Sustainable parasitic mite control for honeybees

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2003: $134,710.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2006
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $75,882.00
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Dr. Nancy Ostiguy
Pennsylvania State University

Annual Reports


  • Animals: bees


  • Animal Production: housing, parasite control, animal protection and health, herbal medicines, preventive practices
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, mentoring, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Pest Management: biorational pesticides, botanical pesticides, cultural control, disease vectors, economic threshold, field monitoring/scouting, genetic resistance, integrated pest management, physical control, prevention, sanitation, traps, weather monitoring
  • Production Systems: holistic management

    Proposal abstract:

    Honey bee survival is threatened by an obligate external parasite – the varroa mite. Beekeepers have been dependent on miticides for varroa control and the use of these chemicals is not sustainable due to resistance development by the mite, hive wax contamination (the wax serves as a source of continuous low level exposure for bees during all life stages, especially egg, larva and pupa), and hive product contamination. As a result of this project beekeepers will be able to reduce their use of miticides, and the resulting residues in wax and bee products, reduce production costs by decreasing annual colony mortality and supply healthy bees for honey production and field crop and wild plant pollination.

    Two changes in beekeeper behavior are targeted. The first change will be monitoring to determine if a varroa threshold has been exceeded prior to miticide treatment. The second change will be adoption of at least two Integrated Pest Management (IPM) tactics to control varroa. To achieve these goals beekeepers will be recruited to monitor varroa levels in their colonies. Beekeepers will choose the monitoring method – either sticky boards or powdered sugar shake – and monitor their colonies throughout the summer and fall. These data, along with overwintering success of monitored colonies will be submitted to Penn State for analysis. An additional inducement for beekeeper participation in this effort is that these data will help to verify threshold levels and the relationship to overwintering success, which beekeepers are very interested in knowing. The adoption of IPM tactics to control varroa will be achieved by recruiting innovative beekeepers to conduct research projects focused on varroa control. Workshops will be held at beekeeper apiaries to demonstrate the practical aspects of how to implement IPM tactics.

    We will verify reaching our performance targets through surveys and data from state apiary inspection programs. Annual surveys will be conducted to evaluate progress toward widespread adoption of varroa monitoring and IPM control tactics. Data from the state apiary programs will be collected to provide a second method for determining if we have reached each of our performance targets.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    Two changes in beekeeper behavior are targeted: 1) 500-1000 beekeepers will be monitoring varroa levels to determine if a threshold has been exceeded prior to treating the colony with a miticide and 2) 100 beekeepers will have implement at least two IPM tactics to control varroa.

    This project targets 300 of the approximately 5000 hobbyists and 700 sideliners in MAAREC to participate in planning workshops. From the 300 beekeepers, 10 beekeepers will participate in the evaluation of IPM tactics plus mite monitoring. Each of the beekeepers will hold, with our assistance, a workshop at his/her apiary to demonstrate IPM tactics and monitoring. Fifty beekeepers will attend each apiary workshops (400-500 total) and 40-80 will implement multiple IPM tactics to control varroa during the second year.

    Few beekeepers currently monitor for varroa and IPM cannot be implemented effectively without monitoring; we will encourage beekeepers to begin monitoring for varroa. Approximately 200 beekeepers each year will be recruited to begin monitoring.

    Beekeepers will be able to reduce their use of fluvalinate and coumaphos, and the resulting residues in hive products, by at least 50%, reduce the cost of production by decreasing the annual colony mortality from 40-60% to less than 20% and supply healthy bees for honey production and pollinating field crops and wild plants.

    We will verify reaching our target through surveys and data from state apiary inspection programs. To provide a baseline from which to measure behavior change, specific information will be collected about varroa control IPM tactics used by beekeepers and the success of those tactics prior to the start of the project from approximately 2000 hobbyist and sideline beekeepers. Annual surveys will be conducted to evaluate progress toward adoption of IPM control tactics and monitoring of varroa levels. Additionally, we will obtain the annual statistics of the beekeeping industry from each MAAREC state to verify changes in management practices.

    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.