Wax moth and wax more larvae are not common household pests. As they feed on beeswax, they are more than a nuisance for beekeepers. Whether it’s a hobby or you are a professional beekeeping business, wax moths can be detrimental to your colony.

The two species of wax moth, the Greater and Lesser wax moth, will typically target diseased or dying colonies – so a wax moth infestation could be a sign of a larger, underlying problem.

A female wax moth can produce anywhere between 300 and 600 eggs and will typically lay them in dark, hard to spot places. The optimal temperature for wax moth eggs is between 29 and 35°C, in these temperatures eggs will hatch within 5 days. Once the larvae hatch from the eggs, they will burrow through the comb and line the tunnel with their silken web. If the larvae damage brood comb as they are tunnelling, this can lead to deformed appendages on new adult bees.

Wax moth larvae not only cause damage to the combs, but also to the wooden frame of the hive. Wax moth larvae pupate on the frame, chewing a cavity before forming their cocoon. The hardening of these cocoons, particularly when there could be anywhere between 300 and 600 of them, can cause permanent damage to your equipment.

Wax moth eggs are approximately half a millimetre in size and are white or light pink in colour before transitioning to a yellowish colour as they develop. They are often very difficult for beekeepers to spot. Greater and Lesser wax moths both have a dark head and a white body that fades to grey as they mature. The only discernible difference is in size, with the Greater wax moth larvae growing up to 28mm and the Lesser wax moth larvae growing up to 13mm.

Unfortunately, wax moths will never be completely eliminated from any storage shed or other area where you keep your combs. As they prey on combs that are already weak or sick, the best option for keeping wax moths at bay is ensuring that your honeybee colonies are strong, with a high bee to comb ratio and a young healthy queen.

For more information on wax moths and prevention methods, visit beeaware.org.au