The ultimate guide to fighting varroa
The varroa mite is one of the primary threats to bee colonies worldwide and is often cited as a significant cause of the decline in bee populations. Severe varroa infestations can weaken a colony to the point of collapse if control measures are not implemented.
In this article, we will present the ultimate guide to combating varroa. We will explain what varroa is, why it is harmful to bees, and how to fight against this parasite.
What Is Varroa?
Varroa is a parasitic mite that affects bees, particularly the domestic honeybee (Apis mellifera). The most well-known species is Varroa destructor. These parasites attach themselves to bees and feed on their hemolymph (the insect's circulatory fluid), thereby weakening adult bees. However, the most serious issue is that these mites also parasitize bee larvae and nymphs within brood cells, often resulting in deformities and abnormalities in emerging bees.
Contamination and Spread
The contamination and spread of Varroa destructor primarily occur from one bee colony to another. Here's how it generally happens:
- Horizontal Transmission between Colonies:
Infested bees leave their hive in search of food or during raids on other hives.
Mature varroa mites or mites on infested bees may accidentally fall onto flowers or other external hive surfaces.
Transmission of Varroa Mites:
Varroa mites can then climb onto healthy foraging bees or other visiting bees.
- Vertical Transmission within a Colony:
Varroa mites reproduce within bee brood cells. Female varroa mites enter brood cells just before they are sealed.
Once the cells are sealed, varroa mites begin feeding on the bee larva or pupa.
After reproduction, mature varroa mites exit the cells of newly emerged bees and return to the hive to restart the cycle.
- Human-Mediated Transport:
Beekeeping equipment, hive frames, and even bees themselves can inadvertently transport varroa mites from one hive to another.
Raiding bees can also transport varroa mites when they leave an infested hive to establish themselves in a healthy hive.
Symptoms of Varroosis:
Varroosis is a disease in bees caused by the Varroa destructor mite. The symptoms of varroosis in adult bees include the following:
- Affected bees are weakened and exhibit restless behavior.
- They poorly maintain their brood and show behavioral issues during foraging and harvesting.
- Parasitic mites are generally hard to spot on bees, but if the infestation is significant, they can be seen on the ventral and dorsal plates.
- Diseased bees die prematurely.
- In larvae, drones, and worker bees, there is a general weakening of the colony, malformations, deformed wings, atrophied or incomplete wing formation, and mosaic brood. A severe infestation can lead to the disappearance of entire colonies.
How to Eradicate Varroa Mites?
Controlling varroa mites can be approached chemically and biologically. It's essential to note that the choice of methods may depend on various factors such as the severity of infestation, beekeeper preferences, and local regulations. Here are examples of chemical and biological methods to combat varroa mites:
- Specific Chemicals:
- Some chemical products, like pyrethroids, can be used to treat bees against varroa mites. However, their use must be cautious to prevent resistance.
- Formic Acid: Used in the form of gel or vapor.
- Oxalic Acid: Administered through dripping, sublimation, or vaporization.
Some essential oils, such as eucalyptus oil, thyme oil, or oregano oil, have antimicrobial properties and can be used to combat varroa mites.
However, it is important to note that the Stop Varroa treatment offers a 100% success rate and eliminates the varroa mite colony in 24 hours.
It is crucial to meticulously follow the specific instructions for the "Stop Varroa" product, as application methods and precautions may vary. Additionally, consulting with beekeeping experts or veterinarians specializing in bees is always advisable to obtain advice tailored to your situation.