Wax Moths

I've been sitting here at the computer for half an hour trying to figure out how to start this post. We opened the hive today to check on things, see how the bees are getting along since we re-leveled the hive and took out so much comb a couple of weeks ago. And there is plenty of honey, nectar, pollen, brood. There are lots of bees and lots of activity. I think maybe there are less bees than before; it's possible there was a swarm and I missed it, but it's hard to know. The upshot is that things look pretty normal. If not for the fact that as soon as we took off the lid we noticed crumbly bits of stuff on a couple of the bars, and one sort of humped oval of crumbly bits. When I scraped it with the hive tool, out came a larvae. A  wax moth larvae.


We burned that worm, burned all the crumbly stuff we could get off the bars, found one more larvae and a little web and burned that. We removed all the superfluous bars that the bees hadn't built on yet, and even a few that had a little bit of building going on - we want to reduce their amount of defensible space. And that's about all we can do. We have to be hopeful that the colony will be strong enough to fight off these guys and keep the hive. Right now the comb looks fine. We'll need to check the hive every day for a while and see if we see any more larvae, because wax moths can destroy a healthy hive in a week.

Wax moths are almost impossible to get rid of once they are in your hive. They thrive in places where there is little or no winter freeze; they can overwinter for up to a year in larvae form. Many people put their frames and bars in an electric freezer to kill off wax moths, and we'll need to do that if the hive cannot resist them and fails. The larvae like old, dark comb, which is naturally near the front of the hive, where the bees built first (and so it's the oldest comb). That's also where the brood is, and where the queen is as well. The wax moth larvae like to make holes in the comb, eat the pollen but also the brood, and make a webby mess of the hive. 

And I guess I'm just discouraged, honestly big-time discouraged. Beekeeping is kind of kicking my ass. So much can go wrong, and there is so little we can do to help. I really, really don't want to lose another colony, but I've got to gird myself for that possibility. Something that makes me really sad is that wax moths usually attack weaker hives. This colony seemed so strong, so vital, building so quickly, just a couple of weeks ago. It does seem as though there are less bees, but I'm just speculating about a swarm, I really have no idea. And if the colony was weak it was because we had to take out some of their badly-built comb and have them build again. Ugh ugh ugh. I just feel terrible. And if we lose this colony to wax moths, we won't even get the bittersweet blessing of a honey harvest, because it'll all be ruined by moth larvae.

Here's an interesting (and heartbreaking) video from a guy who lost one of his hives to wax moths. 

We'll keep you updated.