All About Wax Moths

Spotting an Affected Hive: All About Wax Moths

Wax moths (Galleria Mellonella) are a worldwide common pest that can wreak havoc on beehives. Active during the spring and summer months, these small, grayish-brown moths lay their eggs in beehives. Their larvae can quickly destroy the comb and honey stores. Beekeepers must be vigilant in monitoring their hives for signs of wax moth infestation to prevent significant damage.

The first step in spotting an affected hive is to look for signs of wax moth activity. This can include small holes in the wax comb, webbing on the frames and inside the hive, and a foul odor. A secure sign of previous wax moths infestation in the hive are oval, pill-shaped indentations in the wood. These result from the chewing activity of the pre-pupal Greater Wax Moth larvae.

These larvae can survive winter within their cocoons, causing the moth’s life cycle duration to vary from weeks to months. Factors influencing this time frame include food availability, diet composition, temperature, and humidity. If you notice any of these signs, it’s essential to act quickly to prevent further damage.

Prevention is key when it comes to wax moths. Beekeepers should regularly inspect their hives and remove any old or damaged comb. Additionally, keeping hives in a dry, well-ventilated area can help deter wax moths from laying their eggs. By taking these preventative measures and being vigilant in monitoring their hives, beekeepers can protect their bees from the destructive effects of wax moths.

Understanding Wax Moths

Wax moths are common pests that infest beehives. There are two types of wax moths: the greater wax moth and the lesser wax moth. The greater wax moth is the most common and causes the most damage, whereas the lesser wax moth is less destructive and less common. Wax moths are not harmful to humans, but they can cause significant damage to beehives. They can destroy comb, honey, and pollen, and can weaken the overall structure of the hive. Wax moths can also attract other pests, such as ants and beetles, which can further damage the hive.

Signs of a wax moth infestation include webbing on the surface of the comb, holes in the comb, and a foul odor. The webbing is created by the larvae as they spin their cocoons, and the holes are created as they burrow through the comb. The foul odor is caused by the wax moths’ feces and the damage they cause to the comb.

In severe infestations, the wax moths can completely destroy the wax comb and honey stores, leaving the beekeeper with a significant loss. It is important to regularly inspect beehives for signs of wax moth infestation and take action as soon as possible to prevent the infestation from spreading.

Wax moths are more prevalent in weak or neglected hives. They tend to target hives that have been weakened by disease, pests, or other factors that have reduced the bee population. Wax moths are also attracted to hives that have been left unattended for long periods.

Understanding the life cycle of wax moths and the signs of infestation is crucial for effective control and prevention. Regular inspections and prompt action are key to keeping beehives healthy and productive.

Life Cycle of Wax Moths

Wax moths are a common pest in beehives and can cause significant damage to the comb and honey stores. Understanding the life cycle of wax moths is crucial to effectively controlling and preventing infestations.

Wax moths have two distinct species: the greater wax moth and the lesser wax moth. The greater wax moth has a wingspan of up to 3 cm, while the lesser wax moth has a wingspan of up to 1.5 cm. Both species have similar life cycles, with the greater wax moth having a slightly longer life cycle than the lesser wax moth.

Four Stages of the Wax Moth Life Cycle

The Wax moths life cycle (photo above by Researchgate) consists of four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The length of each stage depends on various factors such as temperature, humidity, and food availability.

During full moon, the female wax moth enters bee colonies to lay her eggs in dark honeycomb or crevices. She prefers areas that contain brood or pollen. After a few days (3 – 30 days) the eggs hatch into pinkish-white larvae with a brown head. The larvae immediately start to feed on wax, cast skins and pollen. They grow rapidly and can reach a length of up to 1.5 inches. As the larvae grow, they leave behind a silken trail which makes it difficult for honey bees to remove them.

After feeding between 28 days and 6 months , the larvae spin a cocoon and enter the pupal stage. The pupa is inactive and does not feed during this stage. After two to three weeks, they spin a white silk cocoon in the frames, crevices and all over the woodenware. After about 15 days, the adult wax moth emerges from the cocoon and a new cycle begins.

The adult wax moth does not feed on honey or wax. Its sole purpose is to mate and lay eggs. The female wax moth can lay up to 300 eggs in her lifetime, which lasts for about a week. The entire life cycle of the wax moth can be completed in as little as six weeks under optimal conditions.

It is important to note that the wax moth infestation can cause serious damage to the hive. The larvae can destroy the wax comb, which can lead to the collapse of the hive. Beekeepers should regularly inspect their hives for signs of wax moth infestation, especially during the warmer months when the wax moth population is at its peak.

Wax Moths: A Step-by-Step Guide to Chemical and Natural Treatments

Wax moths are a common pest in the beekeeping industry, causing significant damage to hives and colonies. These moths lay their eggs in the beeswax, and their larvae feed on the wax, pollen, and even the bee larvae. This can result in a weakened colony, reduced honey production, and even the loss of the entire hive.

To combat wax moths, beekeepers have developed both chemical and natural treatments. Chemical treatments involve the use of pesticides to kill the moths and their larvae, while natural treatments use non-toxic substances to repel or suffocate the pests. Both methods have their pros and cons, and it is up to the beekeeper to decide which approach is best for their situation. In this article, we will provide a step-by-step guide to both chemical and natural treatments for wax moths, helping beekeepers protect their hives and ensure the health of their colonies.

Chemical Treatments for Wax Moths

Chemical treatments are an effective way to control wax moths in beekeeping, although they should only be used as a last resort. In the US, two chemicals can control wax moths: paradichlorobenzene (PDB) and aluminum phosphide (Phostoxin). PDB is approved for protecting stored comb from wax moths. However, it cannot be used in live bee colonies or for safeguarding comb honey.

Aluminum phosphide, available in tablet or pellet form, is sold under different trade names. It transforms into a gaseous fumigant to control wax moths in stored drawn comb. While highly effective, it’s also flammable and potentially dangerous to humans. As a result, it’s classified as a “restricted use chemical” accessible only to licensed pesticide applicators.

This section will provide a step-by-step guide for using chemical treatments and precautions and safety measures to keep in mind.

Step-by-Step Guide for Using Chemical Treatments

  1. Choose the right chemical treatment: There are different types of chemical treatments available in the market. Choose the one that suits the severity of the infestation and the type of bees you have.
  2. Follow the instructions: Chemical treatments come with instructions on the label. Follow them carefully to ensure that the treatment is applied correctly.
  3. Wear protective gear: When applying chemical treatments, it is important to wear protective gear such as gloves, a mask, and goggles to protect yourself from harmful chemicals.
  4. Apply the treatment: Apply the treatment according to the instructions on the label. Apply it evenly to the affected areas.
  5. Monitor the results: Monitor the results of the treatment and repeat it if necessary.

Precautions and Safety Measures

  1. Read and follow the instructions: Always read and follow the instructions on the label of the chemical treatment.
  2. Keep away from children and pets: Keep the chemical treatment away from children and pets.
  3. Store the treatment properly: Store the chemical treatment in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
  4. Use protective gear: Always wear protective gear such as gloves, a mask, and goggles when applying chemical treatments.
  5. Dispose of the treatment properly: Dispose of the empty container properly and do not reuse it.

Important Note:

Never use unregistered or off-brand chemicals for wax moth control! Beeswax can absorb and retain toxic substances for extended periods. These can not only contaminate hive products, but also potentially harm  consumers and beekeepers!

Chemical treatments can be effective in controlling wax moths in beekeeping. However, it is important to follow the instructions and safety measures to ensure the safety of yourself, your bees, and the environment.

Natural Treatments for Wax Moths

Wax moths can cause significant damage to beehives by feeding on beeswax and honeycomb, leading to weakened colonies. Here’s a step-by-step guide to natural treatments against wax moths in beehives:

Regular inspections:

Routinely check your beehives for signs of wax moth infestation, such as webbing, fecal pellets, or tunnels within the honeycomb. A strong and healthy colony can usually fend off wax moths, so pay close attention to weaker hives.

Maintain hive cleanliness:

Keep your beehives clean and well-ventilated to discourage wax moth infestations. Remove any debris, dead bees, or excess comb from the hive regularly. Regularly clean varroa mite detector boards and beetle traps.

Reduce empty comb space:

Limit the amount of empty comb in the hive, as it provides an ideal breeding ground for wax moths. Adjust the number of frames within the hive to match the size and strength of the colony. Remove supers of drawn comb in unoccupied beehives.

Freeze/Burn affected frames:

If you find wax moth larvae or damaged comb during your inspections, remove the affected frames and place them in a freezer for at least 48 hours. Freezing kills the larvae and prevents further damage. Badly damaged infested equipment should be burned.

Use natural repellents:

Consider using natural substances like essential oils (e.g., eucalyptus, mint, or thyme) to repel wax moths. Apply a few drops of essential oil to a cotton ball and place it in a small, breathable container (like a mesh bag) near the hive entrance. Replace the cotton balls every few weeks or when the scent fades.

Introduce beneficial insects:

Some insects, such as certain species of wasps, are natural predators of wax moth larvae. Introducing these beneficial insects to your apiary can help control wax moth populations.

Trap wax moths:

Set up wax moth traps around your apiary to catch adult moths before they can lay eggs. You can make a simple trap using a plastic bottle filled with a mixture of vinegar, sugar, and water. Cut a small hole in the bottle for moth entry, and hang the trap near your hives.

Solar treatment:

Expose infested frames and hive components to direct sunlight on hot days. The heat will kill wax moth larvae and eggs. Be sure to cover the exposed comb with a cloth to prevent robbing by other bees.

Rotate old comb:

Regularly replace old and darkened combs with new, fresh ones to prevent wax moth infestations. Wax moths prefer older combs that have been used for brood rearing, therefore replace old comb (especially brood comb) with new foundation.

Monitor and adapt:

Continuously monitor your hives for any signs of wax moth infestation and take appropriate action as needed. Adapt your prevention and treatment strategies based on the specific conditions in your apiary and the effectiveness of your chosen methods.

By following these natural treatments, you can effectively manage wax moth populations in your beehives and maintain the health and productivity of your honeybee colonies.


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