Dead out pests and more inhabitants of the hive.

Ant eggs and larvae stored in honey comb


Minor, major and intermediate workers with larvae, eggs and pupa on top bars.

When a honey bee colony dies there a number of insects that will invade the hive and take advantage of the resources left over. Often, the first insect to move in is the wax moth and they can be a pest before the colony is even completely dead. These moths usually move into colonies at night when colonies are weak and take advantage of wax from the brood nest. I have pointed out these tunnels in the image below. Also found in dead out colonies are black ants. They use comb as egg storage and shelter from the elements. There is an image above of the carpenter ants storing eggs and larvae in cells. Another image above shows various life stages of the ants. There is an image below of the queen carpenter and on the bottom board of the hive.

Greater wax moth tunnels

Queen Carpenter Ant on bottom board

Another insect found in dead out colonies are dermestid beetles. These beetles go by other common names such as carpet beetles, skin beetles and larder beetles. They feed on dried and decaying bees leftover in the colony. I have included an image of the larvae of a dermestid beetle below. Some species of the Dermestidae family are more famously known in forensics for cleaning flesh off bones or in dating remains.

Dermestid larvae

These insects are more of a nuisance than anything to beekeepers. Wax moths cause an estimated 5 million dollars in damage in the industry per year. I personally have had many frames destroyed by these moths. Below is an image taken by my father of a frames with wax moth damage that the bees had cleaned up. Frames like this should be culled out.

Frames cleaned by bees after wax moth infestation

Written By: Rob Snyder

Rob Snyder has written 63 post in this blog.

I currently work out of the Butte County Cooperative Extension in Oroville, CA as a Crop Protection Agent. I received my B.S. in biology from Delaware Valley College, PA. There I attained a majority of my entomological knowledge from Dr. Chris Tipping and Dr. Robert Berthold. After graduation, I was an apiary inspector for 2 years at the Department of Agriculture in Pennsylvania. In my third year there, I still inspected some colonies but I mainly focused on The Pennsylvania Native Bee Survey (PANBS) where I pinned, labeled, entered data and identified native bees to genus species. Leo Donavall assisted me in learning the basics on positive Identifications of the native bees. Around the same time I began working on coordinating kit construction and distribution for the APHIS National Honey Bee Survey. I was also fortunate to conduct many of these surveys with fellow co-worker Mike Andree and Nathan Rice of USDA/ARS throughout California. All of these experiences have led me to where I am today, working to assist beekeepers in maintaining genetic diverse colonies resistant to parasites while reducing the use of chemical treatments in colonies. The BIP Diagnostic Lab at the University of MD is in an integral part of this process by generating reports in which we can track change and report to beekeepers vital information in a timely manner which may influence their treatment decisions.