The Varroa mite, Varroa destructor, is an acarine ecto-parasite on Apis mellifera. It is the worst pest of Apis mellifera, yet its reproductive biology on the host is not well understood. In particular, the significance of the phoretic stage, when mites feed on adult bees for a few days, is not clear. In addition, it is not clear whether the preference of mites for nurses observed in the laboratory also happens inside real colonies. We show that Varroa mites prefer nurses over both newly emerged bees and forgers in a colony setting. We then determined the mechanism behind this preference. We show that this preference maximizes Varroa fitness, although due to the fact that each mite must find a second host (a pupa) to reproduce, the fitness benefit to the mites is not immediate but delayed. Our results suggest that the Varroa mite is a highly adapted parasite for honey bees.