Honey bees run tight, well-organized colonies. Unfortunately, many pests often try to invade their hives and cause problems. One such pest is the wax moth. Both greater and lesser wax moths pose a threat to honey bees and their hives. The moths themselves don’t directly prey on honey bees, but the work they do within a hive can throw off a colony’s population and productivity. It’s important to know how wax moths affect your beehives so that you can take proper action to protect your honey bees. To help you help your hives, here’s our overview of wax moths and how to prevent them.
What Are Wax Moths?
Wax moths are pests that feed on beeswax, leftover pollen, and other debris throughout a honey bee hive. The smell of a beehive attracts these moths. Because wax moths can fly in cooler temperatures than honey bees, they often enter a hive at night or in colder weather, when the colony has stopped guarding the entrances. Once inside the hive, the moths will lay eggs on the comb. After this, the adult wax moths will usually exit the hive. The real damage comes from the wax moth larvae they leave behind.
How Wax Moths Affect Your Beehives
When wax moth larvae emerge from their eggs, they begin eating their way through the hive. The larvae feast on beeswax—particularly wax that makes up the older, darker combs of past brood cells, which provide nutrient-filled meals for the larvae. As the larvae make their way through the hive, they also feast on honey bee larval cocoons, cocoon silk, and honey bee feces.
As the moth larvae tunnel through the hive, they release a web-like substance. This webbing prevents honey bees from cleaning their comb and using the beeswax. It also makes the larvae nearly impossible to reach and eliminate. As a result, the larvae are able to mature into adults, lay eggs in the comb, and start the process over again.
How to Stop Wax Moths
The moths themselves might not attack your honey bees, but the damage they cause to the hive can leave your colony weak. Combined with other honey bee diseases, pests, or other risks, a wax moth infestation can destroy a colony within a couple of weeks. Look for signs of wax moths during your regular hive inspections so that you can take action quickly and protect your honey bees. Keep an eye out for webbing in your hive, particularly in areas your honey bees can’t access, such as top bars and inner covers.
If you detect wax moths in your hive, you have a few options. You can remove infested bee hive frames and freeze them to kill any wax moths and larvae. You can also use Para-Moth to protect your supers from moths. Other treatments and preventative measures include placing wax moth traps and reducing the number of hive entrances to keep moths out.
Have you dealt with wax moths in your beehives? Share your experience and advice in the comments below!