We often get questions on wax moths…what a wax moth is, the damage they can cause, how to detect them and what to look for, and how to prevent and treat for them. Here is some basic, but important information on wax moths in the hive.
So what is a wax moth?
A wax moth is a brownish moth that lays its eggs in beehives. The female will commonly attempt to get in the hive during low-light times of the day, like 1-3 hours after nightfall. Once the moth gets in the hive, the female will lay eggs. The eggs hatch into larvae, and the larvae covers the combs with silken tunnels and feeds on beeswax, destroying the brood comb, ultimately killing the hive. The moth is a persistent intruder and uses sneaky strategies.
A normal, healthy hive will keep the wax moth under control by removing the larvae, but weakened hives with lesser populations can be overwhelmed by wax moth invasions. Wax moths can be a terrible problem if allowed to get out of hand, and will destroy brood comb in a very short time if not detected. Conduct a routine check every 10-12 days to monitor for the presence of wax moths.
What should you look for?
Creamy white larvae, turning grey upon reaching their mature size (up to 28mm). One indication of a wax moth invasion is a white silk path left by burrowing larvae moving below the cappings of honey bee brood. In extreme situations the entire comb will be ruined, leaving a matted mass of silk webbing. Mature wax moth larvae bore into woodwork, pupate, and often make boat-shaped cavities in brood boxes, supers and frames.
Keeping your bees healthy and having an active queen is key to preventing wax moths. Reduction of hive boxes and frames to correspond with the colony population is also a great way to defend against wax moths. Also, keep unused drawn-out comb to a minimum, as bees will not protect empty comb. If there is an infestation that has overcome the hive, it is too late. There is nothing you can do to get rid of them. Wax moths are a secondary issue, and means there is a more pressing, primary issue with your hive for wax moths to intrude and take over.
Storing comb for the winter is different. There are no bees to protect the comb which makes the hive highly susceptible to an invasion by wax moths. The use of ParaMoth Crystals in conjunction with the Treatment Drawer will store your boxes safely. These crystals are used for storing comb and equipment to prevent damage from wax moths. ParaMoth should never be used inside an active beehive. Equipment should be aired for several days before placing it back on the bees. Stack empty drawn supers or hive bodies, add ParaMoth to the Treatment Drawer and place atop the supers in a large plastic bag (include cedar shavings in the bottom of the bag to draw in moisture and avoid equipment from molding). Wax moths may be devastating, but with a little care and monitoring, you can keep them from invading your hives.