How does the Bayer Bee Care Center in North Carolina manage the parasitic mite, Varroa destructor, in research hives? This is a frequently asked question with no simple answer because there are so many variables.
Approaches to Managing Varroa destructor in Honey Bee Colonies
The first consideration in answering how to manage Varroa mites is dependent on what the honey bees are being used for -- honey production, pollination, both honey production and pollination, bee stock production, or research.
Management of Varroa mites must also consider if colonies are winter survivors, nucs, packages, strong, or weak. Another variable is the hive area. The hive area may be isolated with a low risk of mites re-infesting the colony, in an area with a lot of overlap in forage ranges and a high risk of re-infestation, or something in between these extremes.
Another consideration is climate. A cold northern climate provides a natural break in the honey bee and mite brood cycles, as well as considerable natural mite mortality. In a warm southern climate, there is no break in brood cycles and Varroa can reproduce year round.
The Bayer Bee Care team practices these general principles:
- Break the life cycle of the mite and use treatments with the least persistent residues and minimal possibility of resistance development.
- Try to revert resistance and maintain susceptibility to the most effective varroacides.
- Save the most effective treatments for when they are truly needed and have the longest benefit.
- Use a variety of tactics in an Integrated Pest Management approach which includes frequent monitoring of mites for informed decision-making.