FAQs related to Varroa Mite

How does varroa travel?

Varroa depends on adult bees for transport. The mite spreads naturally between bee colonies by travelling with drifting bees and swarms.

Modern beekeeping practices often involve shifting bees, beehives, and equipment between apiary sites, often over long distances. This has the potential to spread varroa more quickly over long distances.

Why are we worrying about Varroa?

It weakens and kills honeybee colonies. Bees are important because they pollinate a wide range of food crops.

What are the possible consequences of varroa on the bee population?

The whole bee population is at risk from the mite. Numbers of mites in a colony typically build up over a year or so, until they are sufficient to kill the colony if it is not treated. The mite will wipe out most wild (or feral) bees, as they will not be treated by a beekeeper to control varroa levels. Only well-managed bee colonies will survive the arrival of varroa.

How does varroa spread internationally?

There is an international trade in live bees. Queen bees are shipped world-wide, and are believed to be responsible for the spread of the mite to both North and South America, and Africa. New Zealand has not permitted bee imports for many years, but does export live bees.

Where did Varroa mites come from?

The mite originated in eastern Asia and spread into Europe, probably via Russia. Since the 1980s, Varroa has been carried into most other beekeeping regions of the world, killing thousands of colonies.

How long does the varroa mite survive away from bees?

Up to five and a half days, but usually much less.

How did Varroa get to New Zealand?

It is unknown how the mite arrived in New Zealand. Varroa is usually spread by live bees, and there have been no live bee imports permitted into New Zealand for at least 40 years. Varroa probably arrived either with an illegal introduction of queen bees from a varroa-infested country, or in a bee colony or swarm that established on or in a shipping container and survived the journey to New Zealand without detection.

How long has Varroa been here?

We don't know for sure, but it was probably here for around two years before it was detected in 2000.

What does Varroa mite look like?

Adult female mites are fairly large about 1.1 x 1.6mm. They have a hard reddish to dark brown body that is flattened and oval in shape.

Varroa Mite

Does varroa harm humans or livestock?


What is the life cycle of the Varroa mite?
Image of the Varroa Mites Lifecycle stages
How do other countries manage Varroa?

If varroa is established in a country, a successful approach for the beekeeping industry is likely to include:

  • not destroying infested hives;
  • developing smart movement controls and applying them judiciously;
  • very promptly getting overseas expertise to upskill the industry (and regulators) on what management and regulatory approaches to take;
  • surveillance to monitor the spread of varroa and alert beekeepers to the need to control;
  • putting a lot of resources into beekeeper education on management and control;
  • working out ways to coordinate control on an area basis;
  • carrying out research to identify the best management practices for controlling mites under local conditions;
  • taking a strategic approach to registering chemical controls.