All About Wax Moths

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.

Wax moth destruction in 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.

8 thoughts on “All About Wax Moths

  1. Pac Anderson

    I live in Frankfort, Kentucky, just up the road from you. I’m concerned about wax moths and hope you’ll give me some advice. Here’s the situation: I have two hives that died over the winter (two deeps each, both with ten frames full of brood cells, pollen and honey (both capped and not). I’ve cleaned out all the dead bees from my bottom board, and I see no evidence as of yet of any moth infestation. However, I plan to install two packages around April 25 or 26, so I’m still about seven weeks away from having bees.

    I read today in a blog that a beekeeper in Nebraska typically doesn’t see wax moths until late summer. However, with consistently warmer weather here, I’m concerned that I might get an infestation. So, my questions: Do I need to be concerned this time of year, and if so, should I still treat with Paramoth? If so, when should I remove it? (I think i need to let my hives air out a couple weeks after removing it and before adding bees.)

    Any advice for me? I sure would appreciate it!!

    1. Kelley Beekeeping

      Hello Pac,

      We would suggest storing the boxes using Paramoth now. They will need to air out before installing bees.

  2. Luna

    I was wondering, Do wax moth’s effect ox-eye daisies or apple trees? (in terms of symbiotic parasitism, symbiotic commensalism, and symbiotic mutualism.)

  3. Dr Nigel Vincent

    G’day there – I am writing from Perth in Western Australia..
    I am just in the process of spinning some frames from my Supers, and I have noticed that a few of the (fairly full) frames had a couple of wax moths sitting on them There are also a few tiny wriggling worms, maybe 5mm (just under a quarter inch) long.
    If I remove the moths and worms as best I can, will it still be okay to break the capping and spin the frames to extract the honey?
    I would appreciate your comments and advice here. With best regards, Nigel Vincent, Perth, Western Australia.

  4. david leutzinger

    I have a wild hive living in my backyard. They live in a full size wine barrel . They have been doing well for a couple of years. Now handfulls of white larve are pouring out of the entrance. will this be the demise of my wild hive or do the bees have a chance of surviving. There is no way to get inside the barrel to help them out.
    Last question . The larve fall into the dirt below the barrel and burrow into the ground. is this going to make for a massive infestation later , Thanks

  5. Teresa

    Have a weak hive with loss of queen and wax moths have entered. They were rearing a new queen but Now there is concern. As I am new to beekeeping is there any way to move the bees to another hive or save some of the colony?

  6. Terry Bradley

    Is wax moth larva sealed up in the comb / foundantio

  7. Michael poso

    To hange the subject: will/can wax moths iay eggs in a new frame with a new plastic foundation?