Varroa mite

Varroa mite is a prohibited matter under the Biosecurity Act 2014.

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There are 2 species of varroa mite: Varroa destructor and Varroa jacobsoni. Both species of varroa mite are listed as prohibited matter under the Biosecurity Act 2014.

Varroa destructor is responsible for the collapse and death of European honey bee colonies wherever it is present overseas. Honey bees are weakened by mites feeding on them as pupae, and adult bees often emerge with deformities.

Varroa jacobsoni has a wide distribution on Asian honey bee throughout Asia.

Scientific name

Varroa destructor and Varroa jacobsoni

Other names

  • Varroa, bee mite

Description

  • Curved, pinhead-sized mite.
  • Adult females are reddish-brown, flattened, oval-shaped, with body 1–1.7mm long and 1.5–1.99mm wide.
  • Adult males are yellowish, spherical, with body 0.75–0.98mm long and 0.70–0.88mm wide.
  • May be seen on the thorax or nestled into abdominal folds of adult bees.
  • Obligate parasites of honey bees and do not survive for long away from a host.

Habitat

  • Live wherever bee colonies are found.
  • Asian honey bees (Apis cerana) have adapted to withstand varroa mite infestation and are their natural host.

Distribution

Varroa mite has been found in much of Asia, Europe, the USA, South America and New Zealand.

Varroa destructor is not established in Australia.

Varroa jacobsoni do not normally reproduce on European honey bees; however, they have recently been observed reproducing on European honey bees at some overseas locations, raising concerns that the same may happen in Australia.

The movement of any of the following carriers could spread varroa mite across the country:

  • a bee
  • a swarm
  • nest or hive of bees
  • an apiary appliance
  • an apiary product.

Affected animals

Impacts

Environmental

Varroa mite numbers build up over time, eventually killing honey bee nests and hives if chemical mite killers or other management strategies are not applied.

Varroa mite can cause:

  • scattered brood
  • crippled and crawling honey bees
  • impaired flight performance
  • a lower rate of return to the colony after foraging
  • a reduced lifespan
  • significantly reduced weight of worker bees.

Colony symptoms, commonly called parasitic mite syndrome, include:

  • abnormal brood pattern
  • sunken and chewed cappings
  • larvae slumped in the bottom or side of the cell.

This ultimately causes a reduction in managed and feral honey bee population, supersedure of queen bees and eventual colony breakdown and death.

Varroa mite can carry bee viruses, including exotic viruses like deformed wing virus. These viruses can be more devastating to bee colonies than the mite themselves.

Economic

  • Potential to severely affect honey production.
  • Potential to severely affect a wide range of pollination-reliant food crops and crops that support primary food production.

Control

  • Early detection is essential to ensure any varroa mites entering Australia are contained.
  • The Australian Government monitors cargo ships entering Australian ports for bees and other unwanted insect pests. If you find a swarm in an international airport or seaport, phone 1800 798 636 or Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.
  • Monitor your hives and immediately report unexpected hive deaths, deformed bees, bees with parasites, poor brood patterns.
  • Conduct your own varroa mite surveillance and record results on the Bee 123 online form.

Legal requirements

Further information