Mite Treatment Considerations & Regulations

As we went over in our last PerfectBee Snippet, “The Types of Varroa Mite Treatments Available”, there are quite a few different Varroa mite treatments approved for use with honeybee colonies in the U.S. They each have their own specific instructions and requirements for use within your colonies.  

In this Snippet, we’ll dive a little bit further into what those instructions and regulations can mean for you and your bees. Knowing this can help to make it easier to choose the right mite treatments for your colonies going forward.  

The Labeling Process

Before a mite treatment is approved for use with honeybees in the U.S. and can be sold commercially, it must first go through an approval process via the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency).  

The EPA will then create a label with specific details about the storage and handling of the chemical(s) used in the treatment. It will also list any application instructions or considerations that the beekeeper should keep in mind when using the treatment in their bee yards.  

As research and understanding about how a treatment may work expands, the label instructions may be updated or changed by the EPA at any time. You should always refer to the most up-to-date label for any mite treatment before use in case something has changed since the last time you used that treatment. Learn more about the EPA’s regulations for Varroa mite treatments here.  

Keep in mind that each state has its own approval process and even if a miticide is approved for use by the EPA, it may not be available for use with honeybees in your state. Reach out to your local beekeeping club or state’s agriculture department for more details about state-wide mite treatment regulations.  

Method for Application 

Some mite treatments are very easy to apply, simply remove the treatment in the form of strips or pads from the packaging and place it inside the hive (usually in the brood nest but check the label for specific instructions).  

There are others that are a bit more involved, and the method you choose may be impacted by other factors.  

For example, Oxalic Acid has 3 potential methods for application: the dribble method, the vaporization method, or by mixing it with sugar water and spraying the solution on bees. The dribble and spraying methods may work well to cover many bees but aren’t helpful if temperatures are in the low 30s and you can’t even open the hive. That’s when you would consider applying an OA treatment with a vaporizer instead so that you don’t have to expose bees to cold and wet conditions when it’s already cold outside.  

We’ll talk a bit more about how temperatures may impact the use and efficacy of each treatment, but keep in mind that the environment and temperatures may also impact the best method for application, too.  

Temperature Restrictions

Many Varroa mite treatments have temperature guidelines and restrictions for use. One of the most notable treatments that has this restriction is Formic Pro. As an example, based on the EPA labeling guidelines, Formic Pro should only be used when outside (daytime) temperatures are between 50 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.  

Formic Pro is a great option for mite treatment as when the formic acid is released from the pads, it does penetrate brood cappings, allowing the treatment to kill mites that have already found shelter in a brood cell. It works by releasing the formic acid into the hive slowly, over a period of either 14 or 20 days.  

The temperature is very important when it comes to treatments that work this way as they can impact how quickly the chemicals are released. If the formic acid is released too quickly due to high heat, it can cause high rates of mortality and can possibly harm the queen. If it’s too cold, the chemical may not be released enough to be effective.

No matter the type of treatment used, temperatures can affect the way that they work AND their efficacy. That’s why it’s crucial to always refer to the label and apply treatments accordingly. If you don’t, it could mean more harm than help to your bees.  

Timing Considerations

Pay attention to the treatment duration according to the label. You may need to go back out to the hive to remove treatment strips, pads, or trays once the treatment period has ended. It helps to set a calendar reminder for when it’s time to remove treatments to ensure you don’t forget and potentially cause harm to the colony.  

The Presence of Honey Supers

Because some mite treatments contain chemicals that are not meant for human consumption or could be harmful, even in trace amounts, honey supers are not allowed to remain on the hive during certain treatments.  

If you must remove supers according to the treatment label, ensure frames with honey are stored either in an airtight container or inside a freezer to ensure that wax moths don’t start laying eggs in the comb.  

Colony Size

Mite treatments and the medications they contain are typically designed to work based on honeybee colonies that are housed in Langstroth sized boxes, often based on 10-frame sized hives. Pay close attention to the label when treating any colony that’s smaller, or when using in a beehive that’s not the standard Langstroth size.  

If you have a specialized beehive like a Warre or Horizontal Langstroth, treatments may not work in the same way that they would within a standard 10-frame Langstroth hive.  

Treatments typically refer to colony size based on “Frames of Bees” or “FOB” within the hive. This means that you need to count how many frames are fully covered with bees, NOT simply how many frames are in your hive (with or without bees). You might have a 10-frame hive but recently installed a nucleus colony that only has bees covering 5 deep frames. This means you have 5 “frames of bees”, not 10.  

It’s also important to note that for smaller or weaker colonies, or newly established nucs or packages, some treatments may be too strong and could cause a high amount of bee mortality. Refer to the label for specific instructions and application amounts or periods based on colony size (FOB).  

Brood Rearing Activity

As mentioned above, some mite treatments do not penetrate brood cappings, and will only kill phoretic mites (mites that are on adult honeybees) within a hive. It’s important to know what’s happening inside your beehive before considering which treatment to use.  

Knowing whether your colony has started rearing brood (and what stage that brood is in) can make a huge difference in choosing a treatment that will be effective in lowering Varroa mite numbers.  

Our previous Snippet can help to give you an idea of how mite treatments work when it comes to the presence of brood, but the EPA label should also be able to point you in the right direction to figure out whether it will be effective when brood is present. So, always make sure you read the label in full to make sure it’ll work with what your colony has going on inside.  

It also helps to keep notes of when your colony is rearing brood so that in future years, you can plan a bit better based on their previous year’s behaviors. For instance, if you know that they typically start rearing brood in March, you can plan to treat them early next spring with a phoretic mite treatment like Oxalic Acid before the brood rearing begins and then, if it’s necessary, choose something else that will penetrate cappings after brood rearing has begun.  


The efficacy rates that are reported to the EPA for miticides are based on using the treatment in accordance with the label’s guidelines. If you are using treatments appropriately, they should be as effective as expected.  

Keep in mind that the efficacy percentages are not guaranteed, but they are based on findings by the EPA’s researchers and scientists that study how mite treatments work and how well they continue to work over time. 

Some mite treatments can lead to Varroa mite resistance. Keep a close eye on the most up to date label from the EPA to find out if any resistance has been reported.   

Other Considerations

When it comes to Varroa mite treatments, there are obviously quite a few things to think about and consider. The label should include any additional things to think about, like how many treatments you can apply per year or how your hive should be set up while the treatment is present.  

But don’t just think about the considerations for your bees, consider yourself as their beekeeper in that equation, too. Choosing a mite treatment can be a little overwhelming, but when you know how that treatment might impact both your honeybees and you, it can help make things quite a bit easier.  

For instance, some treatments may need more than one application. So, if you’re planning a vacation and won’t be home to apply the second treatment, it may be best to choose a different option that you can apply all at once before you go.  

It’s also important to consider the tools that are involved, and the medications themselves. Be sure you have what you need on hand before mite levels get out of control. Planning ahead and knowing what you should be planning for, or planning around, can make managing mite levels much easier.  

So, ensure you’re reading EPA labels to know what any potential mite treatment considerations are, but also ensure you’re keeping yourself and your needs in mind when deciding on and applying mite treatments.  

Keep an eye out for an upcoming Snippet where we’ll go over the importance of record keeping and how it can help when managing Varroa mites.  

Learn More

We’ve compiled some of our free resources below, with articles, guides, lessons, and blog posts specific to the dreaded Varroa Destructor Mite.   

As is the case with most beekeeping tasks, there are special tools and pieces of equipment that can help with managing Varroa mites in your bee yard. Check out the PerfectBee Store to find all of your Varroa mite testing, management, and treatment needs. Here are a few of our favorite options: 

  • Varroa EasyCheck – For measuring a mite count using the alcohol wash method. 
  • Sugar Roll Testing Kit – For assessing mite count using the sugar roll method. 
  • Oxalic Acid Kit – A kit that gives you all you need to complete an oxalic acid dribble 
  • Drone Frame – Adding a drone frame to your hive can help manage varroa mite levels, but only if timed perfectly right before the drones inside emerge and a ton of mites emerge with them! 
  • The Langstroth Screened Bottom Board and Varroa Monitoring Tray – Use the screened bottom board with tray to take a 24-mite count by counting how many phoretic mites fall off of bees within that time period 
  • A Field Guide to Honeybee Maladies – An excellent guide to many honeybee viruses, diseases, and pests. Includes information and photos of Varroa Mites and the issues they cause. 

Colony Member Resources

Colony members, check out these member-only Academy lessons to learn even more about Varroa Mites: 

And head over to the Colony Forum to view some interesting discussions specific to Varroa Mites: