Novel Application of Existing Beekeeping Equipment to Combat Inter-colony Transmission of the Varroa Honey Bee Parasite

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2019: $14,976.00
Projected End Date: 08/31/2020
Grant Recipient: University of Maryland, College Park
Region: Northeast
State: Maryland
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dennis vanEngelsdorp
University Maryland


  • Animals: bees
  • Animal Products: honey


  • Animal Production: parasite control
  • Crop Production: beekeeping, pollination, pollinator health
  • Education and Training: extension
  • Farm Business Management: feasibility study
  • Pest Management: cultural control, disease vectors, integrated pest management, physical control

    Proposal abstract:

    Agricultural sustainability of many northeast crops relies on adequate pollination by honey bee colonies. Beekeepers continue to face high annual colony losses, many of which are contributed to by the parasitic mite Varroa destructor. Despite the knowledge that treating for Varroa can reduce colony mortality, almost half of US beekeepers do not use Varroa treatment. This can have deleterious effects on neighboring beekeepers via horizontal transmission: when a colony dies from high Varroa infestation, those bees and mites enter surrounding apiaries. Horizontal transmission occurs in late fall when Varroa loads peak, giving beekeepers on the receiving end little time to control their rapidly increasing Varroa loads before the challenging overwinter period sets in. Here we propose a simple, economical management intervention in a novel application of existing beekeeping equipment: the robbing screen. Robbing screens can prevent foreign bees from entering a colony, thus interfering with transmission of mites on bees from untreated colonies. If effective, robbing screens should reduce the need for late fall Varroa control and result in improved colony health and overwintering success, ensuring an adequate supply of high quality honey bee colonies for northeast crop pollination. This project will evaluate both the efficacy and economic feasibility of this proposed management practice.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project seeks to:

    1. Investigate the efficacy of robbing screens as a mechanism for preventing spread of Varroa between colonies.

    2. Evaluate the economic feasibility of adopting robbing screens as a Varroa management tactic.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.