The product is temperature dependent and works effectively in temperatures above 60°F and below 90°F. Do this treatment after you’re done harvesting the honey.

b. Formic Acid: Recently, the EPA has granted the use of formic acid to treat varroa mites in the U.S. Beekeepers from Europe and Canada follow this procedure for many years. Formic acid is available in several forms. The pads soaked in liquid formic acid (Mite-Away II®) can be placed on the top of the hive. Do not use the product during a honey flow and maintain a temperature between 50°F and 79°F. Remove the product from the hive if the temperature exceeds 82°F during the first week of treatment. The increase in temperature can kill the brood and adult bees. Formic acid is highly corrosive and poisonous, hence, the beekeeper needs to take proper precaution while applying the acid.

4. Chemical (Synthetic Pesticide) Treatments

a. Apistan®: This pesticide is registered by the EPA and is possibly the best one for the control of varroa mites. It comes in plastic strips, which are infused with the active pesticide. Insert two strips on different frames in the brood nest. Avoid the usage of Apistan® during a honey flow. When used properly, this product can control up to 100% of the mites. However, it’s recommended to alternate this treatment with others. This reduces the risk of the mites developing any resistance against the chemical and hence, retains efficiency.

b. Apivar®: This is a new chemical available to the beekeepers for treating mites. It has the same working power as Apistan®.

c. Checkmite+®: This EPA registered pesticide help control up to 100% of the varroa mites when used properly. The active pesticides are impregnated in the plastic strips, which are hung on the brood chambers. It’s effective to use one strip per hive. Remove the honey supers before using the chemical. The pesticide can form residues on the wax and can be harmful to the bees, therefore, follow the instructions and alternate the use of the product with other proven treatments.

Now that you know of various treatments for varroa mites, it’ll be easier for you to prevent your bees from getting infected.