To try to ensure the survival of their colonies, beekeepers will want to minimise the varroa mite load in colonies as winter preparations begin. One way to reduce the spread of viruses is to keep mite numbers at low levels. Many beekeepers use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to achieve this. IPM includes management techniques, such as drone brood removal or queen trapping. It does not exclude the use of chemicals. Such treatments need to be used wisely and always as instructed by the manufacturer.

Use According to Instructions

It cannot be emphasised too strongly that medications must be used according to the instructions. Using double the recommended dose does not give twice the level of control. Leaving the treatment in the colony for twice the recommended time does not do so either. Both actions can result in mite resistance. Once mites are resistant to a particular treatment, that treatment is ineffective and useless. The cost of developing a new veterinary drug is astronomical and the beekeeping sector is very small, compared with, say, the cattle sector. It therefore takes companies much longer to recoup their outlay on developing drugs for bees so we need to do all we can to ensure these drugs remain effective for as long as possible.

Veterinary Medicines Directorate

Drugs for use on animals, including bees, are regulated by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD). In the UK, it is illegal to use a varroa treatment product that the VMD has not authorised. Potential new products have to undergo rigorous testing for efficacy and safety (for both bees and beekeepers). Only when all the requirements are satisfied will it be released onto the market and become available for beekeepers to use.

Use Only Authorised Products

If you misuse a product and the varroa mites in your colonies become resistant to it, then, when they spread to another colony, they will take the resistance with them. This means that if you misuse a treatment, you may be responsible for that product becoming ineffective for bees in your area and even further afield.

Check for updates on authorised products on the VMD website. Enter ‘Bees’ in the ‘Species’ box and press ‘Run Search’.

By law you must record treatments on a medicines record card. Details of the requirements can be found at

Api-Bioxal –  oxalic acid

Chemicals Laif, SpA. Approved in September 2015. Powder for in-hive use. Can be applied by trickling or by vapourisation. For trickling, the powder is dissolved in a sugar syrup and then 5 ml of solution trickled on bees between the frames. The treatment should be made in a single administration. For vapourisation, the powder is heated for three minutes and the resulting gas allowed to permeate the sealed hive for a further ten minutes.  (see Bee Craft, December 2017, pp 16–17).

Further information on Api-Bioxal can be found here.

Apiguard Gel – thymol

Vita Bee Health. Approved in July 2003. The opened tray is placed face upwards on top of the brood frames, surrounded by an eke. If after 10 days it is almost empty, it is replaced with a second tray. If there is product left in the tray after 10 days, it is left until day 14 and then replaced. The second tray is left in position for a further 2–4 weeks to complete the treatment. Apiguard works best at temperatures above 15 °C. It is also effective at lower temperatures even though the gel takes longer to evaporate and needs to be left in place for longer.

Further information on Apiguard Gel can be found here.

Apilife Var – camphor racemic, eucalyptus oil, levomenthol, thymol

Chemicals Laif. Approved in June 2009. A tablet is broken into 3–4 bits and placed on the top bars. It is left for 7–8 days. Treatment is repeated 3–4 times according to the level of infestation. Any remaining tablet is removed after the last treatment. Use in summer (July–September) or any time the temperature is above 20 °C. Do not use when there is honey on the hive.

Further information on Apilife Var can be found here.

Apistan – tau-fluvalinate

Vita Bee Health. Approved in November 1998. Two strips are inserted into the brood box for a period of six weeks (two brood cycles). The strips should be inserted, spaced apart, hanging on different frames fairly centrally in the brood nest where bees will walk over them. Apistan should not be used during a honey flow.

Further information on Apistan can be found here.

Apitraz – amitraz

Laboratorios Calier, SA. Approved in April 2016. Two strips per hive are hung between two frames of stores, near but not in the brood area. Strips should be removed after 6 weeks to avoid any overdose issues. Treat when there is little brood in the hive but the bees are still active. A second treatment, if required, should be given before the bees start storing honey in the spring.

Further information on Apitraz can be found here.

Apivar – amitraz

Véto Pharma. Approved in September 2017. Honey is removed from the hive. Two Apivar strips are hung in the centre of the brood nest with at least two frames between them. Strips can be left in the hive for 6–10 weeks. There is no risk of overdosage. Do not use when there are honey supers on the hive. For emergency treatment, remove supers first. There is no withdrawal period for Apivar.

Further information on Apivar can be found here.

Bayvarol – flumethrin

Bayer plc. Approved in July 1992. Four strips are inserted into the brood box for a period of six weeks (two brood cycles). The strips should be spaced apart, hanging on different frames fairly centrally in the brood nest where bees will walk over them. Bayvarol should not be used during a honey flow.

Mite Away Quick Strips (MAQS) – formic acid

NOD Europe Ltd. Approved in February 2013. Two MAQS strips are placed on the top bars of the (lower) brood chamber approximately 5 cm apart and the ends 10 cm from the edges of the hive. Stagger them so that they lie flat and across the full width of the hive. Do not remove the paper wraps. Ensure the colony has a full width entrance. Maximum outside daytime temperature should be 10.0–29.5 °C on the day of application. Do not disturb the colony during the seven-day treatment period. Strips do not have to be removed.

Further information on Mite Away Quick Strips (MAQS) can be found here.

Oxuvar – oxalic acid

Andermatt BioVet GmbH. Approved in October 2016. Sucrose is dissolved in lukewarm oxalic acid solution according to the instructions. Using a syringe, 5–6 ml of the solution per full frame is trickled directly onto the bees between two frames. Use freshly made solution. Wear gloves and safety goggles during application. Carry out one treatment only in broodless colonies when the outside temperature is above 3 °C. Do not store ready-made solution.

Further information on Oxuvar can be found here.

Oxybee – oxalic acid dihydrate

DANY Bienenwohl GmbH. Approved in April 2018. Oxybee is available as a powder and solution to prepare a beehive dispersion (a liquid for use inside the beehive) and can be obtained without a prescription. Oxybee is trickled onto bees in the hive and should be used only when the temperature outside the hives is at least 3 °C. The dispersion should be warmed to 30–35 °C before application.

Further information on Oxybee can be found here.

PolyVar Yellow – flumethrin

Bayer plc. Approved in March 2017. PolyVar Yellow consists of plastic strips impregnated with flumethrin which are fixed at the entrance forcing bees to pass through on their way in and out of the hive, coming in contact with the active ingredient. Two strips per hive. Treat for at least nine weeks but no longer than four months. Do not use if you know your bees are resistant to pyrethroids.
This is the commercial version of the Varroa Gate described in Bee Craft, June 2015, pp 7–9.

Further information on PolyVar Yellow can be found here.

Thymovar – thymol

Andermatt BioVet GmbH. Approved in June 2010. Treatment should take place 3–4 weeks after all honey supers have been removed. The hive is placed on a solid floor. For a single brood-chamber hive, one strip is cut in half and placed on top of the brood frames. Two strips are used on top of the upper box for a double brood-chamber hive. The treatment is repeated after 3–4 weeks. Daytime temperatures should be 20–25 °C. Do not use Thymovar if the maximum daytime temperature exceeds 30 °C.

Further information on Thymovar can be found here.

VarroMed – formic acid, oxalic acid  dihydrate

BeeVital GmbH. Approved in April 2017. Available in a ready-to-use solution in a bottle with an integrated nozzle and practical scale for easy dosing. It can be used in spring, late summer/autumn and winter, both when there is brood or no brood in the hive. Different doses are given for different colony sizes. Shake the bottle and then apply the solution onto the bees between the frames. Count the dead varroa mites after six days and repeat if necessary.

Further information on VarroMed can be found here.


Article Appears in the July 2018 Edition of Bee Craft Magazine

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