Since its discovery in England in 1992 the parasitic mite, Varroa destructor, has spread to infest colonies of honey bees throughout the UK. Its management has now become a routine and essential part of bee husbandry. The development of strains of mite resistant to treatments used against them poses new challenges to beekeepers. This leaflet describes the biology of the mite, how it can be recognised and monitored, the latest approaches beekeepers can use to control the infestation in their hives, and a look ahead to the future.
Varroa destructor was first reported in Western Europe in the late 1970s. The mite causes varroosis, a very serious and complex infestation of honey bees. It has caused massive economic losses and expense for beekeepers, and its destructive power is evident from the huge number of colonies lost since it first arrived in Europe. Varroa remains the number one management problem for beekeepers and scientists alike. The onset of resistance to the treatments available, and the potential impact of secondary infections, will make controlling the mite more difficult in the future. Varroa will continue to be a serious threat to the long-term sustainability and prosperity of European apiculture and to the environment through the disruption to pollination.