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The Beekeeper's Guide to Wax Moths – Part 1
As a beekeeper, you take great pleasure in your hobby and even more pleasure in the sweet rewards associated with beekeeping. You learn very quickly, however, that there are many things that can go wrong with your hive. A wax moth infestation is one of them.
If you find wax moths or evidence of wax moths during your next hive inspection, it’s important to act swiftly. Wax moths can quickly decimate a hive.
Wax Moth Stages
There are two species of wax moths that lay eggs in beehives – Achroia grisella (the lesser wax moth) and Galleria mellonella (the greater wax moth). As wax moths develop, they go through four stages:
- Egg: Wax moth eggs are extremely small and are laid in batches of 300-600 eggs. You will generally find them in the gaps and cracks of the hive parts.
- Larva: After the eggs hatch, larvae tunnel into the wax honeycomb where they will feed and grow for as long as five months.
- Cocoon: When the larva matures, it forms a cocoon. You will typically find them on the hive body/frame and in any gap, crack or hole.
- Adult: Although wax moths don’t eat anything inside the hive, they will lay eggs to begin the whole process. Additionally, wax moths can carry serious infections such as foulbrood.
Wax Moths Cause Tremendous Damage
Wax moths have a voracious appetite and, because they eat the larva of honeybees, the protective capping over live bee larvae, pollen, beeswax and feces left behind in brood cells, they can cause severe damage in the hive. With the decimation of honeybee larvae and the increasing numbers of wax moth larvae that continue to hatch and develop, the wax moth larvae can quickly overrun a hive.
How Do You Know You Have Wax Moths?
Once they have established themselves in the hive, they’re easy to spot. Early on, however, it can be a little harder. The first thing that a beekeeper may notice is the webbing left behind by the larvae. They leave trails of the white stringy stuff in their wake.
If you suspect a wax moth infestation, look for the following:
- A decline in the bee population
- Aforementioned webbing
- Wax moth larvae
- Uncapped or bald brood
Why Do Wax Moths Attack a Hive?
Wax moths make their way into a lot of beehives. A strong, healthy colony with a large number of bees is generally able to take care of the problem themselves, and the beekeeper may never know that the problem existed. Make sure the queen is healthy and laying a large number of eggs. Replace if necessary. A large number of bees is the best line of defense against a wax moth invasion. You’ll want a large amount of brood maturing to keep your bee population high.
A problematic wax moth infestation is a sign that something else is wrong. To prevent wax moths from taking over your hive, take the following additional steps:
- Keep bee numbers high
- Don’t add additional honey supers too early - before the bees are ready to take possession of it
- Make regular hive inspections and be prepared to intervene. Don’t give the moths time to decimate the hive.
- Prevent brood in the honey super using a queen excluder
- Clean the hive’s bottom board regularly
- Remove or repair cracked frames to eliminate spaces for the moths to lay eggs
- Consider brood frame replacement every four years
- Remove supers that don’t have the bee numbers to use and protect. This is especially important as winter approaches ... don’t wait too long!
- Use a ParaMoth Drawer and Crystals when storing your hive components
Join us next time when we’ll discuss how to deter wax moths and what to do if you find an infestation in your beehive.