Varroa mite seeking a taste of royal blood

Just days after I mentioned how rarely we see varroa mites on bees, Bryan Bender sent this fascinating photo of a mite riding his queen. It’s an amazing catch. Not once I have ever seen this in person, and only rarely in photos.

Thank you, Bryan, and good work!

Varroa mite riding a queen, perhaps seeking a taste of royal blood

Varroa mite on a honey bee queen. © Bryan Bender.



  • With the queen surrounded by nurse bees, I would think it happens a lot more often then we detect. I have seen in a few times, though it never occurred to me that it’s a rare event. Good to know. Very unnerving, considering that they can inject a bunch of viral garbage into the queen’s body. Although maybe there is an indirect epigenetic benefit to having the queen directly attacked by this relatively new parasite.

    • Aram,

      I’ve read that some viruses transmit directly from queen to egg, but I don’t know how often that happens either.

      • Dear Rusty,

        As an addition to your reply to Aram I found this:

        In the spring of 2017 in Belgium a unique beekeeping program started with a special selection program that leaves from virus free breeder queens. By bringing them in, into local bee sites later on this all must eventually lead to more resilient bee populations.

        For the last two years researchers from Honeybee Valley (an initiative of the University of Ghent) have analyzed viruses in breeder queens. As a result it showed that about 35 % of these breeder queens are viral infected and theirfore they also make their offspring sick.

        Before the right breeder queens are multiplyed they are first tested for viral infection(s) and the extent to which they carry viruses. Just like for other selection programs, such as against nosema or varroa mites, one wants to raise bee populations that have a better protection agains viruses.

        For this new selection program four viruses have been mapped that the breeder queens should not have: a virus that leads to malformed wings, a virus that leads to paralysis and two viruses that affect larvae. This has led to a selection of 140 breeder queens of which can be said that their offspring, meaning: all the eggs, are all free from these four types of viruses.

        Together with a number of beekeepers, the initiators will still keep looking at some other parameters that are also interesting for beekeepers in general such as gentleness, honey yield production or reduced swarm drift.

        The meaning of this selection program is to add an element that results into more resilience of the bees. Actually, this kind of selection program wants to provide and generate an immune response that gets built into the honey bee itself to protect itselfs against the side effects of a varroa mite infestation.

        This selection program is financed by the regional Flemish government in Belgium and the European community and coordinated by Honeybee Valley, together with the beekeeper associations. General coordinater of this Honeybee Valley selection program is professor Dirk de Graaf.

        See also:

        With kind regards,


  • Dang, that is a great catch and photo… However, it disgusts me to see that! I like every other beekeeper… detest those little bas-tards! ?

    • I have an observation hive. I took a video and think I have varroa on my queen. Hard to tell because it is tough to see with my camera and my 50 year old eyes can’t tell but looks like varroa.

  • Yuk! is right…what a disgusting thing to see. Like most new beekeepers (I have only one hive ) I wanted to look at my ‘girls’ almost daily, but held off for once a week. Then when I realized that wasn’t good for them I have made it once per month. I have yet to actually see a mite but I have no doubt they are there. Recently, I saw what I call a miniature honey bee. It was like any other, but much smaller. Normal wings, but it didn’t fly and it seemed like it was drugged….slow moving. I need to put a tray under my hive and see what I can see. Or maybe try the powdered sugar approach. I don’t want to treat with chemicals but that’s better than dead bees.

  • Rusty,

    Did you check your hives prior to treating or did you just treat with oxalic dribble?

    John W in Kitsap county

  • Hi Rusty,

    Keep up the great work. As a 2nd year beekeeper, I really enjoy following your blog.

    Right now, my mite levels are creeping up – you wrote that you treated mites with an oxalic dribble this year – around here in Southern Ontario it is way too early to do so (too much capped brood) – did you use OA in the spring or was that recently? If I use OA now, there will still be more mites hatching out shortly. I realize I have to be judicious with how much OA I apply, so am reluctant to act prematurely. If you used OA this fall, has your brood hatched completely or will you have another follow-up treatment of some kind?

    Randy Oliver’s article on soaking shop towels in OA is very interesting and appealing and I’ll continue my 1:1 drenching with Honey Bee Healthy to drop the mite numbers while I continue my researching on that.

    Any advice you might have would be most welcome.

    Thanks again


    • John,

      I often do things I don’t actually recommend, but that’s because I’m an experimenter by nature. In August, I applied oxalic dribble once a week for three weeks. Lots of people advise against this. But I agree with Randy that most “problems” occur because of inaccurate measurement, either in mixing or in application. In any case, I got good mite drop with no noticeable affect on my colonies.

      • Hello Rusty,

        I do same things for the same reasons.

        During bee bread season I use / I add 0,5 grams OA for / in every colony, each time solved into a 50 ml sugar water solution 1:1.
        I apply this three times with an interval of 10 to 11 days, once in spring and once in late summer (Besides the one-time winter OA treatment

        I use this low / lower doses of OA to tackle the varroa mite during a / the ongoing bee bread season.

        Good results so far.

        How much grams OA do you use in / for every colony at every dribble treatment, and this during the bee bread season if I understand well?


  • Say you spotted this: what if you shook powdered sugar on so that the attendants would groom it and the mite off the queen? I’d want to do SOMEthing!
    Corinth, KT

    • Nancy,

      I think I would pick up the queen and remove it, if I could. I agree that I would feel compelled to do something.

  • What is healthy INTERNAL temperature of Langstroth hive as we enter the wintry season in our Pacific Northwest? We’re NEWBEES with just one hive we obtained in April 2017. We use “whatever appropriate tools/materials” that we have ‘on hand’ & I found a digital meat thermometer with a long, slender probe. With a fresh battery, it tested inside home and outside home temperatures properly. I inserted it into bottom box ‘entry’ & it recorded 52 F. We placed hive with its BACK side against our big tool shed. Both right & left side of beehive box is ‘shielded’ by a fresh bale of hay. Topside, we balanced a large, thick board that overhangs and is somewhat slanted to allow rain to fall away from the hive. When I figure out how to do it, I’d like to send photo as we REALLY need reassurance & help & info! Perhaps if we had known how-little-we-knew, we would not have been so eager to be beekeepers, but now our perseverance & character & concern has kicked in & we’re hooked. We’ve made ADEQUATE preparations for winter (we guess/hope) & wrapped it & began inside feeding with dry stuff etc, etc, etc, & will also add stryofoam cover today. Yes, we ‘worry’ & we pray the hive will survive/thrive… in spite of our ignorance & various ‘lack of’. THANK YOU for this blog!

    • Elder,

      First, you need to read “Temperature in the hive.” The place you measured, the lower entrance, will be the coldest place in the hive. Honey bees do not keep the internal living space warm the way humans do, they only keep the cluster warm. The internal cluster temperature will be in the mid-90s when brood is present, and perhaps 10-15 degrees lower without brood present.

      You can always email a photo to me here:

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