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Wax Moths

There are two Wax Moth species:

  • The Greater Wax Moth, Galleria mellonella
  • The Lesser Wax Moth, Achroia grisella
  • An invasive species of honeybee colonies that is, like Small Hive Beetle, considered a secondary or opportunistic pest. These pests are best controlled by a consistent Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practice. Honeybees are very vulnerable to insecticidal controls of any type so IPM is far better suited to control of these invasive pests of the honeybee colonies.

    No threshold for treatment has been established however a healthy colony can tolerate small amounts of damage from this pest. Many beekeepers have a zero tolerance for wax moth infestations since it takes valuable resources from the hives occupants to stave off and repair their damage. Any honeycombs or honey that are damaged by wax worms is not fit for human consumption. Once wax moths infestations are large, the colony is doomed.

    Adult wax moths are nocturnal and sneak by guard bees at night when they have let their guard down. Weak colonies cannot protect the colony entrance and are more susceptible to the incoming moths. If adult wax moths are found in the hive during daylight hours – the colony is weak, highly infested and probably doomed.

    For most beekeepers, the earliest indicators of infestation are the larvae tunneling inside the frames. They leave damage and webbing in their wake. The webbing can be key to identifying the problem early on. Note that the larvae of the Small Hive Beetle DO NOT leave webbing behind.

    Overall, the most important management technique is to practice bee management that optimizes the health of the colony. Some factors to focus on:

    • Start with a healthy, and productively laying queen. The healthy queen prevents swarming and other activities that stress the hive.
    • Maintain a high bee-to-comb ratio. This allows for enough workers to be present to keep the wax moths and small hive beetles in check.
    • Clean and/or replace varroa mite detector boards and hive bottom beetle traps regularly. If left in place too long and not kept clean they provide a harbor for wax moths.
    • Shade provides an invitation for wax worms- so light and ventilation help keep the hive healthy.
    • Clean hives and do not store supers of drawn comb in unoccupied hives.

    Mechanical controls include the use of traps. At this time, there are no commercial wax moth traps on the market, but here are instructions for a simple, homemade trap for adult females:

    • Take a 2-liter clear, soda bottle with secure lid.
    • Cut a 1.25 inch diameter hole in the side of the bottle, just below the shoulder of the neck.
    • Mix and place the following in the trap: 1 cup each of white vinegar, granulated suger and water. Add 1 banana peel.
    • Set aside to ferment for a few days.
    • Suspend the bottle a few feet off the ground using wire or string to make a noose opposite the side of the entrance hole.
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