Varroa mite

Queensland is a varroa mite biosecurity zone.

A movement control order (MCO) is in place to restrict the movement of bees, bee hives, bee products (including honey) and used beekeeping equipment out of the restricted area surrounding the Port of Brisbane in Queensland.

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

Help keep Queensland free of varroa mite by:

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. Queensland remains free of Varroa destructor.

Varroa jacobsoni has a wide distribution on Asian honey bee throughout Asia. It has recently been detected at the Port of Brisbane in Queensland. A movement control order is in place to restrict the movement of any varroa mite carrier into, out of, and within the restricted area.

Scientific name

Varroa destructor and Varroa jacobsoni

Other names

  • Varroa, bee mite


  • 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.

To the casual observer, V. destructor and V. jacobsoni look almost identical. However, there are slight differences in size and shape between the two species. There are also genetic differences that enable diagnostic identification.


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


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.  To date there is no evidence to suggest V. jacobsoni has been reproducing on European honey bees at the Port of Brisbane.

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



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.


  • 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.


  • 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

  • Everyone in Queensland has a general biosecurity obligation (GBO) under the Biosecurity Act 2014 (the Act) to manage biosecurity risks.
  • Under the Act, you must:
    • report all sightings of varroa mite immediately to Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23
    • take all reasonable and practical steps under your control to minimise any associated risks.
  • Both species of varroa mite are listed as prohibited matter under the Act.
  • Queensland is a varroa mite biosecurity zone.
  • A movement control order is in place for surrounding suburbs of the Port of Brisbane. All movements of bees, beehives, bee products and beekeeping equipment into, out of and within the restricted area are not permitted. A biosecurity instrument permit is required for movements of varroa mite carriers within the restricted area
  • You must hold a permit issued by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to move bees, beehives, used beekeeping equipment or bee products (including unprocessed honey) into Queensland from states or territories where varroa mite has been found.

Further information