2.3.2. Sample identification

Mounted mite specimens are best examined with dissecting or compound light microscopes that have been fitted with ocular micrometers. The following measurements should be considered.

  • Body size (length and width).
  • Structure and setation (i.e. stiff hair, bristle) of dorsal shield.
  • Structure and chaetotaxy of the sternal, epigynal, anal and metapodal shields, peritreme, tritosternum and hypostome (see Fernandez and Coineau, 2007 for a description of varroa morphology).
  • Number, arrangement and morphology of setae on the legs and palps.

The two species V. destructor and V. jacobsoni are morphologically similar, except in body size and shape. V. jacobsoni is much smaller and more circular in shape than V. destructor (Fig. 4). Nevertheless, some V. jacobsoni  (e.g. those found on A. cerana in Laos, mainland Asia) are much larger than other V. jacobsoni. Hence it is always best to confirm a diagnosis of either of these species with additional molecular information.

In case varroa work is conducted in Asia where several species cohabit, we provide a determination key adapted from Oldroyd and Wongsiri (2006) and Warrit and Lekprayoon (2011) to differentiate those mites. Varroa mites have body as wide or wider as it is long. This characteristic distinguishes it from other Asian parasitic mite genera Tropilaelaps (with a body longer than it is wide) and Euvarroa (triangular shaped body).

1.a. Peritremes* are long and looping up from the ventral side, extending beyond the lateral margin of the dorsal shield and thus sometimes visible on a dorsal view.


Varroa rindereri (Fig. 4e)

primarily found parasitizing A. koschevnikovi


            b. Peritremes not extending beyond the lateral margin of the dorsal shield.




2.a. Setae of the lateral margin long and slender

Varroa underwoodi (Fig. 4f)

primarily found parasitizing A. dorsata, A. laboriosa and A. breviligula


            b. Setae shorter and stout.



3.a. Body size ratio (width to length) 1.2-1.3:1

Varroa jacobsoni (Fig. 4a, b)

parasitize A. cerana on Sundaland, including A. nigrocincta on Sulawesi


            b. Body size ratio ≥ 1.4


Varroa destructor (Fig. 4c, d)

parasitize A. cerana on Mainland Asia, and A. mellifera worldwide


* ‘gutters’ protruding from the spiracle on the ventral side, towards the edge of the body at the level of the third pair of legs (see Fernandez and Coineau, 2007).

Fig. 4. The four species of Varroa: a. V. jacobsoni dorsal view; b. V. jacobsoni ventral view; c. V. destructor dorsal view; d. V. destructor ventral view; e. V. rindereri; f. V. underwoodi. Photo: Denis Anderson.

Figure 4