Varroa destructorAnderson & Trueman

New species and pathway for this dangerous parasite of honey bees

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Name: Varroa destructor Anderson & Trueman
Taxonomic Position:
Animalia: Arthropoda: Arachnida: Acari: Varroidae
Common Names: varroa mite

The varroa mite, Varroa destructor, is considered the most serious pest of the European honey bee, Apis mellifera. In the U.S., this ectoparasite causes approximately $160 million worth of damage annually.

Issues of Concern: A live varroa mite was recently intercepted by USDA-APHIS-PPQ in Atlanta on cut flowers (Astilbe sp.) from the Netherlands. These mites are known to use flowers for dispersal in nature. This mite on cut flowers represents a new pathway. In 2000, Varroa taxonomy had a major revision that found Varroa jacobsoni to be a species-complex consisting of five different species (Anderson & Trueman). Of the species of varroa mites, it was determined that V. destructor is the only species of varroa mite that is harmful to Apis mellifera and more specifically the Korea and Japan haplotypes of V. destructor, which originated from A. cerana in Korea and Japan respectively (Anderson & Trueman, 2000). Many of the varroa mite haplotypes (16 out of the 18) do not occur in the U.S. Therefore, there is the potential of introducing important new varroa haplotypes into the U.S. via contaminated bees, bee materials, and cut flowers. Cut flowers originating from Asia may pose the most risk.

Hosts: The bees that serve as hosts for varroa mites include: Apis cerana, A. koschevnikovi, A. mellifera mellifera, A. m. capenis, A. m. carnica, A. m. iberica, A. m. intermissa, A. m. ligustica, A. m. macedonica, A. m. meda, A. m. scutellata, and A. m. syriaca.

Vector(s)/Dispersal: The potential link between varroa mites and honey bee viruses is being studied.

Cosmopolitan. It has spread to most of North America except for isolated locations in Canada.

Quarantines: Importation of live honey bees, which may carry varroa mites, is prohibited into the U.S. except by permit. Imported honey bees are inspected under quarantine conditions before release.

Detection Strategies
Cut flowers can be inspected visually for varroa mites, which are visible to the naked eye. Detection on cut flowers can also be made by "banging" flowers on a well-lit light colored surface. Inspectors should collect specimens from sampling surface using a paint brush moistened with alcohol from the vial into which they will be placed. The mites are oval and flat, light brown to reddish brown in color, measuring 1.1-1.2 mm long and 1.5-1.6 mm wide (about the size of a pin-head).


Anderson, D.L. and Trueman, J.W.H. 2000. Varroa jacobsoni (Acari:Varroidae) is more than one species. Experimental and Applied Acarology 24:165-189.

Useful Links:
USDA-ARS Bee Research Laboratory website
University of Florida/ Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services "Featured Creatures"
Anderson, D.L. 2000. Variation in the parasitic bee mite Varroa jacobsoni Oud. Apidologie 31:281-292 (Abstract)

Warning: The information in this archived item was not confirmed with the appropriate National Plant Protection Organization and is provided solely for informational purposes. Please use this information with caution.