Pain in the Neck

Mar 23, 2010

To a beekeeper, it's a four-letter word.


Specifically, the varroa mite, also known as Varroa destructor.

It's a small (think flea-sized) crab-shaped parasite that feeds on bees, either in the brood (immature bees) or on adult bees.

Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen, member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, just updated his Bee Brief on this blood sucker. His Bee Briefs, all posted online on the department Web site, can be downloaded for free.

This Bee Brief is titled "Treating Colonies for Varroa Mite Infestations." (You'll also want to read his updated colony collapse disorder (CCD) Bee Brief.)

It's apparent, Mussen says, that resistant mites are now prevalent in the United States, including California.

"Chemical testing has demonstrated that varroa mites commonly are resistant to fluvalinate, coumaphos and amitraz. Losses of wintering colonies were over twice as high as 'normal' during the early 2000s, with one of the worst losses (40 to 60 percent) of California (and total U.S.) commercial colonies over the 2005-05 winter. Infested colonies dwindled away during the fall and winter."

Meanwhile, a hive without a varroa mite is a scarcity indeed.

You can see varroa mites on the larva (below) and on an adult bee.

Just think if you had a blood sucker on you like that.


By Kathy Keatley Garvey
Author - Communications specialist

Attached Images:

VARROA MITE on a worker bee (see crab-shaped parasite near her head). These undertaker bees were trying to remove a drone larva from the hive. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Varroa Mite

VARROA mite is quite visible on this honey bee pupa. It's a blood-sucking parasite. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Mite on Pupa