What Happens if I Don’t Treat Varroa Mites?
There are 3 common outcomes when you don’t treat/intervene, in any way, for varroa mites.
- Your hive does fine, since they didn’t have a very high mite population to begin with, or, you hit the lottery in beekeeping and your hives are resistant enough to mites to survive without treatment. This is very rare, but it can happen.
If you don’t test to confirm this, the odds are certainly not in your favor that this will be the outcome. If I had to guess, I would say this would be the case with less than 1% of hives in the US. There are alway some beekeepers who say they’ve never treated for mites & their hives do fine. However, that is certainly not the norm.
Another noteworthy thing to mention is that even if your hive, in the very rare instance, survives with higher mite loads, you are spreading mites to all hives in a few mile radius of your own beehive. This has become known as a “mite bomb”.
- Your hive dies quickly. This is a common outcome. Mites weaken a hive both through sucking the fat from bees & transferring viruses to both adult and developing bees, and transmitting viruses. They can quickly, or slowly kill hived depending on the mite population and how healthy your hive was to begin with. If the population of mites increases rapidly a hive can go from a deep box or two full of bees to a few frames of bees, or dead, in weeks.
- Your hive is greatly weakened and slowly dies over a period of months. This is the most common outcome. As the mite population steadily grows the bee’s immune system is steadily weakened. They contract viruses and other diseases and eventually die. Your hive may look fine for a time, until it begins to get cold in the winter. Then they quickly dwindle and die. Your hive’s population can appear normal over the summer, but as the bees begin to cluster as the weather cools, and continue losing population, it becomes more apparent how weakened they are. After a few cold fronts, they die.