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Wax Moth

Wax Moth,is a major pest of the beekeeping industry in the United States.

Wax Moth

Wax Moth

Full grown caterpillars vary in color but are generally dirty white, 1 ½ inches long. Adult moths are grayish to purplish brown, have dark markings and lead-colored tips on the forewings, pale brownish or yellowish hind wings and have a wingspan of about 1 to 1 1/4 inch. Wings are held over the back when at rest.

Once the environmental conditions are favourable, adult wax moth activity will rise, with an ever-increasing population dependent on available food. It is in the best interest of a beekeeper to minimise any damage by understanding the life cycle of the pest and taking measures, in the field and within comb storage areas, to reduce wax moth numbers and restrict their reproduction.

Life Cycle: moth life cycle consists of 4 stages. The first life stage, the egg, is tiny. Eggs are not noticeable unless we specifically look for them. Usually the female adult lays her eggs in batches. The eggs are laid in cracks between hive parts in dark out of the way places. Females produce up to 300 eggs each.

Wax moth eggs hatch to the larval stage in 5 to 8 days. New larvae burrow into beeswax comb attempting to reach the comb midrib. They are specialists to eat and grow and feed for 1 to 5 months, depending on the temperature. When fully grown, they are 3/4ths of an inch long and look like your typical caterpillar. They have a dark, hard head capsule, 3 pairs of small segmented legs and several body segments,some of which have caterpillar prolegs. They are white initially, turning dark grey as they age.

Wax Moth Larvae

Wax Moth Larvae

Damage :Damage occurs as the larvae burrow into the comb feeding on the wax, larval skins, pollen and honey. As the larvae chew through the comb they spin a silk lined tunnel through the cell walls and over the face of the comb . These silk threads can tether emerging bees by their abdomens to their cells and they die of starvation because they are unable to escape from their cell. This phenomenon is termed galleriasis. In severe infestations, the wax comb, wooden frames, and sides of the hive bodies can be heavily damaged .

Control: Wax moths are opportunists or secondary invaders just waiting for a chance to become established and gain the upper hand. Once the colony’s health balance tilts in favor of wax moths, the colony is normally doomed. Attention to detail in good beekeeping management will go a long way toward wax moth control. Even skunks, bears, or human intervention such as over-manipulation by the beekeeper or vandalism can stress a colony and lead to wax moth problems. Beekeepers should be careful with varroa mite detector boards and hive bottom beetle traps because they provide harborage for wax moths.

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