The Pettis Test

Photo Credit: James Castner, University of Florida

It has been said that the largest enemy of the honey bee is the Varroa mite. Latching on to the bee, weakening their immune systems and causing an increased risk of disease and virus with their bite, it is the equivalent of a human being having a tick the size of dinner plate attached to their body—a sickening thought. This is probably also why beekeepers need to have a Varroa control plan in place or should be aware of the threat that Varroa mites can cause within the hive.

One of the ways the BIP Tech teams will be experimenting with Varroa control in the coming spring will be by way of the Pettis Test developed by Research Leader, Jeffery Pettis of the USDA-ARS Bee Research Lab in Beltsville, MD. To view the complete protocol and try it yourself click the link HERE.

The Pettis test looks at colonies that appear to be resistant to Varroa mite treatments, which, unfortunately is a fairly common occurrence. Overtime, Varroa mites develop immunity to mite treatments leaving chemicals and methods ineffective. The test looks at the effectiveness of Coumaphos, also called CheckMite+ and Fluvalinate, known as Apistan. The two products come in the forms of strips that are usually placed into the hive. In the case of the Pettis Test, the two products will be tested simultaneously and the medicated strips are placed into jars with sampled bees, collected in slightly similar way to a sugar roll. By taking a sample of bees and looking at the number of mites killed in a certain period of time, you can determine if a hive’s mite population is resistant to treatments.

The equipment needed is simple and other than Apistan and Checkmite, which can be ordered at, all are items you might have on hand. If you are interested in learning to control your mite population or curious if the mites in your colonies are becoming resistant to treatments check out the test. It is a non-harmful, simple way to get new insight into the health of your colonies and may lead you to investigate introducing a chemical rotation in the management of your colonies instead of relying on a single product.


Written By: Jennie Stitzinger

Jennie Stitzinger has written 55 post in this blog.

In the summer of 2010 I walked in to the Penn State Agricultural Sciences building to inquire about a job a friend had mentioned to me. I was a poor college student, I needed to pay my summer rent, I was offered the job and I took it—I had no idea what I was in for. Fast forward a little over a year and I was kneeling on rocks and mud, in the cold, northern California rain, surrounded by dairy cows and hundreds of hives while Africanized bees were pinging off my bee suit. With a degree in Community Development from Penn State University, I never thought in a million years I would be working with honey bees upon graduation, but I guess life sure has its surprises. Now a member of the University of Maryland Diagnostic team, I work on many different aspects of BIP and the National Honey Bee Survey. Whether it is field work, traveling, report writing, crunch time projects, or larger missions, I am most likely working on it. What is my favorite part of the job? Working on an awesome project that has impact and is helping beekeepers around the country, learning more about honey bees than I ever thought I wanted to know, and giving me experiences I never thought possible.