Varroa mite

Varroa mite

Varroa destructor

Common name:

Varroa mite

Scientific name:

Varroa destructor

Alternative common names:


Varroa mites are external honey bee parasites that attack both the adults and the brood, with a distinct preference for drone brood. It was first found in South Africa in August 1997, the first report of this mite in sub-Saharan Africa. An immediate survey revealed that the mite was common and widespread in both commercial and wild honeybee populations in the Western Cape, but absent from the rest of the country.

Additional Information

Where does this species come from?


What is its invasive status in South Africa?

NEMBA Category 1b

Where in South Africa is it a problem?

Western Cape Province

How does it spread?

Mites spread from colony to colony by drifting workers and drones within an apiary. Honey bees can also acquire these mites when robbing smaller colonies

Why is it a problem?

It is a bloodsucking parasite that feeds on honeybees and has spread globally, destroying colonies worldwide. They suck the blood from both the adults and the developing brood, weakening and shortening the lifespan of the ones on which they feed.

What does it look like?

Description: The adult mites are reddish-brown in colour, flattened, oval, and measure about 1 to 1.5 mm across. They have eight legs. They are large enough to be seen with the unaided eye on the thorax, most commonly, and on the bee’s abdomen. Their flattened shape allows them to hide between the bee’s abdominal segments. This mite is often confused with the bee louse, but the bee louse has only six legs, is more circular in shape, and is slightly larger.

Habitat: Mites develop on the bee brood.

Breeding: A female mite will enter the brood cell about one day before capping and be sealed in with the larva. Eggs are laid and mites feed and develop on the maturing bee larva. By the time the adult bee emerges from the cell, several of the mites will have reached adulthood, mated, and are ready to begin searching for other bees or larvae to parasitize. There is a preference for drone brood. Inspection of the drone brood in their capped cells will often indicate whether or not a colony is infested. The dark mites are easily seen on the white pupae when the comb is broken or the pupae are pulled from their cells.

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