Varroa Mite IPM

Meet the Varroa Mite

Close-up view of two varroa mites

Honey bee being parasitized by a varroa mite on a honeycomb

The varroa mite, Varroa destructor, is an external parasite that attacks adult and immature stages (brood) of honey bees. These mites weaken bees and can transmit viruses during the feeding process.

Common signs of mite damage include:

  • Open or damaged pupal cells
  • Holes in pupal cappings
  • Emerging adult bees with deformed or missing wings
  • Visible mites on bees/brood

Unmonitored and untreated infestations of varroa mites can result in colony death. Colonies should be routinely monitored so informed management decisions can be made about population levels, treatment methods, and efficacy.

To obtain the best results, incorporate a range of the chemical and cultural integrated pest management (IPM) methods listed in this brochure.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Options for Varroa Mites

Name Active Ingredient [Chemical Class] Mode of Action Application Material Application Season & Temperature Guidelines Treatment Duration Keep Honey Super On? Notes
Apivar® amitraz [amidine] contact plastic strip Spring, Fall 42-56 days no honey supers put on 14 days after strip removal
Apistan® tau-fluvalinate [pyrethroid] contact plastic strip Spring, Fall [>50°F] 42-56 days no mite resistance shown; honey supers put on after strip removal
CheckMite+® coumaphos [organophosphate] contact plastic strip Spring, Summer, Fall 42-45 days no mite resistance shown; do not use for queen-producing colonies
Apiguard® thymol fumigant gel or gel tray Spring, Fall [60°F to 105°F] 28-42 days no restricted entry interval (REI) of 48 hrs; honey supers put on after gel removal
Api Life Var® thymol, menthol, eucalyptus oil fumigant tablet Spring, Summer, Fall [64°F to 95°F] 26-32 days no honey supers put on 30 days after tablet removal
Mite-Away Quick Strips® (MAQS) formic acid fumigant gel strip Spring, Summer, Fall [50°F to 85°F] 7 days or 21 days yes penetrates wax cappings; check queen vitality after treatment
Formic Pro® formic acid fumigant gel strip Spring, Summer, Fall [50°F to 85°F] 14 days or 20 days yes penetrates wax cappings; check queen vitality after treatment
Oxalic Acid oxalic acid dihydrate contact, fumigant vapor or liquid Spring, Fall varies by application type no most effective when broodless
HopGuard®II potassium salt of hops beta acids contact cardboard strip Spring, Summer, Fall 30 days yes most effective when broodless
Screen Bottom Board cultural, non-chemical options for management varies depending on management type Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter all year yes check mite drop for effectiveness
Drone Brood Trapping/Removal Spring, Summer, Fall 14-20 days yes remove comb/open drone cells before emergence
Brood Interruption Spring, Summer 14-20 days yes split hive or allow to swarm; but capture swarm
Re-Queen/Cage Queen Spring, Summer 28 days yes select mite resistant stock when available

Ten Steps to Doing an Alcohol Mite Wash

Materials Needed

  • Dishpan
  • ½ cup measuring device
  • ½ cup 70% rubbing alcohol
  • Mite wash jar


  1. Inspect honey bee colony to remove a single frame that contains open brood and adult bees. Make sure the queen is not on the frame.
  2. Shake worker bees from this frame into the dishpan.
  3. Quickly scoop ½ cup of worker bees (~ 300 bees) from the dishpan and put into provided mite wash jar filled halfway with 70% alcohol.
  4. Shake leftover live bees from the dishpan back into the hive.
  5. Put the solid and mesh lids on jar and tightly seal.
  6. Shake jar vigorously for 1–2 minutes to dislodge mites from submerged bees. Let jar sit for a few minutes to let mites dislodge.
  7. Remove solid lid from jar, leaving mesh lid, and tightly seal.
  8. Pour the mixture of dead bees, mites, and alcohol through the mesh lid over the empty dishpan to remove the mites and alcohol. Vigorously shake jar contents while pouring to ensure mites are dislodged.
  9. Sift through the liquid debris to count the total mites. If the total number of mites ranges from 3 to 9, consider treatment options.
  10. Discard bees. Alcohol can be reused if mites are removed. Wash all reusable materials after use.
Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources logo
Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation & Forestry

Publication produced by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (MDAR) and Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry (MDACF), funded by the Northeastern IPM Center through grant #2014-70006-22484 from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Crop Protection and Pest Management, Regional Coordination Program, and reprinted with permission from the Northeastern IPM Center.