Varroa mites - what do I need to do?

by Flow Hive 4 min read

A guide for beekeepers

Varroa is now present in virtually every country in the world. Helping your bees to manage varroa plays an important role in the health of your colony, and also the successful pollination in your garden and further afield.

The good news is that helping your bees combat the mites involves getting to know your bees better and improving your beekeeping skills. The steps we recommend are to become more familiar with your bees, follow good beekeeping practices, monitor for mites regularly, and apply control methods or treatments when necessary. It’s also important to make sure your hive registration is current, and stay tuned to updates and requirements from your state's agricultural body.



1. Keep your bees healthy

Strong and healthy bees are the best defence against most honeybee pests and diseases. Luckily bees do most of the work, but as a beekeeper, one of the most important things you can do to help is to know your bees well and keep track of changes within your colonies. A weak colony is at a higher risk of parasites like varroa. Likewise, having a lot of mites in your colony makes your bees more vulnerable to other pests and ailments.

Regular brood inspections are the best way to get familiar with your bees. Make varroa monitoring a part of your inspection routine and keep records to track changes in your colonies over time.

The more you learn about your bees and get to know them better, the better you’ll be at spotting when they need a helping hand. A weak hive may require feeding, a suitable water source, drier conditions, extra ventilation, or even a new queen. If you’re unsure of something, get advice from more experienced beekeepers. Check out the support articles and educational resources on our website for extra info.

Nutrition is a key factor in bee health - if your bees are getting plenty of protein the brood can develop in a shorter timeframe, which reduces the duration of the mites' reproductive window. It also leads to the adult bees having more resilience against the effects of the mites.

Remember that your bees affect the health of your neighbours’ bees too. Diseases and parasites can be spread through drifting, robbing, and swarming, so it’s a good idea to talk to other beekeepers to keep abreast of issues affecting bees in your area.

Good hygiene is really important to stop the spread of any diseases between hives or other apiaries. Keep your beekeeping equipment and clothes clean if working on more than one hive, and be careful if buying second-hand equipment.

To dive deeper into the world of bee health, check out our beekeeping blogs, pests and diseases section, and our online beekeeping course. There's a hive of information waiting for you.


2. Monitor your hives for varroa mites

If you live in in an area where varroa is present or may encroach, there are a few different methods you can use to monitor your colonies for mites. These can be incorporated into your regular brood inspections.

If you suspect you have found varroa mite in your hives, notify your state’s agricultural body immediately.




3. Apply treatments when necessary

Beekeepers have a number of ways to help keep varroa mite numbers in check. Some of these are preventative techniques, like providing a brood break, uncapping drone brood, or introducing varroa-resistant genes into your colonies. If the mite levels get too high, it can call for stronger treatments. A combination of different tactics is advisable, depending on the advice for your specific region and your own requirements.

The NSW DPI provides a table for determining the threshold percentage of mites at which treatment is recommended.  

See our article on How beekeepers around the world manage varroa for more details on treatment methods.

Be sure to do another mite count after completing a treatment so that you can measure how effective it was.



With a bit of help and some TLC, your bees will be in the best position to tackle the mites. In the process, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of what’s happening in your hives, and help to protect other pollinators too.




NB: Flow bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality or content of external sites or for that of subsequent links. Contact external sites for answers to questions regarding their content.


Image credit: Piscisgate, CC BY-SA 4.0

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