I Saw Wax Moth Larvae! Now What?
Ask the Expert!
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Mary writes: I think I saw wax moth larvae on one of my frames. I am new at beekeeping so I was unprepared to address the problem when I opened the hive and saw the larvae. Any suggestions on what to do?
Thanks for the great question! Wax moths can certainly be a nuisance. The good news is that more often than not a strong colony of bees will take care of them on their own.
First, be certain, is it wax moth larvae? Depending on where you live, it could have been small hive beetle, another pest that can infest beehives in the southern part of the U.S.
If it is a wax moth, my next question would be what exactly did you see? Just one larva? Several larvae? Was there any damage to the wax comb? Did you see any wax moth webbing? If it was just the one larva and you didn’t see any damage, I’d probably do nothing other than keep an eye on it during regular inspections. If, however, you have a sense it was more than just an isolated little bugger, you could consider removing the affected frame and freezing it or throwing it away. With either option you should replace the frame — don’t leave a big open gap! If you decide to freeze the frame and re-use it, simply shake all the bees off, place the entire frame in a freezer overnight, and replace it the next day. The freezing will kill any wax moth larvae and eggs (unfortunately it will also kill any bee larvae/eggs on the frame). When you replace it the bees will clean it out.
If the infestation is beyond one or two frames, I’d begin questioning how strong/healthy your colony is. The issue may be bigger than “just” wax moths.
Finally, if you think it was just the one larva or a small-scale presence of wax moths, I do not think you need to go back in the hive before your next scheduled inspection. You could wait until your next inspection and see what things look like. It’s possible the bees will have dealt with it on their own by then.
However, if you feel it is more than just a small-scale presence, you could certainly go in earlier and do your intervention (freeze or toss the affected frame).
I hope that helps. All the best! Let us know what other questions you have.
I went into my hive after waiting seven days. I only found one frame that seemed to be invaded. The frame didn’t have any bees on it but it looked like some of the comb had been drawn out. There were tiny black specks embedded in webbing. It looked like some of the comb had holes in it. The frames on either side of the affected frame did not contain bees or comb and didn’t seem to have any webbing.
If I understand correctly, I should replace the frame back in the hive after leaving it in the freezer overnight. I assume I need to let it return to outside temperature before replacing it back in the hive. Unfortunately, I don’t have any extra frames.
I also found a few small hive beatles and placed a second Beetle Blaster in the hive. I already had one in the hive but I didn’t actually see beetles in the trap, just ants.
That sure is wax moth!
Freezing was the way to go for sure. As for replacing the frame in the hive, no need to let it get back to room temperature first. The bees won’t go on it when it’s frozen and the wood and wax will quickly warm up in the hive.
As an additional point, whenever we see wax moths in an active colony, it’s a bit of a red flag. The reason is, a strong colony will simply not allow wax moths to ever get this far. Wax moths are able to take over an area, frame, or multiple frames only when there aren’t enough bees to police the space. And there won’t be enough bees when something isn’t right in the colony — for example, new beekeepers might add boxes too quickly so there’s a ton of space and not enough bees to care for it. Or, if the colony is sick in some way (varroa mites or other disease or lack of food, etc.) the colony size will be too small.
I’d carefully consider the health of your colony on all fronts.
Good luck, Mary!