Wax Moths and Heart Break

I have often wondered why it is so important to inspect hives on a weekly basis.  Once the hives have been treated for mites, treated for hive beetles, and supers have been added, what’s left?  The answer, “WAX MOTHS!”

Wax Moth Damage

I like the quote by Gillard who said, “Wax moths keep us from becoming lazy.”  Well, I got lazy this month and my bees paid the price.  A month earlier I had expanded my hives from 6 to 14 by buying 8 new Italian Queens (only 3 survived).  The next day I left town for 2 weeks then returned home and became very sick for nearly another two weeks.  By the time I got back to my hives, the carnage was sicking.

In the photo on the right you can see the silky destruction the wax moth worms left behind.  Even now, I feel sick just looking at the photo.  Without much knowledge about Wax Moths I started by killing them by hand.  In the words of Anakin Skywalker, “I killed them. I killed them all. They’re dead, every single one of them. And not just the men, but the women and the children, too. They’re like animals, and I slaughtered them like animals. I HATE THEM! ”  I’m not kidding.  I took such joy in squashing those little bastards – they make a pop and squirt sort of sound.

Next I took all of the infected frames out of the hive and replaced them with newly cleaned frames (Later I’ll talk all about how I have been cleaning over 500 old frames).  10 frames in all were destroyed by the moths but there were still about 3 or 4 frames of bees and brood that seemed to be making a last stand in the corner of the hive.  Over the next couple of days, I inspected the hive and fed the bees sugar water to help build them back up.  I also added cedar chips to the landing to reduce the hive opening and sprinkled a few on the top bar of the box (not sure if this is a good idea or a really bad one).


I went home and began researching wax moths.  It seems there is really no chemical to treat them other than Paradichlorobenzene (PDB) – which is sort of like moth balls (but don’t use actual moth balls – they have other chemicals in them that aren’t safe for bees).  The best defense (as with all bee problems) is a strong healthy hive.  Well that is great advice but it doesn’t help much when you are starting a 3 frame nuke.  So what else can be done?

For starters: Think small bee numbers – small hive.  By this I mean, if you only have 3 or 4 frames of bees, then stick with one hive body (or one box).  The bees will have less real estate to protect.  However, this goes against the advice my friend Marvin gave me.  He told me to put 3 boxes on every hive no matter the size, so that the bees would have room to grow.  For now I have followed his advice but today marks a week and I will reevaluate the situation today.

Now if you have wax moths, you need to treat them:
First, do what I did and remove the infected frames.
Second, Kill the eggs and larva.  To do this you have 6 options:
1. Freeze the frames for 4.5 hours at 20F degrees.  Then let them thaw out and they are good as new.
2. Heat the frames for for 80 minutes at 115F degrees.  But remember that wax will begin to melt at 148F degrees so don’t get them too hot.
3. Carbon Dioxide treatment.  This one seems too dangerous and complicated for a small operation but you can read more about it at: http://www.clemson.edu/extension/beekeepers/publications/wax_moth_ipm.html
4. This is my favorite: if you have a fire ant bed near by, place the super filled with wax moth on the ant bed.  The ants will clean it up for you.
5. Paradichlorobezene (PDB) is the active ingredient in moth balls.  I am not a fan of chemicals and will try the first 4 methods first.  Nonetheless this is an option.
6. Lastly, and only if all else has failed, burn the infected equipment.  I don’t like this idea at all and I can’t imagine ever doing it.

Today makes a week since I first found the problem.  I had planed to visit the bee yard tomorrow but since it is supposed to rain the rest of the week, I will be going out today.  If you have any advice on a better way to deal with the moths or you have had any personal experience, please feel free to leave a comment.


Gillard, G. 2009. My Friend, the Wax Moth. Amer. Bee J. Vol. 149 no. 6, pp 559-562.



Disclaimer:  To anyone reading this blog, I am learning just like you.  Use my blog at your own risk.

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