Douglas Farm

NJ Honey and Bees

Testing for common problems

Varroa Mites
Tracheal Mites

If you suspect a serious problem you should contact your state apiarist.

NJ State Apiarist: Tim Schuler  609-292-5440 - Department of Agriculture, Division of Plant Industry, PO Box 330, Trenton, NJ 08625-0330

You can send samples to the USDA Beltsville MD Bee Research Laboratory.

Varroa Mites (Varroa destructor)

Varroa destructor is an external parasitic mite that attacks honey bees Apis cerana and Apis mellifera. Varroa destructor can only replicate in a honey bee colony. It attaches at the body of the bee and weakens the bee by sucking hemolymph.

In this process RNA viruses such as the deformed wing virus (DWV) spreads to bees. A significant mite infestation will lead to the death of a honey bee colony, usually in the late autumn through early spring. The Varroa mite is the parasite with the most pronounced economic impact on the beekeeping industry. It may be a contributing factor a colony collapse.



Sample of 300 bees from the brood area
A square shaped cup to collect bees (using a motion from top bar down)
A jar with #8 mesh on top
About 2 Tablespoons of powder sugar
A white bowl or bucket with a few inches of water


Sampling for Varroa - Katie Lee (University of MN)
Checking for Varroa - NJ Department of Agriculture

Our Control Methods:

We use a combination of several methods in two groups to control varroa population:

A. Planned

  • Queens from hives scoring well in hygienic testing.
  • Screened bottom board, with greased tray to catch fallen mites.
  • Requeening annually with a 9 day queenless period between queens
    Coating all frames (both sides) and all bees with powder sugar every 3 days during the queenless 9 day period. This makes 3 treatments per hive. About 6 oz of powder sugar per treatment.
  • Note the queen cage with the new queen can be added to the queenless hive 24hrs after the old queen is removed. However, she must be trapped in the cage until the end of the 9 day period. The queen will need to have the screen part of her cage not blocked, so nurse bees can feed her. One could also wait longer than 24hrs, but should check and remove any queen cells if waiting longer than 24hrs, or if working with Russians.

B. High testing score / problem response

  1. Freeze drone frame
  2. 4gal of concentrated Honey B Healthy sugar water feed
  3. Requeen

Chemical Control Methods:

There are several chemials on the market designed to reduce mite populations. We do not recomend them as the chemicals get absorbed by the wax, and will not be able to be removed from it. Additionally, mites are able to adapt and may become resistant to the chemical you are using. You will then need to try a different product, and you would be adding another chemical to your wax. Your hive may eventually develop a bouquet of chemicals, the combination may be more harmful to the bees than helpful. Check out this link to the USDA lab, and read how you can test to see if your mites have become resistant.

Formic Acid fumigation is the prefered chemical treatment if one needs to use a chemical. It is availible as MiteAway Quick Strips (MAQS). MAQS is a 7 day formic acid treatment which can be applied when the temperatures are between 50-92F. We recomend 15mL of honey bee healthy on a paper towl with a MAQS to minimize queen loss.

Tracheal Mite (Acarapis woodi)

The honey bee tracheal mite, Acarapis woodi (Rennie), is an internal parasite of adult honey bees, Apis mellifera L. Due to its small size (143-167 mm) and the destructive sampling methods required to examine mites inside the honey bee tracheae, the life history of this mite is poorly known. Delfinado-Baker and Baker (1982) reviewed the data reported by other researchers on the biology, dispersal behavior, and feeding habits of mites in the genus Acarapis. There are four species of Acarapis described but they are very similar and thus are best differentiated based on where they occur on the host bee.

Tracheal mites live in the breathing or tracheal tubes of adult honey bees and only move outside the host to infest other bees. Honey bee tracheal mites preferentially disperse to adult worker honey bees younger than three days of age (Gary et al. 1989) with female mites primarily dispersing at night (Pettis et al. 1992). In short-lived summer bees only one generation per host is possible but in the winter multiple generations may be reared in each bee (Pettis & Wilson 1996). Tracheal mites are associated with the death of honey bee colonies in the winter when greater than 30% of the bees within a colony are infested.



  • Sample of 50 bees from suspect hive
  • Sharp knife or razor blade
  • Microscope with magnification 20x and 50x
  • (Optional) Cationic stain
  • (Optional) Salt water solution


USDA Procedure
Dave Cushman Page

Control Methods:

  1. Use genetic pedigree with low test scores.
  2. Re-queen hives of high test scores.
  3. MiteAway Quick Strips (MAQS). MAQS is a 7 day formic acid treatment which can be applied when the temperatures are between 50-92F.

Nosema (Nosema apis and Nosema cerana)

Nosema apis is a unicellular parasite of the class Microsporidia, which are now classified as fungi or fungi-related. Nosema apis has a resistant spore that withstands temperature extremes and dehydration. In 1996, a similar microsporidian parasite of the eastern honey bee (Apis cerana) was discovered in Asia, which was named Nosema ceranae.

The symptoms of Nosema are relatively nonspecific. This makes it easy to confuse with other diseases of the honeybee. The female worker bees are most strongly afflicted, less so the drones. The queen bee is rarely infected since afflicted bees rarely participate in feeding the queen. The most notable symptom is dysentery. This appears as yellow stripes on the outside of the hive and in severe cases, inside the hive. Bees may be unable to fly ("crawling") due to disjointed wings, called K wing.

Newly emerged bees are always free from infection. Spores must be swallowed by a bee for the infection to be initiated. Spores germinate quickly after entering the ventriculus, and the epithelial cells of the ventriculus are infected when the vegetative stage is introduced by way of the hollow polar filament. Once inside a cell, the vegetative stage increases in size and multiplies, effecting an apparent concurrent reduction of RNA synthesis in the host cell. In 6–10 days the infected host epithelial cell becomes filled with new spores. Epithelial cells are normally shed into the ventriculus where they burst – releasing digestive enzymes. When infected cells are shed similarly, they release 30–50 million infective spores when they burst.

In contrast to bacterial infections, cancer and viral; fungal infections are particularly difficult to treat and target with novel drugs because they all result from maladies caused by eukaryotic cells similar to or modified from the host cells. However, many of the same strategies that are used in the design of novel cancer chemotherapy agents can be brought to bear on the development of antiviral and antifungal agents. There is a rich collection of natural products produced by microorganisms that remains to be explored for novel chemotherapeutic potential. Microorganisms probably evolved to produce these natural products as antimicrobial agents, yet these compounds often have quite unique and useful actions in mammals via conserved target proteins, and these activities remain to be exploited for therapeutic benefit.



  • Sample of 25 bees from the hive enterance
  • 1mL of water per bee
  • Zip bag
  • Rolling pin
  • Microscope with 400x
  • Haemocytometer or counting chamber


Nosema Disease - Diagnosis and Control 

Nosema Disease of Honeybees - K. Hamdan, The Netherlands

What are you looking at?:

Images of Nosema:

Nosema Ceranae - The Inside Story - K. Webster KSU

Nosema Life Cycle

Staining Nosema:

Nosema stained with Napthol Blue Black


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