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Beekeeping Pest Control, Part 2 - Protecting Hives Against Wax Moths and Mice
This is part two in our series of hive diseases and pests that beekeepers need to be on the lookout for. Check out part one where we discussed three small, but deadly, pests that beekeepers face - varroa mites, Nosema and foulbrood. In this post, we’ll address wax moths and mice. Be on the lookout for a future post where we’ll address ants and tracheal mites.
Typically, wax moths don’t kill bees like varroa mites or tracheal mites do; however, they will take up residence in a weak or failing hive. When they do, they’re very destructive and often cause bees to abscond. This includes both kinds of wax moths – the greater wax moth and the lesser wax moth.
The best way to combat wax moths inside an active hive is to keep your colony strong and healthy. Strong and healthy colonies are able to defend and protect themselves against wax moths.
What if you need to store surplus comb … how do you keep it safe from wax moths until you’re ready to use it the following season? Good question, since the wax moth is an opportunistic pest that can cause substantial damage to stored combs and the frames that it is on. These frames and combs are best protected with fumigation which is easily accomplished using a Paramoth drawer filled with Paramoth crystals. The drawer, which is placed on top of a stack of supers, makes it easy to check and add additional crystals, usually every three weeks.
If your hive experiences a wax moth infestation, it’s not as bad as American foulbrood, where the hive and colony must be destroyed. Luckily, all you need to do is clean your equipment, eliminating all stages of the moth. (Some people even set the hive and frames scattered out in the chicken yard and let their chickens do most of the work.) Check frames for damage because cocoons embed themselves into the frames and larvae consume the wood. Damaged frames should be burned. After you’ve done all you can to clean the frames and box, next you’ll need to place them in a deep freezer for no less than four full days to kill any eggs you may have missed. This should be followed with a thorough scraping to remove any remaining residue.
Once you’ve eliminated all stages of the moth, store everything in a cool dry place. Then your hive is ready to begin again with a new nuc the following spring.
Mice choose dark, confined places to set up housekeeping. Kind of describes a hive box perfectly, doesn’t it? Therefore, when you get ready to store your supers for the winter, it’s best to stack them all up neatly on top of a bottom board to seal up and secure the bottom of the stack and add an entrance reducer to each super, thereby, blocking the entrances and acting as a mouse guard. These two items are all you need to prevent a mouse from turning your hive into a home.
Utilizing these basic beekeeping supplies and equipment, every beekeeper takes great strides in avoiding the heartache caused by wax moths and mice.