Apivar vs ApiLife Var vs Apiguard

Confusion is understandable here, so below is a quick guide to these similar-sounding names:

Apivar is the trade name for a Varroa mite treatment based on the chemical amitraz. Amitraz is an acaricide/insecticide that has been around since 1969. Its chemical name is N,N’-[(methylimino)dimethylidyne]di-2,4-xylidine and is considered a “hard” chemical treatment.

ApiLife Var is the tradename for a Varroa mite treatment made from 74% thymol, which is the active ingredient. It also contains eucalyptol, menthol, and camphor. It comes in the form of a soaked biscuit and is considered a “soft” chemical treatment.

Apiguard is the tradename for a Varroa mite treatment made from 25% thymol, which is the active ingredient. It comes in a gel form and is also considered a “soft” chemical treatment.

The best mite is a dead mite.



Do you know of a supplier for Apilife Var in Ontario, Canada?



I don’t, but maybe another reader does. Anyone?


Hi Rusty:

Are we relegated to treating for varroa in the autumn, after honey harvest or is it possible to do this in the spring before the honey comes in? I’ve got three new packages coming on 20 April and was wondering if I can get a head start on NOT losing them over next winter.

Also, is there a rule of thumb for a minimum distance between hives?




You can treat twice a year. In my opinion, the longer your growing season, the more often you may have to treat. It is always best to treat when you have the least amount of brood, so very early spring or late summer are best. I’ve never treated a brand new package because I’m afraid of them absconding.

No minimum distance required. They can even touch. Migratory beekeepers leave them right on the pallets and plop them down in the field or orchard.


If you get a chance, could you talk a little bit about how you decide which treatment to use (hard vs soft)? The top- bar keepers I run across frequently seem to feel that dusting bees down with sugar is good enough, but I am dubious.

Also, is it ok to use these treatments when you’re leaving the honey in the hive for bees?

Sadly, HopGuard isn’t available in Virginia yet.



I never use hard chemicals in my hives. Powdered sugar will work if you dust every frame, both sides, once a week during spring, summer, and fall. Lots of people will say they treated for mites but their hive died anyway. But keep asking questions and you will find they dusted once or twice in the fall. All that does is waste sugar, waste time, and irritate the bees. So I would say, if you have the time and self discipline to dust every week (a blower works best) then go for it.

I used to use sugar dusting, but had to stop when I got more hives. It’s just too labor intensive for my schedule. For more on this subject, see Can powdered sugar control Varroa mites?

You can use any of the treatments when the honey is not being used for human consumption. But chemicals build up in combs and can leach back into the honey, so be very wary of what you put in a hive and how often you do it. Less is always better.


Thanks! Looks like powdered sugar may be problematic for me since I’m in the South where we specialize in humidity. I’m used to rotating dewormer for my goats on a way more stringent schedule than yearly, so rotating mite treatments is no big deal.


Mann Lake Bee Supplies carries it.


But can they ship it to Canada?


There seems to be so many chemical treatments available and I’ve read of your experiences with HopGuard. What are your thoughts on Check-Mite? I don’t know anything about its active ingredient (Coumaphos), but I’ll assume that it’s considered a “hard treatment.”


Coumaphos is the chemical contaminant found most often in wax combs. It stays in the comb year to year and can build up to levels considered hazardous to bee health. Some folks think it may have a part to play in CCD. In any case, most mite populations in the states have built up resistance to it, so it harms the bees and not the mites. I would not use it.


Of the three treatments identified at the header of this post…which do you think you’ve had the best experience with in wiping out the varroa? Since the ApiLife Var has 74% Thymol it looks like it should be more effective than the Apiguard. Since the ApiLife Var contains eucalyptol, menthol, and camphor…does that mean it may be somewhat effective against the tracheal mite too?


I have tried ApiLife Var and Apiguard. I liked ApiLife Var better, though I did have one year when it didn’t work (see Outwitting the mites).

I believe ApiLife Var is supposed to have some effect on tracheal mites. Since you’ve been out of beekeeping for a while, you may be surprised to hear that tracheal mites are not considered the threat they used to be. I hear of them only occasionally these days. Some of the labs don’t even test for them anymore. But fear not, you will not be bored—Varroa more than make up for the loss.


I am surprised you have not mentioned formic acid? Your thoughts Rusty?



I believe I have mentioned formic acid in other posts. It doesn’t belong in this post because here I was only comparing confusing trade names. I don’t know of a formic acid treatment that is called Api-something.

As far as formic acid as a soft-chemical treatment for Varroa, I have no issue with it. It is potent, but when used according to package directions it is effective and has the added advantage of being a natural component of honey.

Edgar Bopp

Wer hat schon mit Apivar behandelt ? Wie war das Ergebniss ? Wo ist Apivar in der EU oder Deutschland zu beziehen?
Mfg Edgar


I don’t personally know of anyone using Apivar, although it seems very popular based on what I’ve read. I don’t know about its use in the EU or Germany.


What do you recommend for bees that are declining bad and fully infested with varroa mites? In other words, weak, sad hives full of deformed wings and dead bees that can’t get out of the cell? It seems like all the treatments need strong hives in order to treat.



Ideally, you should treat a strong hive, but unless you do something, the hives you describe will fail completely within a very short time. Either pick a treatment and try it, or destroy these colonies and start over.


I have used apivar; it works great except for the time it needs to spend in the hive. No bee lost at all in a double brood.

I’m going to try api life var, but seems odd to split the wafers. Without opening the package seems to feel granulated. Does it come in a mesh type fabric.



It’s weird stuff. It reminds of Styrofoam, but really thin and fragile. I find it annoying, but it works.


Would it help to use ApiLife Var in late October / early November?



ApiLife Var is temperature dependent. If it’s too cold, it probably won’t work properly. The instructions are available online if you don’t have a package at home.

Sue Dick

Hi Rusty,

Can you please tell me how to use ApiLife var in a Top Bar Hive?

Could I place pieces of wafer on the hinged bottom, underneath the mesh floor in the area of the brood? Though the bees will not come into direct contact with this, the evaporating fumes will suffuse the interior of the hive.

I am keen to use a more organic approach in mite control, other than dusting with powdered sugar.

I look forward to hearing from you




The fumes from these strips are heavier than air, so they tend to go down. I would put the strips above the top-bars or between them. If you need more room, temporarily remove one of the bars.

Susan Lydem

Hi Rusty,

We just installed two packages about a week (late April 2015) ago and I’m seeing quite a few mites on the tray beneath our screened bottom board. Daytime temps here in CT are generally in the 60’s during the day and the mid 40s at night right now. At what point would you suggest treating with a soft treatment like ApiLife Var?



As soon as possible. Nowadays, it seems like packages come with all the optional extras. It’s best to treat right away while the mites are still phoretic. If you wait until they climb into the brood cells, you won’t be able to get them all.


This is our first year trying bees and we just did the powered sugar mason jar mite test and found 1. So the wife wants to use API LIFE VAR now to treat for them. We have two 10 frame deeps setup as our hive body. In an earlier post you said the fumes are heavier than air. So my question is should we take the 4 pieces you end up making and putting them on top of the frames in the top box? Or is it better in the bottom box where there is more activity?



One mite? I don’t know where you are, but if it is warm there, you should probably re-think this. Start by reading the package insert. There are definite temperature guidelines that should be adhered to if you want to avoid harming your bees.

Remember that you have to seal up the entire hive except one small entrance for the duration of the three-week treatment. They will have very little ventilation, which is necessary to kill the mites. But if it gets too hot in there, this treatment can be brutal on the bees. I’ve heard of many colonies absconding when using this treatment in hot weather.

What’s the deal with one mite? Any treatment is hard on the bees, so don’t do it unless it is worthwhile. I think you should wait.

In any case, to answer your question, put the wafers on the top brood box. The vapors will go down all by themselves. If there is no brood in the top box, take it off for the duration. Alternatively, if there is just a little brood in the top box, combine the two boxes and take the empty one off. The treatment will be more effective if the hive volume is smaller.


I’m trying to use the softest chemical for my 1 hive. Last week I purchased mite away quick strips and some supplies to perform a sugar shake test to see my mite levels. Well it is getting late to conduct these tests and my time is precious. I work weekends and during the week I go to college full time. The north east is getting a hurricane in the end of September and beginning of October 2015 so the conditions are pretty wet and not good enough to check my hive. I’m not sure what to do I’m a first year bee keeper and I’m afraid I missed the timing of opportunity to treat with the quick strips. Can I use any soft chemical that will be effective for treating mites in the cool weather of October. I read this post about the api var products but they work effectively within certain temperature ranges. At this point I am pretty indecisive on what to do. Any help would be appreciated. -Adam.



Each of the mite preparations has its own limitations as far as temperature, and I don’t have them memorized. At this point, you might want to go with oxalic acid, which is fairly inexpensive and fast. There are several posts here on how to do it. How to apply an oxalic acid dribble