Pests and Diseases


I. Varroa Mites

Varroa mites only reproduce in honey bee hives. They attack honey bees in all stages of their life cycle, eating their body fat and spreading viruses. A serious varroa mite infestation can kill 

Bees after a powdered sugar test for varroa mites (the sugar causes mites to fall off the bees, allowing the beekeeper to count the number and calculate whether the hive has a serious infestation)

II. Wax Moths

Wax moths lay their eggs in empty combs that a beekeeper may have left out or abandoned.  When the eggs hatch the moth larvae feed on the wax and build cocoons. After emerging as adult moths, they destroy more of the comb that the honey bees need (1).

Photo Credit: © 2021 Bee Informed Partnership.

III. Ants

Ants attack new and/or weak colonies. After overwhelming the colony they eat and carry away the eggs, larvae, adult bees, wax, and honey (2).

Photo Credit: © 2021 Bee Informed Partnership.

IV. Yellowjackets and Bald Faced Hornets

Yellow Jackets and Bald faced Hornets are commonly mistaken for bees, but they have longer bodies that are shiny and hairless, unlike the fuzzy appearance of bees. Important native pollinators and predators to some crop harming insects, yellow jackets and hornets are also a major predator for bees and can destroy a hive in just a few days (3). Yellow Jackets love to eat every part of the hive, including honey bees themselves.

Photo Credit: © 2021 Yankee Publishing Inc 

Photo Credit: Arlene Ripley. (MBP list

V. Bears

Bears, as we all know, love honey!  So when they come upon a hive they can’t help but tear into it looking for a sweet meal. 

Photo Credit: © Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife


Diseases can also harm bees. A common disease is a bacterium called American Foulbrood, which exclusively kills larvae (4).  After taking out all the larvae in a hive it can remain as spores and spread that way for up to 70 years. Because of this, when American Foulbrood is found the whole hive is burned to prevent spreading. Another common disease is Nosema, which comes from a fungus that enters adult bees’ stomachs and causes dysentery (an intestinal infection) (1).

Photo Credit: © 2005-2012 Rob Snyder