Beekeepers Friend

Peaches' Beekeeping Blog

March 20, 2015

Life Cycle Of The Varroa Mite

There are at least 30 different classes of mites that have been found living in a honeybee hive and at least three of those are considered vampire-like parasites. They live off the haemolymph which is the life blood of the honeybee.

One is the Trachea Mite that lives in the breathing tubes of the bee. These are not as much a problem as the other mites so we are not discussing them at this time.

Two are the of the more serious variety, V. jacobsoni and V. destructor until recently, were thought to be the same, but now DNA tests have separated them into two species. The most destructive is V. destructor, however, the life cycle is basically the same.

It starts with the adult female mite taking up residence in a beehive by riding in on the back of a bee that has robbed another hive and brought home, or the mite has ridden the robbing bee to the house that is being robbed and jumping onto a house bee there. Either way is the way the mites move from hive to hive and infesting the whole apiary.

Once in the hive the mite will jump into the cell and hide under the larva and hide until the  larva turns into a pupa and the nurse bees puts a cap on the cell. That is when the mite will lay 3 to 5 eggs with the first egg being a male. The brother in this case will mate with his sisters then die. The female mites will latch onto the pupa and emerge with the full grown worker bee then start the cycle over again.

At this time, I should point out that the mites prefers the drone cells as they are larger and easier to move around in and also the drones have a longer pupation period than the worker bees by 2 – 4 days. This gives the mites that much longer to develop.

This is the reason that we have to treat for the mites several times at a treatment time to be sure to get the majority of the mites. The treatment for mites is a contact type of chemical and the mites that are exposed are the only ones to receive the chemical. The mites in the enclosed cells are protected until the caps are removed and the bees emerge from the cells.

The treatments and types of chemicals will be another post. But in the meantime, keep you veil handy, your smoker lit, and your hive tool sharp.


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