3 Ways To Prevent Varroa Hive Mites That'll Actually Work

Written by Sophia Roa in Management

Varroa mite eradication may be impossible once it's been established in your beehives. But beekeepers in different countries have used various methods to prevent mite infestations successfully. There isn't one management strategy for varroa mites that works for everyone. Each beekeeper needs to choose the control methods that work best for them.

Using organic, mechanical, and chemical techniques, you can prevent the varroa mite from infiltrating your beehives. Some methods to stop the varroa mite infestation include using mite-resistant honeybee stocks, a brood break, screen bottom boards, drone comb trapping, sugar dusting, and some known chemicals.

Regardless of the control strategies you decide on, repeat sampling is advised to assess their efficacy. Keep a close eye on your beehive and stay alert. It's an essential component of beekeeping that will guarantee you a healthier hive and more honey.


  • Avoid relying solely on one chemical or non-chemical preventive measure to prevent the spread of resistance among mite populations.
  • Honeybees with varroa-sensitive hygiene can identify and eliminate brood cells that contain the mites.
  • Honeybee grooming activities help the bees get rid of mites.

Prevent Varroa Mites Naturally

Genetic research on honeybees has made some of the most fascinating advancements in varroa mite prevention. Many efforts have been made in recent years to create certain breeds of honey bees that have demonstrated varroa mite tolerance. A variety of bee strains are available that have been demonstrated to reduce the number of varroa mites in their colonies.

Purchase mite-resistant honey bee stock

Russian bees have some capacity to control mite numbers. Due to their capacity to restrict mite reproduction, Russian bees have a slower rate of varroa mite population growth than other bee species. They coexist with the varroa's original host species, Apis cerana, and they may have developed a resistance to the mite since they have been exposed to it for a longer time than other strains.

The ability of honeybees to combat Varroa mites is improving. They are able to uncap and remove mite-infested pupae. This characteristic is known as varroa-sensitive hygiene (VSH). The bees have been bred to find varroa mites in growing pupae's cells and eliminate them before the mites can proliferate. The scents emitted by pupae that have been consumed by mites and are highly virus-infected are the possible cause of VSH behavior.

Grooming behavior is another characteristic that aids bees in getting rid of mites. This behavior is connected to mite biting. Most mites fall passively as adult bees emerge from brood cells or bees rub against one another in the hive. A high percentage of chewed mites suggests that the hive has relatively high levels of grooming activity.

When getting new queens, try to identify sources that promote mite tolerance or are produced in your area. You typically have to wait until June to buy bees if you use local queens. But even mite-tolerant bee populations might eventually perish from severe Varroa mite infestations, so it's crucial to keep an eye on mite populations and use miticide as necessary.

The mites from more vulnerable colonies will wind up in other neighboring hives when those colonies collapse due to mite infections. Winter hive losses can be kept to 15 percent or lower by monitoring mite levels and selecting a mite-tolerant stock.

Provide a brood break

By lowering the amount of bee brood where mites may reproduce, breaking the queen's brood cycle aids in mite control. Putting your queen in a cage or removing her from the colony for about three weeks will significantly slow the growth of mites. During that period, all the brood hatches, and the mites are compelled out of the cells and onto adult bees.

This method can slow the spread of varroa mites on its own or in combination with a chemical treatment. In addition, adult bees groom more in the absence of brood, which can reduce the colony's mite population, particularly when used in conjunction with a screened bottom board.

A carefully timed brood break can potentially reduce the strain of a dearth period while also giving the colony a young queen for the winter.

Prevent Varroa Mites Mechanically

It is possible to successfully reduce varroa mite populations by manipulating the colony or hive and not relying on chemicals to lower mite levels. Such mechanical control methods allow for their use even when bees are busy gathering nectar and making honey. However, they can be more time-consuming or require additional technology, and they might not be as successful as other control approaches.

Screened bottom board

Mites can fall outside the hive due to the screened bottom board. As a result of movement within the colony and honeybee grooming activities, mites naturally fall off of bees. Mites are less likely to climb back onto the bees if a screened bottom board is used as opposed to a solid wood one. Screened bottom boards reduce mite invasion, which lowers the percentage of the population present in the brood that is capable of reproducing.

Colonies using screened bottoms as opposed to solid bottoms had numerically lower mite levels. However, bottom screens offer only marginal advantages and typically call for extra forms of care. In hives with screened bottom boards, mite loads frequently exceed economic thresholds, necessitating the application of other control methods in addition to this physical form of varroa mite management.

Drone comb trapping

The addition of a drone comb to a colony promotes the production of drones, which serve as a mite trap. Drone brood, which are the developing pupae of male honey bees, are preferred by varroa mites. This is so that female mites can have more offspring per generation because drones are bigger and take longer to grow. The varroa mites that are breeding in the cells can be efficiently eliminated by removing that comb before drone emergence.

After the drone brood capping, you can either scrape them off the frame or freeze it for two days to kill all the mites and return them to the colony. This approach can significantly lower mite reproduction within colonies, extending the amount of time before the population exceeds the threshold. It might not, however, be sufficient to serve as the sole method of varroa mite management.

Powdered sugar dusting

Adult bee mites stick to the backs of adult bees as they travel around the hive. Dusting with powdered sugar reduces the number of mites by making them lose their grip. You can remove every frame and give the bees a powdered sugar dusting to help prevent Varroa mite infestations.

Repeat this procedure every week for three weeks, being careful to avoid open cells. This method doesn't use chemical pesticides, but it can be time-consuming and quite disruptive to a colony.

Sugar can be applied as a powder or sprinkled on bees to prevent mites because it encourages grooming, which leads to more mites being gathered on bottom boards. When considering this approach, beekeepers should assess the costs and benefits, since it can be successful with bees removed from hive equipment but is labor-intensive.

While this method alone is unlikely to be able to reduce the mite population, it can be used in conjunction with screened bottom boards to increase mite drop.

Prevent Varroa Mites Chemically

By inserting plastic strips loaded with the active ingredient within the hive, synthetic insecticides are often delivered to a colony to control varroa. Despite the fact that these treatments have traditionally offered very high levels of control, mites have developed resistance to these chemicals, making them less dependable in some places.

Naturally produced organic acids, essential oils, and hop beta acids work without leaving chemical traces in hive byproducts like wax. If chemicals are used in the hive, mild chemicals should be applied first before harsh chemicals are considered. Additionally, colonies should only be treated when monitoring has shown a need for it.

As you learn how to defend your bees from Varroa mites, there are a number of chemical choices that can be helpful. These techniques shouldn't be utilized as preventative measures because they could lose their effectiveness. Instead, apply them cautiously as a treatment as soon as you become aware of mite existence.

The spring and summer varroa mite reproduction generally results in a huge population in the fall. If the economic threshold is crossed, applying a chemical miticide before the winter bees are produced will increase one's chances of successfully overwintering.

Try not to experiment with unapproved chemical therapies under any circumstances. These actions are prohibited and may cause bee deaths, honey and wax contamination, and serious harm to the beekeeper.

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Sophia Roa in Management

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