Varroa Treatments – Our Autumn Treatments

Our Thoughts on our Varroa Treatments

Autumn Varroa Treatments

Well as per our blog post “Its Autumn in New Zealand – The Time to Treat is here“, over the last three weeks we’ve been treating all our hives. Our goal was to reduce the amount of varroa mites in the hives, going into the New Zealand winter. We don’t want too many mites going into winter.

As the hive population decreases in a colony, a high number of mites will take over and you may lose that hive over the colder months. Once your Varroa treatments are finished you need to check that your treatment worked as expected.

Some treatments are dependent on the temperature to work. Some other treatments (such as Apistan) have been found not to work at all with some resistant mites. Here is a breakdown of the days we did our Varroa Treatments:-

Week one

The Varroa treatments used were Oxalic acid crystals and Api Life Var

Well today is going to be full on, the morning started by adding Api life var to the four hives in the organic farm apiary. Did a full inspection on one hive, but will need to speed up if I am going to complete thirteen hives by the end of the day.

We are going doing to do around 40% of our hives with the Vaporiser, these are the hives with the kiwimana Meshboards, we put the vaporiser in the back so not to crush any bees in the process. The rest of the hives we are going to use Api Life Var. Which is a Thymol based product. It was a bloody hot day and I managed to get four done before lunch time, this leaves with nine to do after lunch.

The vaporiser ones should be much easier as I don’t need to open up the hives at all. All completed but got a bad case of sun stroke in the process, so wasn’t feeling the best for a couple of days. Next week I must break up the sessions, but with the predicted rainfall this could prove difficult.

Week two

A rainy Day for Varroa Treatments

It had been predicted that Sunday was going to rain, so I started the treatments on Friday.

Using Api Life Var
Using Api Life Var

As it turns out the rain stated on Saturday instead, so I was doing treatments between the rain showers. Which made it interesting, some of the bees were not too happy about opening up their home just as the rain had stopped. Sunday was raining all day, so it was great that we did all the hives over the last two days.

Week Three

NZ Natural Beekeeping Conference

Graham talks about the Top Bar Hive

This was the weekend of the Natural Beekeeping Conference, so I only had one day to do all treatments. Which was challenge indeed, but I managed to do all hives in the one day. I was proud of myself having done them all on one day, I must have got my technique down to a fine art. Now we need to check the treatments have worked as expected. Watch this space, will be doing mite counts in the coming week and will report the results.


We counted the mite fall on four hives, these were all treated with the Vaporiser and Oxidic Acid. These were a result of a three day drop count. (ie. We placed a sticky board under the hive for three days, and then divide by three). So the count is a average of the daily count of varroa mites falling out of the hive. Here are results:-

Conclusion on our Varroa Treatments

Quoting the “Control of Varroa Book”:- Autumn – Daily mite fall Greater than 20 mites per day. Colony collapse likely by end of season All hives except “Swanson 1” are under or close to this threshold going into Winter, so I’m happy with the hives that were treated with the Oxidic Acid Vaporiser. We will have to look at why Swanson 1 has a higher count, and we may retreat this hive. We need a way to check that our Varroa Treatments worked on the hives with Solid bottom boards, I need to investigate using a sugar shake method to check these hives.

This is the process where you gather 250 bees and add icing sugar to them and then count the resulting mites that fall off. I have never personally used this method, but I can see the benefit of getting a instant count. Especially on hives that you can’t do a drop count to check your varroa treatments have indeed worked.

We wrote an article about this in 2017 – How to do a Sugar Shake Mite Count

Further Reading

We found this great article about the different treatments available in New Zealand on the Business of Bees Blog
Which varroa treatment is best?

What about you?

How did you get on with your Varroa Treatments this Autumn, what did you use? Was it successful? Comment below I would love to hear how it went for you?

4 thoughts on “Varroa Treatments – Our Autumn Treatments

  1. Avatar photo
    Debi says:

    Thanks guys for a great article on Varroa. Would it be possible to add dates on when you did everything. I had a friend do Apiguard for the first time that my hive has actually ever been treated and I was amazed. Prior to this everyweek I would icing sugar over the top of the brood frames and the v mite count would be exactly the same prior to doing it.About 8-12. BUT after the Apiguard the first day there would have been uncountable little other mites and about 60 v mites. A week later I am still getting about 40 every day so very grateful Chris did this for me.I was so hoping to get thru with letting the bees try and build up their own resistance & stay natural but now looking at the count,I am so glad he just did it for me.It is so important that we all share our stories to see what works for others so we can make an informed choice.

    • Avatar photo
      Gary Fawcett says:

      Hi Debi,

      Thanks for the feedback, yep the dates are as follow:-
      Week 1 – 9 March 2012
      Week 2 – 16 March 2012
      Week 3 – 23 March 2012

      Yep we discovered that icing sugar isn’t enough to remove the mites, so we have been looking for alternatives for a while now.

      You will have to tell us how you find Apiguard, do a mite count once the treatments are finished Debi.


  2. Avatar photo
    Julie says:

    Very interested in your vaporiser treatment, Gary. Is this the first time you have treated since last spring? Did you consider doing a sugar shake during the fourth week to see how many varroa were left in the hive after the total treatment? That would have made an interesting conclusion.

    Will you do it just the two for spring and autumn or will you do it more during the year if you find mites are building up. And will you be using sugar dusting (with the mesh and a good amount of sugar) in between times to try and keep the mite count low? This is the way I would like to go so would be interested to hear your views on it.

    • Avatar photo
      Gary Fawcett says:

      Hi Julie,

      Thanks for your feedback. Yes this is the first time we have used the vaporiser on this scale, I agree we should have done some mite counts before the treatment to compare.

      I need to check all the hives we treated for mites, to make sure the treatments work. One colony we checked over the weekend still has a high number of mites, so we will need to retreat that this weekend.

      My goal is to get the counts as low as possible going into winter, so the bees can make it until our Spring Treatments. We have been doing a sugar shake count on the hives to check them, which is a quick way to check the mites in your hives.

      Sugar Dusting can work, but very labour intensive for more than a couple of hives. To be honest I don’t think it’s enough to keep the mites down. We did a series of blog posts about that a couple of years back; we didn’t have much success with it as a treatment.

      So how are your mite counts looking Julie?


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