Best Practices for Managing Mites

In the Toe Cane Beekeepers Association, we deal with cold winters, summer dearths, and black bears, but the biggest challenge facing both our bees and beekeepers is the varroa destructor mite. These tiny parasitic mites feed on bees, live in their hives, and reproduce in capped brood, spreading disease and destruction in their wake. If your bees died over the winter, chances are it was because of these mites.

The best comparison might be to think of a bee with a varroa mite feeding on it like a human with a tick the size of a dinner plate riding on its back. Like ticks, the varroa are a vector for multiple diseases. Humans try to remove ticks from our bodies as soon as possible. The solution works for bees too: Get rid of the mites early, before they build up.

Treatment Options

The good news is that we have treatments. The bad news is they are not perfect.


Mites can be treated with synthetic chemicals, or miticides, which are designed to kill the mites with minimal harm to the bees

Naturally Derived Treatments

There are also naturally derived chemical treatments

Hive Management

Beekeepers can break the brood cycle to help reduce varroa loads

Mite-Resistant Bees

Efforts to breed bees that kill mites or don’t let them reproduce are showing early signs of success

Read the Manual

Always read and understand the manufacturer’s instructions and determine if the treatment you select can be used when honey supers are in place

Other Tools

Some beekeepers swear by essential oils and other remedies

Integrated pest management

The most successful approach 

IPM uses a combination of different management techniques and tactics to minimize mite loads. You might consider this attacking the problem from multiple angles rather than concentrating on a single approach.

Beekeepers hold the key

The beekeeper is an integral part of the treatment program and few beehives will survive more than a year or two without a conscientious beekeeper.

A bee with a varroa mite on it
Varroa Destructor mites in a cell