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The Varroa mite (Varroa destructor) is a potentially devastating parasite that has emerged as a major threat to honey bees worldwide. Originating in Southeast Asia, this tiny arachnid has migrated to most major regions of the world due to global trade and the movement of honey bee colonies.

Australia was one of the few countries that had managed to remain free from Varroa. Strict biosecurity measures and geographical isolation have helped the country keep Varroa at bay. However, quarantine efforts, inspections, and restrictions on the importation of bees cannot but global trade and the transfer of exotic pests.

Over the years, the Varroa mite has become a serious concern for beekeepers and ecologists due to its profound impact on honey bees at both individual and colony levels.

The Varroa mite was first detected in the United Kingdom in the early 1990s, though its exact arrival remains unclear. Believed to have been introduced through the importation of infested bees or infected equipment, the mite quickly established itself in British honey bee colonies. Varroa’s ability to reproduce rapidly and its reliance on bee brood for reproduction have made it highly adaptable, spreading rapidly within the UK and across Europe.

Effects on Honey Bees as Individuals:

The Varroa destructor mite, a minuscule parasite, affixes itself to adult honey bees and their developing brood, where it feeds on their bodily fluids while simultaneously transmitting harmful viruses. This parasitic infestation significantly weakens the bees’ immune systems, diminishes their lifespans, and induces developmental abnormalities. Moreover, the mite’s prolonged presence takes a severe toll on the overall health and longevity of the bee, rendering them more susceptible to additional stressors such as pesticides and environmental fluctuations. Specifically, Varroa’s insidious damage manifests as the consumption of the bee’s fat body, which is akin to the mammalian liver and plays a pivotal role in critical functions like immune support, pesticide detoxification, overwinter survival, and numerous other essential processes for maintaining the vitality of honey bee colonies.

Effects on Colonies:

At the colony level, Varroa infestations pose even more significant challenges. As the mite spreads from bee to bee, it can reach alarming population levels, leading to colony collapse. The infestation weakens the bees’ ability to forage and reproduce, reduces overall productivity, and can lead to a decreased honey yield. Without proper management, Varroa infestations can escalate rapidly, posing a threat not only to the affected colony but also to nearby honey bee populations through drifting and robbing.

Management of Varroa Mites:

Beekeepers face an ongoing battle to manage Varroa mite infestations. There are several methods available to combat this pest, ranging from natural to chemical and biotechnical approaches.

Natural Methods:

  • Drone Brood Removal: Beekeepers can selectively remove drone brood, as Varroa mites have a preference for these cells. This method helps to reduce mite population levels without the use of chemicals.

  • Screened Bottom Boards: By installing screened bottom boards, beekeepers can encourage mites to fall through the mesh and out of the hive, thereby reducing their numbers.

  • Powdered Sugar Dusting: Dusting the bees with powdered sugar dislodges some mites and triggers grooming behavior, further reducing mite counts.

Chemical Methods:

  • Acaricides: These are chemical treatments specifically designed to kill Varroa mites. Common acaricides include fluvalinate, coumaphos, and amitraz. However, their repeated use can lead to mite resistance and contaminate hive products.

  • Formic Acid: It is an organic acid treatment that can be used to control mite populations effectively. Proper application is crucial to avoid harming the bees and queen.

Biotechnical Methods:

  • Breeding Resistant Bees: Some bee breeders focus on selecting and breeding bees with increased resistance to Varroa mites. These resistant traits can then be propagated throughout the beekeeping community.

  • Biological Control: Introducing natural predators of Varroa mites, such as certain nematodes or predatory mites, can help keep mite populations in check.

Tropilaelaps Mite

An Emerging Threat to Honey Bees and Beekeeping


The Tropilaelaps mite (Tropilaelaps spp.) is a relatively new and emerging pest of honey bees that has raised serious concerns among beekeepers and entomologists worldwide. Originating in Asia, the Tropilaelaps mite has been gradually spreading to other regions, posing a significant threat to honey bee populations and apiculture. This synopsis delves into the origins of the Tropilaelaps mite, its effects on honey bees at individual and colony levels, and the management methods available to beekeepers to combat this invasive pest.

Origins and Spread

The Tropilaelaps mite is native to Southeast Asia, where it co-evolved with Asian honey bee species (Apis cerana) and was relatively well-balanced within their populations. However, due to the global movement of bee colonies and trade, this mite has been inadvertently introduced to other regions, including the United Kingdom and other parts of the world.

Effects on Honey Bees as Individuals

Similar to the Varroa mite, the Tropilaelaps mite is a destructive ectoparasite that infests both adult honey bees and brood cells. The mites feed on the hemolymph (bee blood) and transmit harmful viruses to the bees during their feeding process. This parasitic infestation weakens the bees’ immune systems, shortens their lifespan, and impairs their ability to perform critical tasks within the hive, such as foraging and caring for the brood.

Effects on Colonies

At the colony level, Tropilaelaps mite infestations can have devastating consequences. As the mite population increases, it can cause a decline in the overall health and productivity of the colony. Infested colonies may exhibit reduced brood production, lower honey yields, and increased susceptibility to other diseases and environmental stressors. Left unchecked, Tropilaelaps infestations can lead to colony collapse, threatening not only the affected hive but also neighboring bee populations.

Management of Tropilaelaps Mites

Beekeepers face a challenging task in managing Tropilaelaps mite infestations, as this pest is not as well-studied as Varroa mites. However, various methods are being explored to control the spread and impact of Tropilaelaps mites.

Quarantine and Biosecurity Measures

  1. Quarantine: Prompt detection and isolation of infested colonies can prevent the spread of Tropilaelaps mites to other apiaries.

  2. Strict Biosecurity Protocols: Beekeepers and regulatory bodies should implement strict biosecurity measures to prevent the movement of infested bees and equipment between regions.

Chemical Methods

  1. Acaricides: Similar to Varroa mites, certain chemical treatments like fluvalinate and amitraz may be effective in controlling Tropilaelaps mites. However, their use requires caution to avoid harming honey bees and contaminating hive products.

Biotechnical Methods

  1. Breeding for Resistance: Some beekeepers and researchers are exploring the breeding of honey bee stocks with inherent resistance to Tropilaelaps mite infestations.

  2. Natural Predators: Research is underway to identify potential natural predators or parasitoids that could help regulate Tropilaelaps mite populations without harming honey bees.


The Tropilaelaps mite poses a significant and emerging threat to honey bee populations and beekeeping worldwide. Originating in Asia, this destructive parasite has spread to other regions through global trade and movement of bee colonies. Its impact on individual honey bees and entire colonies is alarming, making it crucial for beekeepers, researchers, and policymakers to collaborate and develop effective management strategies. By implementing strict biosecurity measures, exploring chemical and biotechnical methods, and researching natural control options, we can work towards safeguarding honey bee populations from the pervasive and destructive Tropilaelaps mite.

European Foul Brood

Understanding the Bacterial Menace Threatening Honey Bee Colonies

European Foulbrood (EFB) is a highly contagious and devastating bacterial disease that poses a serious threat to honey bee colonies worldwide. Caused by the bacterium Melissococcus plutonius, EFB weakens bee colonies, reduces honey production, and can lead to colony collapse if left untreated. This synopsis delves into the origins of European Foulbrood, its effects on individual honey bees and entire colonies, and the management methods available to beekeepers to combat this pervasive disease.

EFB is believed to have been present in honey bee colonies for centuries, with records of its occurrence dating back to the 19th century. The disease is widespread and found on all continents where apiculture is practiced. The bacteria Melissococcus plutonius primarily affect honey bee larvae, and their spores can persist in honey, pollen, and beekeeping equipment, facilitating the spread of the disease through contaminated food sources and robbing activities by other colonies.

European Foulbrood primarily impacts honey bee larvae. Once the larvae are infected, the bacteria quickly multiply and consume the larvae’s food, resulting in the death and decomposition of infected brood. The larvae’s decaying bodies turn into a foul-smelling, brownish substance, hence the name “Foulbrood.” Infected larvae show signs of discoloration and abnormal stretching within their cells. The loss of infected larvae not only reduces the workforce of the colony but also compromises the overall development and strength of the hive.

At the colony level, the effects of European Foulbrood can be catastrophic. As the disease progresses and more larvae become infected, the colony’s population diminishes, leading to a decrease in honey production and foraging capacity. Affected colonies struggle to rear a healthy brood, leading to a weakening of the hive’s overall health and ability to withstand other stressors. If left unmanaged, European Foulbrood can lead to colony collapse, with the hive eventually becoming non-viable.

Beekeepers must be vigilant in detecting and managing European Foulbrood outbreaks to prevent its spread and minimize its impact on their apiaries. Several management methods are available to control and mitigate the effects of this bacterial disease.

Hygiene Methods

  1. Hygienic Practices: Regular hive inspections and hygienic practices can help beekeepers identify and remove infected brood, reducing the bacterial load within the hive.

  2. Cleaning and Sterilization: Thoroughly cleaning and sterilizing beekeeping equipment between uses can prevent the spread of bacterial spores and reduce contamination.

Chemical Methods

  1. Antibiotics: In severe cases, beekeepers may use antibiotics like oxytetracycline or tylosin to treat colonies affected by European Foulbrood. However, the use of antibiotics has become controversial due to concerns about antibiotic resistance and residues in hive products.

Biotechnical Methods

  1. Requeening: Replacing the queen of an infected colony with a queen from a healthy, disease-free stock can help strengthen the colony’s immune response and reduce the prevalence of EFB.

  2. Beekeeping Practices: Implementing sustainable beekeeping practices, such as promoting genetic diversity and supporting strong colonies, can enhance the overall resilience of the apiary against disease outbreaks.

European Foulbrood poses a significant threat to honey bee colonies and beekeeping operations worldwide. Originating from historical times, this bacterial disease can devastate colonies, compromise honey production, and lead to colony collapse if not managed effectively. Through regular hive inspections, hygienic practices, and a holistic approach to beekeeping, beekeepers can detect and manage European Foulbrood outbreaks to safeguard the health and survival of their hives. Additionally, promoting research into sustainable management strategies and disease-resistant bee stocks will play a vital role in preserving the health and vitality of honey bee populations in the face of this bacterial menace.

American Foul Brood

American Foulbrood (AFB)

Overview American Foulbrood (AFB) is a devastating bacterial disease that primarily affects the honey bee brood. Caused by the spore-forming bacterium Paenibacillus larvae, AFB is known for its lethality among bee colonies. What sets AFB apart from many other bee ailments is that it is not related to stress factors and can afflict both the strongest and weakest bee colonies within an apiary.

Transmission AFB can spread through various channels in the beekeeping environment. One of the primary modes of transmission is via bacterial spores that can easily contaminate equipment and materials used in beekeeping practices. This can occur when infected combs or hive components are placed in non-infected hives. Additionally, bees themselves can contribute to the spread as they move between infected and clean hives through robbing and drifting behavior. Even the honey and pollen harvested from hives with AFB may contain AFB spores, making it essential for beekeepers to exercise caution when feeding hives from different sources unless the materials have been properly irradiated. The robust resilience of AFB spores, capable of surviving for over 50 years and resisting extreme temperatures, complicates containment efforts.

Disease Cycle The life cycle of AFB begins when spores are transmitted from nurse bees to larvae during the feeding process. Remarkably, it takes only around 10 spores to infect a day-old larva, and the younger the larvae, the more susceptible they are to infection. Once ingested, these spores germinate within the larvae’s gut and begin rapid multiplication once the larvae are capped. This leads to the death of the infected larvae at the pre-pupal or pupal stage, with the remains forming dried scales adhering to the cell walls. Adult bees, while not affected by AFB, can inadvertently spread spores within and between infected and clean hives as they attempt to remove the deceased pupae.

Symptoms Beekeepers can identify AFB through a range of observable symptoms in the brood. These include irregular and patchy brood patterns, sunken, darker, or greasy cell cappings, and perforated cappings, often a result of bees trying to remove the infected brood. As the disease progresses, infected larvae die and turn into a semi-liquid coffee-brown mass. In some cases, a distinct sulfurous smell may be present due to the decomposition of brood.

Detection To combat AFB effectively, beekeepers should inspect brood combs at least twice a year, particularly in the spring and autumn seasons. They should look for signs such as irregular brood patterns and abnormal cell cappings. It is also crucial to conduct the “ropiness test” on suspect cells to confirm AFB infection. This test involves pushing a matchstick into an infected cell and slowly withdrawing it. If the remains form a 3–5 cm long dark-brown ropy thread, it indicates an AFB infection.

Spread & Distribution AFB can inadvertently spread through the actions of beekeepers and natural bee behavior. Beekeepers can introduce bacterial spores when moving infected materials or equipment between hives. Bees themselves can contribute to transmission when they engage in robbing behavior, stealing resources from infected hives, or drifting from infected colonies into non-infected ones. The robust resilience of AFB spores, capable of surviving for over 50 years and resisting extreme temperatures, further complicates containment efforts.

Management Unlike many bee ailments that arise from colony stress, AFB poses a unique challenge in that it can affect both strong and weak colonies at any time of the year. Prevention is the primary strategy for managing AFB. Regular inspections of brood combs and the replacement of old combs are critical practices to adopt. Barrier management systems can be employed to prevent the interchange of materials between hives, reducing the risk of contamination. If AFB is detected in a colony, the recommended action is to destroy the entire colony, including frames, and irradiate hive components to eliminate AFB spores. Alternatively, hive components should be buried or burnt. Antibiotics are not suitable for AFB control due to spore persistence and antibiotic resistance concerns. Finally, AFB is a reportable disease in all states and territories of Australia, and beekeepers should contact local authorities for assistance if they suspect an outbreak.


Chalkbrood: Unraveling the Mycosis Impacting Honey Bee Brood Health


Chalkbrood is a fungal disease that affects the brood (larvae and pupae) of honey bees, causing significant disruptions to the normal development of bee colonies. Caused by the fungus Ascosphaera apis, chalkbrood is a widespread issue in apiculture and can weaken honey bee populations if left uncontrolled. This synopsis explores the origins of chalkbrood, its effects on individual bees and colonies, and the management methods available to beekeepers in combatting this fungal menace.

Origins and Spread

Chalkbrood has been present in honey bee colonies for a long time and is distributed globally. The fungus Ascosphaera apis thrives in damp and cool conditions, often attacking developing bee larvae in their brood cells. The spores of the fungus can be spread through infected brood, contaminated equipment, and foraging bees, leading to its rapid transmission within and between colonies.

Effects on Honey Bees as Individuals

Chalkbrood primarily affects the brood stages of honey bees. When young larvae consume contaminated food, the fungal spores germinate inside their gut, leading to infection. The fungus grows and consumes the larvae’s body, ultimately mummifying it into a hard, chalky, white or gray mass. Infected larvae appear twisted and contorted within their cells, a distinctive chalkbrood symptom. The death of infected brood deprives the colony of future workers, leading to a reduction in the hive’s population and productivity.

Effects on Colonies

At the colony level, chalkbrood can have significant consequences. As infected brood dies, it creates a void in the colony’s workforce and interrupts the development of new bees. This disruption in brood development weakens the hive and can reduce the colony’s ability to forage, defend against predators, and manage other stressors. Severe infestations of chalkbrood can lead to colony decline and, in extreme cases, may cause the colony to abscond or perish.

Management of Chalkbrood

Managing chalkbrood is crucial to maintain healthy honey bee colonies and ensure their productivity. Beekeepers employ various strategies to control the spread of chalkbrood and support colony health.

Cultural Methods

  1. Hygienic Practices: Regular hive inspections allow beekeepers to identify and remove infected brood, reducing the chalkbrood load within the hive.

  2. Brood Cycle Manipulation: Culling or removing frames with heavily infected brood during specific times of the year can help break the disease cycle and reduce chalkbrood prevalence.

Biotechnical Methods

  1. Brood Boosting: Providing healthy, mite-free brood frames from disease-free colonies can help strengthen the immune response of the affected hive and minimize chalkbrood impact.

  2. Environment Optimization: Maintaining a clean and dry hive environment discourages the growth and spread of the fungus, as chalkbrood thrives in damp conditions.

Chemical Methods

  1. Antifungal Treatments: In severe cases, antifungal agents may be used to control chalkbrood. However, their use should be approached with caution, as chemical residues can affect bees and hive products.


Chalkbrood is a persistent fungal disease that poses a challenge to beekeepers and honey bee populations worldwide. Originating from historical times, this fungal menace can weaken colonies, disrupt honey bee brood development, and reduce the productivity of hives. Through regular inspections, hygienic practices, and targeted management strategies, beekeepers can detect and mitigate chalkbrood outbreaks to protect their colonies and maintain the overall health of their apiaries. Promoting research into sustainable management approaches, supporting disease-resistant bee stocks, and enhancing beekeepers’ knowledge about early detection and control will be vital in safeguarding honey bee populations from the impact of chalkbrood.

Small Hive Beetle

The Small Hive Beetle: A Persistent Threat to Honey Bee Colonies


The Small Hive Beetle (Aethina tumida) is an invasive pest that poses a significant threat to honey bee colonies, honey production, and beekeeping practices. Native to sub-Saharan Africa, this beetle has been inadvertently introduced to various regions, including North America, Europe, and Australia, through global trade and transportation of beekeeping equipment. It is yet, however, to make its way to the United Kingdom. The Small Hive Beetle’s ability to exploit weakened colonies and thrive in hive environments makes it a formidable challenge for beekeepers worldwide. This synopsis explores the origins of the Small Hive Beetle, its effects on honey bee colonies, and the management methods available to beekeepers in their efforts to control this persistent pest.

Origins and Spread

The Small Hive Beetle is native to sub-Saharan Africa, where it coevolved with African honey bee species. However, due to global trade and movement of beekeeping equipment, the beetle has been introduced to other continents. It quickly spread and established itself in various regions, causing concern among beekeepers and scientists due to its impact on honey bee colonies.

Effects on Honey Bees and Colonies

The Small Hive Beetle can significantly impact honey bee colonies at both individual and colony levels.

Individual Honey Bees: Adult beetles infiltrate hives and lay their eggs within cracks and crevices of comb, where bee larvae and pollen are stored. Upon hatching, beetle larvae consume bee brood, pollen, and honey, leading to contamination of hive resources and brood damage. The presence of beetle larvae can weaken developing bees and lead to increased mortality.

Colonies: Infestations of Small Hive Beetles can overwhelm weak or struggling colonies. As beetle populations increase, they can rapidly consume honey, pollen, and bee brood, causing fermentation and spoilage of hive resources. This, in turn, creates an unsuitable environment for the development of healthy bee colonies. Additionally, the beetles’ feeding activity and defecation can further contaminate the hive, leading to a decline in honey production and overall colony health.

Management of Small Hive Beetles

Controlling Small Hive Beetle infestations requires vigilant management and proactive measures to prevent their establishment and proliferation in bee colonies.

Cultural Methods

  1. Hive Inspections: Regular hive inspections allow beekeepers to detect and monitor Small Hive Beetle populations, enabling early intervention if infestations are identified.

  2. Trap and Remove: Beetle traps placed within hives can help capture and remove adult beetles, reducing their numbers and mitigating damage.

Biotechnical Methods

  1. Reducing Beetle-Friendly Environments: Maintaining strong colonies and reducing stressors such as overcrowding, starvation, or queenlessness can create an inhospitable environment for Small Hive Beetles.

  2. Hive Beetle Traps: Installing beetle traps that lure and trap adult beetles can be an effective way to control the pest without using chemicals.

Chemical Methods

  1. Pesticides: In severe infestations, beekeepers may use chemical pesticides specifically labeled for Small Hive Beetle control. However, this approach should be employed with caution to avoid harming bees and contaminating hive products.


The Small Hive Beetle represents a significant and persistent threat to honey bee colonies and beekeeping practices worldwide. Its introduction to non-native regions has resulted in substantial challenges for beekeepers in managing its impact. By implementing a combination of cultural, biotechnical, and chemical management methods, beekeepers can work to detect and control Small Hive Beetle infestations, safeguard honey bee populations, and protect the integrity of their apiaries. Research into integrated pest management strategies and continued monitoring of Small Hive Beetle populations are essential for developing sustainable and effective approaches to mitigate the threat posed by this invasive pest