varroa mites

Apivar vs ApiLife Var vs Apiguard

Confusion is understandable here, so below is a quick guide to these three very 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. Some local areas report mite resistance to Apivar, so be sure to check with other beekeepers in your region.

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. One of the main concerns is the strong thymol odor, which tends to linger.

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. It also has a residual odor that some beekeepers find objectionable.

No mite treatment is perfect, and each has pros and cons. Just remember, if you want a particular product, be sure to have the names sorted out before you order. Selecting one among the others can be confusing.

Honey Bee Suite

Apivar, Apiguard, ApiLife var: The best mite is a dead mite.

Apivar can be confused with the other products. In any case, the best mite is a dead mite.


  • 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?


    • Rich,

      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.

    • Andrea,

      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.

  • 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.

  • Rusty,
    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.

    • Ted,

      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.

  • 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.

    • Chini,

      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.

    • Dave,

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

    • Joe,

      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.

  • 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


    • Sue,

      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.

  • 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?

    • Susan,

      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?

    • Bernie,

      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.

    • 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

  • I was reading up on ApiLife Var and I’m confused. I keep seeing that you can only treat in temps 59-65. I have a package that says 59-95. That is a big difference.

    I googled for a manufacturers name but can’t find a way to contact them myself.
    Can anyone help me find out what info is correct? Or tell me if they treated in warmer temps. It is starting out as a very warm fall this year and I hate to keep putting off my mite treatment.


    • Darlene,

      A range of 59-65 is much too narrow to be of any use. You can always find the official labels for these products at the US EPA site. Scroll down and you will see it is 59-95 degrees F.

  • Thanks
    I will check out that site and agree about the range. Oddly I keep finding references to it. I am relieved to find out that is incorrect.

  • Does treating with Apilife Var or Apiguard affect the taste of the honey ie should this be done once the supers have been removed?

    Does anyone know of a more natural/organic way to treat Varroa Mite?

    • Caroline,

      Apilife Var and Apiguard are both thymol products that require honey supers to be removed before use. MiteAway Quick Strips (formic acid) have organic certification in the US. Some folks consider oxalic acid and hop beta acids (Hopguard II) more “natural” as they are made from naturally occurring substances, but they are no more natural than formic acid or thymol.

  • Hi Rusty I started treatment a couple of weeks ago with Apiguard. Sunday is my 14th day at which time would be the time to add the second tray. However weather forecast is calling for temps 105 by Sunday. Had I know this back when I started treatment would have waited. What would be your advice to do about this? Skip the 2nd treatment and start over later? I live in central Maryland so we have the added bonus of humidity! Thank you!

    • Debra,

      I would wait until the temperature drops and then resume the treatment. If it’s a really long period, that might require restarting. If it’s just a few days, you can just continue where you left off.

  • This is our first year keeping bees, started with a 5 frame nuc and now with 2, 10 frame deeps as brood chamber and 1 super, though the 2nd deep is filled with stores and not brood. As it’s now approaching autumn in nw England I decided to try the apilife var and I’m not disappointed. Prior to treatment there were around 50 varroa on the bottom board after, 8 days later 40 varroa and after another 8 days more varroa than I can count, hundreds. There is one more application to go and the mite population will have been decimated.

  • I used Apivar after last honey extraction and left one honey super on for bees to overwinter, but this was not our normal year and after treatment period hives are becoming honey bound. I have filled freezer with full or mostly full frames from both hive body and supers to make room for queen laying. I don’t think unless it is a severe winter bees will use up what I have stored in freezer to date.

    Would you extract for human consumption or what to do with all these fuller frames?

    • Bob,

      If you mean the nectar was collected while the Apivar was on the hive, I would not eat it. Just save it for spring feed. If it’s fully capped, you don’t have to keep it frozen as long as you protect it from pests.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I would like your thoughts on mixing Apiguard and Apilife Var treatments. A friend of mine started last week with Apiguard but does not have enough to trays to complete the second treatment for all hives.

    I have some Apilife Var I can give her so she doesn’t need to order again. Since both are thymol based would this be safe? (FYI-our temps will be in the 80’s).


    • Darlene,

      This in not my area of expertise and so I really don’t want to give advice. If it were me, I would do it. But I’m not saying it’s a good idea.

    • Alan,

      I have no idea if it’s safe or not. Apparently, at least some of this man-made highly toxic pesticide permeates the wax cappings. How much? I don’t know. Would I eat it? No. Would some people eat it? I’m sure they do. Personally, I presume it is not a good idea to ingest this stuff. Still, this is for you to decide on your own. You can Google Apivar and find many articles related to its toxicity.

  • I had sort of a question that’s related to treatment of hives in general.

    So it’s always mention that it’s important that you don’t have any honey supers on when you use some sort of varroa treatment in the hive. Clearly the purpose of that is to avoid having any of the insecticide being carried into the honey supers which are presumably consumed by humans. Here’s my question-clearly the bees have honey in their hive that they’re eating which is being contaminated with the insecticide of choice, so as a human being I am many many many thousands of times larger than this insect that I have in the hive being treated with this material and eating honey that gets infused with some of the insecticide.

    So, in short, I’m just trying to glean the logic of saying that a treatment method is okay for an insect that is many thousands of times smaller than I am but not okay for me to be exposed to?

    • Eddie,

      This is a good question. I think the main worry is what is called bioaccumulation. Most honey bees live a very short time. For example, a worker may live four to six weeks in summer or perhaps six months in the winter. Since they have short lives, chemicals absorbed by the bee do not accumulate in their bodies year after year. But a human lives much, much longer—maybe even 80 to 100 years. In many cases, these chemicals don’t leave the body anywhere nearly as fast as they accumulate, so after repeated exposures you can get high levels of chemicals stored away, which can be dangerous.

      In fact, some scientists think that many of the cancers humans get come from repeated exposure to chemicals that slowly build up year after year until they cause a problem. Most things listed as “cancer causing” do not cause a problem from one exposure but from many exposures over a long period of time.

  • You can treat Varroa mite any time of year without contaminating the wax or honey. I have been treating my bees since 2005 with HiveClean which got rebranded as Varromed. Whenever I open the hive I treat the bees to 25ml of Varromed.

    It is a sugar based solution with a low dose of oxalic and formic acid. When I first came across the product at Apimondia – Dublin, the owner was extoling its organic virtues, to such an extent as to drink the stuff. I stated that it smacks of ‘snake oil.’

    I was given a bottle to take back to our association to trial which proved to be a major success. Haven’t looked back since.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I live in Portland and will have a few top bar hives this year. I’m still evaluating how I may treat if my mite checks indicate treatment is necessary, but I am considering Apivar for a late summer option if needed. If I were to use Apivar, I assume I should mark all the bars after application as I would never want to consume any of the comb or honey that may have been in place at the time. Is that correct?

    If I have several bars of capped honey at the time I needed to use Apivar could I pull some of those combs, freeze them, and then add them back at the end of the treatment period if I felt the colony needed them going forward?

    Also, in another of your posts from December 2017 you mentioned that there were reports from the Willamette Valley in Oregon that Apivar was useless in the region. Since that is where I am I wonder if you have any updates to that comment?


  • Thanks, Rusty, I also saw that the OSBA had a recent article on the same topic -

    Would you be able to comment on my other two questions as I can’t afford to get those wrong 🙂



  • Thanks, Rusty.

    I also see that the Oregon State Beekeepers Association Bee Line newsletter has a mention of this in their Jan-Feb 2020 edition.

    Would you be able to offer any feedback on my other question as I really don’t want to get that wrong! Specifically, if I were to use Apivar in a top bar hive, I assume I should mark all the bars after application as I would never want to consume any of the comb or honey that may have been in place at the time of application. Is that correct?


  • Hi Rusty,

    I began treating my hives with Formic Pro 10 days ago. Now we’re seeing a forecast of 100 degrees this weekend. I know Apiguard has a higher temperature tolerance, so I am pulling off the Formic Pro, and instead of replacing the single pad for a second 10-day treatment, I’m replacing with Apiguard trays. Do you think this is safe? And if so, should I replace the trays in 2 weeks, or just call it good? I also noticed that in one of the three colonies, when I pulled out the Formic and inspected the frames, it seemed like the queen had not been laying. I saw her – she looked fine – but could she have been damaged by the Formic Pro in some way?

    • Alison,

      1. I think it is probably safe to switch treatments in midstream, but I can’t say for sure. I think if you don’t go beyond the total treatment time interval, it will probably work out. After the first Apiguard treatment is over, do a mite count to see where you are.

      2. Since it’s the middle of August, I wouldn’t expect the queen to be laying, at least not much and maybe not at all. I suppose she could have been damaged, but you can’t tell by looking at her. You probably just have to wait and see.

  • Hi,

    This site seems an excellent source for information on beekeeping, glad I found it.

    As a beginning beekeeper, I have made one heck of a silly mistake, and I hope that experienced beekeepers out there can give me some guidance on what I should do next.

    Approx. one month ago, I lost a hive due to Varroa. In that hive, I had quite a number of honey frames, left on for the bees over winter.

    Once I discovered this, I decided to transfer the honey frames across to my other hive as the temperature was cold and I did not have time or a warm room to extract it.

    Since then, I placed Apivar strips into the bottom two boxes of the hive (four in total for the hive) due to Varroa symptoms appearing in the bees. It was only yesterday that my light switch came on and I said to myself “you stupid idiot”!

    I think I know the answer but would like it confirmed by experienced beekeepers or get some views on this. First of all, I believe I have compromised the effectiveness of the Apivar as the bees have the opportunity to move up into the top two boxes.

    Secondly, I believe I have wasted all the frames of honey as I will not be able to eat them in the future due to Apivar fumes getting into the capped cells and thus making it toxic.

    However, on a positive note, I am thinking of transferring some of the honey frames into a new hive when my nuc is ready (to replace the one I lost). Hope this is ok.

    I certainly have learned from this.

    Thank you for your comments should you reply.

    Thanks Gareth

    • Gareth,

      1. No, you have not compromised the treatment. The fumes are heavy and mostly move down. Also, frames of honey were taken into consideration when the dosage levels were established.

      2. You should not eat the honey, but it’s fine to feed to bees. New colonies started on honey rather than sugar always do better.

  • Hi Rusty.

    Dear Rusty,

    I have four hives in the Vancouver BC area. My mite count ranges from 2% to 4%. I first treated with Formic Acid 65, (2 treatments) but sure enough I lost a queen and the others stopped laying. I now switched to Apivar (a week ago). Yesterday I learned about Apilife so, just to be certain to really get these mites I am planning to add Apilife in addition to Apivar. Before I do something stupid, is is safe to treat with both products simultaneously? I really depreciate and look forward to your feedback.

    Thank you, Andres

    • Andres,

      I don’t know the answer to your question. However, these products both contain strong chemicals that will stress the bees. Personally, I would not use them at the same time. I’m just afraid it would be overwhelming. If I were to use both, I would do it in sequence.

      • Hi Rusty

        The reason this came up is that when the BC government bee inspector visited my hives he cautioned that the efficacy of Apivar is now only about 30%, clearly a problem. So obviously Apivar alone may not do it. Hence, should I wait until the Apivar is done and then follow up or do it simultaneously… In the meantime mite count keeps going up despite the treatment.

        Alternatively, if Apivar is indeed only 30% efficient, could I put in 6 strips instead of 4 per hive?


        • Andres,

          Just because the mites are resistant to Apivar doesn’t mean the bees are. A double dose of Apivar, which contains the commercial pesticide Amitraz, could end up killing or damaging your bees. So, do not double any doses. As soon as the Apivar treatment period is over, then use the other.

  • “In the meantime mite count keeps going up despite the treatment.”

    Golly, if treatment #1 is demonstrably failing, take it out! Maybe give your bees a couple of days to fan the useless fumes more or less out of the house, THEN put in treatment #2.

    Plus what Rusty said – never double up, whether 2 types of treatments at the same time or higher doses of any single treatment. Same as it says on any prescription or OTC medication you’d take for yourself.

    • It wasn’t clear to me if Andres meant the mites on the bottom board or in a counting jar were going up. More on the bottom could be a result of more dead ones. I hope.

      In any case, your advice to pull it if it’s not working is excellent. I’ve seen Apivar work really well and I’ve seen it not work at all, so I think you’re right on.

  • The mite counts are on my white bottom boards which I measure every 24 hours. Pre-treatment I measured 8, today 130, after about 2 weeks. Now, I would expect the mite count to go up during treatment with Apivar. I just am surprised that it would be by that much.

    I am not seeing that many mites on the bees nor any “damaged” bees so that is good. These are two super hives full of bees. 2% mite count with alcohol wash corresponds to about 20 mites on my sticky board for my amount of bees.

    I very much appreciate all the comments. In the meantime, I have also written to Vetopharma which makes both products to get their comments on the 30% efficacy stated by my bee inspector and the potential combination of their products. If I get answers and you are interested I will let you know.


  • I should have mentioned that the I would be much happier if the 130 mites would be all dead. Unfortunately I would guess that only about 50% are dead. Not sure what that means.


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