Ökológiai Mezőgazdasági Kutatóintézet

Apicultural research

Organic protection methods against varroa mite

Varroa mite is the pest causing the most damage to beekeeping all over the world. Mites may spread viruses and, by weakening the colony, can make bees susceptible to other pathogenic agents. Mites can be transmitted to other hives by disorientation of bees, robbery and removal of honeycomb. There are no colonies of bees in Hungary that are free from mites. In colonies without treatment, varroa mites multiply rapidly and cause collapse of the colony.

For sustainable production, the number of mites within the hive must be kept at the lowest possible level. In organic bee-keeping, only a few materials (volatile oils, organic acids) are permitted to be used for treatment of varroa outbreaks. During our apicultural on-farm studies in 2013, successful methods and materials that control mites are compared with co-operation of participant beekeepers from spring through autumn.

Our first workshop about organic beekeeping and control of varroa was held on 24th March 2013. Participant beekeepers discussed organic methods and could get acquainted with the anti-mite products offered by distributors and permitted in Hungarian organic apiculture. Main target of the meeting was to develop a joint treating and checking methodolgy for the whole year.

Each participant beekeeper treats twelve colonies with the same product against varroa in 2013 and checks their infection level regularly. During the treatment period, effectiveness of one particular product is studied or two comparable products are tested. In the latter case, six-six colonies are treated with each product.

Infection level of the colony is regularly checked by help of a screen bottom board and sampling of living bees. Samples are evaluated by the National Food Chain Safety Office Veterinary Diagnostic Directorate.

Previously 15 beekeepers undertook the experiment from several regions of the country. It is worth mentioning that on-farm testing of methods and products is adjusted to the daily routine of organic beekeepings; test colonies are not being separated from honey producing colonies. During the season, beekeepers record circumstances of the treatments, observations about mite infection and honey production of each colony.

After spring and summer work peaks, participants may want to visit each other, thus helping direct exchange of experiences. In the course of these meetings, we can get acquainted with the daily routines of several beekeepers, and hear experiences and observations of the treatments.

We plan to organize a workshop in autumn or winter to sum up and assess experiences and plan on-farm research for the following year. If products of tested colonies of bees can be handled separately, we analyse their nutrition value and organize taste trials. Apart from partiipant beekeepers, traders and consumers will be also invited to this meeting.

In winter, after the end of the study, experiences will be summarized and published as a printed publication, online and journal article and conference lecture. Publications about methodology and effectiveness of methods will be available to anyone. We hope that this will help all the Hungarian organic beekeepers to find an anti-varroa treatment most suitable for their conditions.

In parallel with our on-farm study, we published a professional manual on varroa control in organic beekeeping. The German language publication published by Swiss FiBL (downloadable from the Internet) is being translated with help from on-farm study participants to provide a practical booklet adapted to Hungarian conditions. This Hungarian handbook of beekeeping will be downloadable from website of ÖMKi or can be ordered in printed version.

Participant organizations in 2013:

  • Hungarian Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (ÖMKi)

  • National Hugarian Bee-keeping Association (OMME)

  • Beekeepers’ Bioculture Association

Tools and products tested in the research (with name and website of sponsors):


Publication about varroa control in organic beekeeping in German (FiBL 2009: Varroakontrolle in der Bioimkerei) can be downloaded here:


Report – Apicultural on-farm research network 2013 – 2014

Read more...ÖMKi hosted a day long professional workshop on last year’s varroa mite research and trials for organic beekeepers on Saturday, March 28th. The event, held at the Historic Silk Reel House in Budapest, also served to introduce new members of the On-farm Apiculture group for 2014 to existing members encouraging an open exchange of experiences.

The event was opened by Dr. Dóra Drexler, managing director of ÖMKi who spoke about the current state of the organic sector, Hungary’s role as a leader in organic beekeeping, the activities of ÖMKi, and the methodology of on-farm research. Apiculture Research Associate at ÖMKi, Tamás Csáki, presented results from the 2013 apiculture research, what methods were tested, and specifics about the protection measures available to organic beekeepers for control of varroa mites. A research summary of ÖMKi’s 2013 research will be available soon on our website.

Attending beekeepers, both newly joined and those completing the 2013 trials, shared their practical experiences in a roundtable discussion. Tamás Kutasi (vice-president of the Hungarian Apitherapy Society) gave an interactive lecture: he brought his supers with him to present the special method („capped broodless period”) used in his beekeeping. Participants moved to the garden areas outside the ÖMKi office where a practical program allowed demonstration and hands-on testing of vaporizing, sublimating and mister tools used by different beekeepers. László Fekete demonstrated an lactic acid misting against varroa mite, which was especially interesting for all those in attendance.

Read more...The afternoon was devoted to planning 2014 on-farm research. Beekeepers prepared methodology and materials for tests together – each beekeeper will treat twelve colonies with identical methodologies as done by 20 beekeepers in 2013 trials and regularly check the infection level of varroa mite to determine effectiveness. Testing will include the use of a combination of a screen bottom board to record the number of dead mites each day along with regular samplings of live bees.

On-farm research testing methods and products is conducted using the same daily routine of the organic beekeepers. Test colonies are not segregated during the trials. Through the season, beekeepers maintain records of their treatments, observations on mite infection, general health of the bee colonies, movement of the hives, and honey production from each colony. The goal of each on-farm research undertaken by ÖMKi is to provide working strategies for problems faced by farmers in Hungary that can be readily implemented. The 2013 and 2014 Apiculture on-farm research aims to work out an organic protection strategies against varroa for Hungarian beekeepers.