Varroa mites are arguably the most heinous scourge of honey bees. They are ubiquitous, can easily migrate from colony to colony, and vector viruses that lead to elevated colony mortality. Yet, despite their destructive capacity, many beekeepers still do not monitor for these infestations nor have a Varroa mite management in place. At the Bee Informed Partnership, we work hard to get the word out to anyone who will listen – Varroa mites are in every colony. Accept that fact and understand that if you want to keep your colonies alive, you MUST monitor frequently and be pro-active in your management. Fall is perhaps the most important season in the beekeeping calendar. This is the time of year when colony reproduction slows, forage becomes scarce yet Varroa mites are at their peak population in untreated colonies. If a colony is to survive the winter, adequate stores or feeding must take place and Varroa mites must be reduced to a level that will not harm the winter bees being produced by the colony at this time. What level does that mean? For those states which experience a true winter, we suggest that Varroa mites be reduced to <2-3% during the Fall months. Left untreated, Varroa mites will kill your colony. If a few colonies are above threshold during this time, treat the entire yard. Crashing colonies due to high mite loads will affect the other colonies in the yard.
How do you monitor? When do you monitor? For those who have never done so and for those who regularly do (good for you!), there is a national citizen science event occurring for the first time this year. Please join us in the FIRST EVER NATIONAL MITE-A-THON! During September 9-September 16, participants will monitor the level of mites (number of mites per 100 bees) using a standardized protocol utilizing two common methods of assessment (powdered sugar roll or alcohol wash) and then enter data, including location, total number of hives, number of hives tested, local habitat, and the number of Varroa mites counted from each hive. Please note: The published information will not identify individual participants. Data will be entered at www.MiteCheck.com. This is an exciting opportunity to raise awareness, participate in a national (including Mexico and Canada) citizen science project, and gain some vital information on all your colonies as well as see the levels in regions near you!
You can easily build your own kits, but if you’d rather purchase a kit that has everything you need, see these kits from Brushy Mountain
or at Mann Lake
(https://www.mannlakeltd.com/bee-squad-varroa-mite-testing-kit). Purchase them now so that you are ready by September 9th and be prepared with a Varroa management strategy (treat or IPM) for that week. If you have a preferred treatment, please have enough treatment on hand immediately after you monitor in case your levels are above threshold.
For more information about Mite-A-Thon, please visit
For more information about Varroa mites, monitoring and treating, the Honey Bee Health Coalition has done a great job in providing current, vetted materials here: