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James @ Hivesite

Thermal Treatment for Varroa Mite Poll


Please read $30 as <$30 (cost up to $30)

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Thermal Treatment for Varroa Mite Poll  

14 members have voted

  1. 1. How much approximately does it cost you to treat a hive annually for Varroa mite, including labour, testing, transport, and chemically treating hives?

  2. 2. Do you feel that the current treatments are effective in terms of Varroa mite control?

    • Yes
    • Yes but it is problematic managing different treatment methods
    • I am seeing some resistance occurring, and am concerned about the ongoing viability
    • No, I am experiencing a detrimental amount of colony collapse despite following treatment procedures
  3. 3. How do you feel about using thermal treatment to control Varroa mites (tick as many as you like)

    • If a solution was available that was easy to use and cost effective, I would likely make the jump to thermal treatment
    • Makes sense from a biological perspective, but concerned about the effect on my bees?
    • Interesting, but seems impractical for large-scale/commercial use
    • I would like to see more scientific evidence before considering using thermal treatment
    • I am aware of some of the hobbyist solutions, but they are too expensive or require too much labour.
    • I am already using thermal treatment, and effectiveness isn't good
    • I am already using thermal treatment, and it is working well in my process
    • Sounds like snake oil

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On 20/05/2020 at 9:28 PM, James @ Hivesite said:

It is also our experience that the products historically or currently available are lacking in terms of usability, cost, or simply poor design that isn't conducive to efficient beekeeping.

........ exactly

On 20/05/2020 at 9:28 PM, James @ Hivesite said:

Incidentally one solution at least, the Might Mite Killer, despite several short comings, including possibly dubious marketing tactics, setup, efficiency, and labour,


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On 23/05/2020 at 9:18 PM, john berry said:

Beekeepers who have been living in the synthetic dream need to wake up and realise that they are failing. Unfortunately the organic acids are either dangerous, not always effective or both.

For thermal treatment to be practical for me it would have to treat a pallet of hives at a time without causing damage to the bees or brood. Given that bees are remarkably good at controlling their own temperature and the fact that they die very quickly when overheated I somehow doubt there will ever be a successful commercial treatment but then scientists and engineers have been  coming up with brilliant and innovative solutions for all sorts of problems for years so don't give up just because of my pessimism..

This is way out in  the left field but what about using visual recognition software coupled with a laser.

Current varoa control tends to try and kill all or the majority of mites at one time but  something that killed a few mites continuously so that there reproduction rate fell below one would actually give better permanent control.

It would be difficult but not impossible to have a system which identified Infected bees entering and leaving the hive , They could then be redirected for either some kind of treatment or destruction.

PS if someone can make the last idea work then don't forget to add wasps to the software.

Hi @john berry

We did come across a patent application for Varroa detection and laser removal when we first started researching, and a quick search just now reveals some research and a couple of organizations working on this concept:




The bee drafter idea is an interesting idea.

Without having thought about it too much I guess you would still have to pesticide treat with the above options as some mites would slip through, and the population would grow, but it maybe better than just leaving strips in almost constantly, as I believe is beginning to happen, just prevent reinfection from neighboring hives.


Incidentally we started out using machine vision to detect and identify Varroa mites (on the bottom of the hive not on the bees themselves) as a way of doing a count, to indicate whether treatment was required, before pivoting to how to treat. We were able to successfully to identify Varroa at a reasonable accuracy, however the big issue is you are dealing with bees who may like to polish the camera lenses, or more likely cover them in propolis, etc. However we didn't go down the path of looking for lens coatings to mitigate the environmental issues before pivoting, and likely there are some solutions.

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If varoa have a different refractive index than bees then it might be relatively easy to identify infected bees in flight and then mechanically remove them at the entrance.Keeping the camera outside the hive would really help keep it clean.

Bees are quite capable of killing varoa, they just don't seem to be able to identify them as an enemy.

It might be possible to train them to hunt and destroy the varoa themselves.

Varoa scented sugar water fed to bees would be the simplest if it worked.

Artificial varoa coated with a heat sensitive glue which activated at hive temperature so they stuck to the bees causing them to have to groom themselves could potentially work very well and given bees ability to learn might have some reasonably long-term control. It might or might not work better if they had a sweet treat inside when bitten .





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On 23/05/2020 at 7:41 PM, NatureAlley said:

As a biologist I am interested in physical treatment instead of chemical.. I am a hobbyist, and being retired I do have time but even so squashing each individual Varroa specimen manually is no option 🙂. Inspired by the equipment for hyperthermia treatment as it was developed at the University of Tübingen in the 80's and by the results claimed I looked at equipment and prices. The price of a decent instrument that ensures homogeneous temperature distribution and controlled humidity (in EU about €2500 for a 20 frame unit) is in my opinion prohibitive for hobbyists and I agree with PeterS that so far it seems not ideal for commercial application.

But I found the idea interesting enough to home build a box for ~ 20 frames, just for personal use. Interesting exercise the past few months.... it turned out to be not so easy to achieve a homogeneous temperature throughout the box so that all frames are treated the same and not one area ends up 'well done' and an other area 'rare'; I would not be surprised if half-baked treatment might result in dead larvae/pupae as well as Varroa in the hotter areas whereas Varroa might survive in the cooler areas. There is another potential risk although I do not think it has ever been looked into seriously: that Varroa surviving the treatment may develop to be more heat tolerant which would get us back to the issue of resistance. So it seemed appropriate to improve the initial build. With a lot of tweaking and rebuilding the variation is now within 0.3° throughout the box during treatment and temperatures can be controlled reliably. Afterwards I did understand the €2500 a bit better.....

The thermal box treats brood, so its predominant use is in spring varroa control or at least as long as there is brood. In the meantime (after consulting with a seasoned beekeeper who was friendly enough to teach me the ropes) I decided to use oxalic acid/glycerine strips this autumn. I still struggle with the question "How to perform a relevant test run with the thermal box?"; it will be impossible to achieve with any degree of reliability the way a biologist in a lab would be able to, especially with only two hives.
Anyway, it was fun building, I look forward to spring when real testing can be done!



Hi @NatureAlley,

 Firstly just want to acknowledge your efforts, and that is some impressive engineering to get 0.3C variation.

Am I right in assuming you used this product as the inspiration?: https://www.varroa-controller.com/

We also haven't come across many studies related to resistance to high temperature.

Have you read these papers?

Heat shock proteins in Varroa destructor exposed to heat stress and in-hive acaricides (we have reviewed the full text, and yes HSP70 response increases with elevated temperatures, they don't really conclude much except more studies need to be done, and that seasonal temperature fluctuations should be considered to maximize the effect of acaricides and minimize
costs and residues of controlling mites. They reference this research in moths https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4314281/ that talks about the Trade-off between thermal tolerance and insecticide resistance, which if applicable to Varroa, could mean in the future thermal and minimal pesticide could work well in tandem.

Insect Heat Shock Proteins During Stress and Diapause (Not arachnids)


We do hope to get an entomologist involved at some point (after we have ascertained product market fit), it's unclear to me whether the HSP70 increase is permanent response from thermal shock, or just a rapid survival process that dissipates, and whether the mutation (sorry probably not the right word for it) gets transferred to some/all subsequent generation Varroa.

You have got me thinking about how answering some of these hypothesis, could be a good research project for one of our Universities, especially given the unique NZ industry and product,  although I also wouldn't be surprised if we start to see more papers flowing in from international establishments.


Your highlight about running a relevant test is something in the back of our minds as well, as you know it needs to be done at scale, with good controls, and possibly blind (unbiased), to get truly representative data. Which is another issue with the thermal treatment products we have seen, generally more anecdotal than scientific.

Thanks for your input and sharing your experience and concerns.




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Thanks for your response, James. As far as I am aware from research I was involved in sideways heat shock proteins, HSP70 being a dominant one, are produced temporarily in all kinds of organisms, including humans, as a result from stress (such as heat exposure) and their function has been related to relieving the stress that triggers their production. HSP production drops back gradually after the stress factor has been removed. So you are correct to be cautious, it is not a mutation, it is merely a temporary conditional expression. 

I am convinced HSP are are not something to worry about. Varroa selection is more dangerous if a treatment is allowing more resistant individuals to survive based on their genetic make-up.

Yes, the thermal box I built is very much like the Varroa controller but I looked at many other concepts, even the (patented) solar hives. After this initial inventory I decided on the 'brood only' approach. I think it was at least in part through trial and error that I got to where I am now (many of the best and lasting inventions and 'scientific progress' happen by accident or by making mistakes, unfortunately). There are differences with the commercial instrument, such as the way warm air is circulated and also in my 'contraption' the temperature and relative humidity are not set values but can be varied. 
As a hobbyists who likes a DIY challenge for now I am happy if the approach temporarily brings down varroa numbers in such a way (by about a month) that chemical treatment during the time when there is still nectar flow can be avoided.

And should it be unsuccessful   ...   I will have a box to warm up the honey frames before harvesting. 🙂 .. No guts no glory. Good luck with the project!




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The thermal treatment for afb works, but a bit harsh for varroa.

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The evidence from overseas is that selection for resistance to mites is probably the better long term goal IMO.  The Purdue ankle biters spring to mind. And there are other programs as well.  Thermal treatment is likely to be out reach of small scale hobbyists, especially if you run topbars or long langs.




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Hi @john berry & @Markypoo,

Thanks for spuring my research along, seems there is a lot going on with Varroa Sensitive Hygiene (VSH), a lot of businesses breeding VSH Queens, even here in NZ, and it is interesting to think about how the bees behaviors could be manipulated for their and our benefit (Something we have to also be aware with thermal)

I do wonder about the genetic vs learned/environmental aspect to the colonies behavior, so just introducing a VSH Queen to an existing colony, may or may not have the desired effect, and splitting colonies with an artificially inseminated Queen would surely be the best way, until a saturation point is reached?

Ultimately could be the holy grail, but needs good support from the industry.


Previous to your prodding the only thing I had seen were the in hive grooming aids, and this documentary “Secrets of the Hive” on TV3 back in November, which had a section on breeding gentle but Varroa killing, Africanized bees, as I recall, they struggled to get the balance right, and ultimately were unsuccessful. There is a bit of it here:





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Just a quick project status update for anyone interested.

We are currently preparing 3x units of our 2nd Prototype, to deploy in Spring.



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On 5/30/2020 at 1:54 PM, James @ Hivesite said:

A large scale study being conducted in the US to measure the viral load before and after thermal treatment


A paper I read (but forgot the refs, very sorry) is maybe worth mentioning. The summer heat waves of the past few years here and there saw a reduction in some viruses in bees as well as reduced numbers of deformed wings.

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