Wax Moth

Wax moth adult

Greater wax moth-Galleria mellonella

Wax moth adult. The wax moth adults mouthparts are atrophied so they dont feed on any parts of the hive.

Wax moth larvae, note the dark colored cylindrical feces of the wax moth larvae. This can be found on bottom boards or on screen bottom trays as an indicator wax moth infestations in the winter

I would like to talk about a pest previously mentioned in these blogs called the “Wax Moth.” This pest can be a problem all year round especially with stored equipment. Here are some ways to store comb, if you have any other ways to store your equipment please post in the comments. You can use PDB crystals (Dichlorobenzene) or moth balls as fumigants, be sure to air out a day or two before using them. A good friend of mine Tracy Alsedek from “Main Line Honey” keeps his equipment in a room with the light on 24/7 365 and he has no wax moth issues. Beekeepers in cold climates keep their equipment outside and some store theirs in freezers. The wax moth adult doesn’t damage the drawn comb but the larvae damage the brood wax. The larvae or caterpillar feed on beeswax, stored pollen, honey and sometimes brood. They can be seen easily by the silk lined tunnels they leave in brood wax. You can see examples of this in the image below, larvae are circled. Above are images of larvae and adult.

Wax moth larvae and silk tunnels

Wax moth causes millions of dollars in damage to the beekeeping industry each year. There are images of the damage these wax moths cause above. You can also see above wax moth cocoons before emergence. Before making the cocoon, larvae bore scallops into the frames and woodwork. These moths are also commercially reared, as they are easy to breed, for feeding terrarium pets and also for fisherman. Fisherman use wax worms for catching pan fish, there is an image of a pan fish below. There is also a picture of some wax moth cocoons on the tops of frames.

Blue Gill or Lepomis macrochirus

Wax moth cocoons exposed after spitting apart brood boxes.

Written By: Rob Snyder

Rob Snyder has written 66 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.


15 Responses to “Wax Moth”

  1. denise franklin

    these wax moth larvae were found in my lounge curtains tey had built lots of cocoons and caused lots of damage
    have never come across this before and wondered what they lived on?

  2. Rob Snyder

    They feed on brood comb mainly, but will eat bee bread and other stored food. I have not heard of them eating any material such as curtains, you may be thinking of another species of Lepidoptera or they may have been cocoons from dermestids depending on the size.

  3. david

    I found some larvae on my screened bottom board and some cocoons underneath my hive but I am also getting what looks like brown accordion shaped feces. I look on the frames where it seems to be dropping from and they are fine, no sign of moths. Could you post a picture of what different things you can find on your bottom boards are. Thanks

  4. Rob Snyder

    If you see the frass from caterpillar it is most likely under the capped brood. Look at my blog on “Bald Brood” for more information.

  5. 18wheel

    With the news these larvae are also able to digest plastic it occurs to me that the genetics could be used to modify aquatic organisms to digest plastic in the oceans. Careful testing for unintended consequences would be essential.