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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
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    Tucson, Arizona, USA
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    Default Wax moth and wax moth larvae

    I often hear seasoned beekeepers say things like, "wax moth larvae are only a problem for weak colonies", or "wax moth larvae are only scavengers and something else must have weakened/damaged/killed the colony, first".

    Yet, quite regularly, I have had very strong, thriving colonies receive varying degree of damage from wax moth larvae.

    I regularly see a few wax moth larvae burrowing into sealed brood on solid frames of sealed brood, in extremely strong colonies. I regularly see patches of mature brood, who have removed their cappings, but cannot exit their cells because wax moth larval webs have locked them to the comb. In effect, buried alive, trapped in their wombs.

    Certain Bt products, like Certan (B401) have greatly reduced these problems, but I've observed this issue as long as I've been keeping bees, and in every part of this country, where I've had bees. From San Diego, CA; Oak Harbor, WA; Key, OH; to Fort Walton Beach, FL, and many places in-between.

    I am amazed that so many seasoned beekeepers have observed or interpreted differently. Perhaps it's my style of beekeeping -- I open and inspect many of my hives, almost daily; I frequently shake the bees from combs to observe the combs more closely. When I do this with combs of sealed brood, I frequently see wax moth larvae doing their dirty business. I also regularly see Varroa mites crawling on the surface of capped brood.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    KC, MO, USA
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    1,162

    Default Re: Wax moth and wax moth larvae

    I have seen this too.
    I also find small larva in the SBB in the tray eating the capping. I think the bee chased them until they dropped to the bottom. Some hives more than other all were strong hives.
    Last summer/fall when wax moth actives increased, I often found wax moths at night waiting for an opportunity. Some of the cooler nights there are no guard bees and I found moths an inch away from the entrance. The perfect time to get in. The bees have a hard time trying catch the moths their scales make them slick and they run just as fast.
    I guess it's like any other bee pest if the bees can beat most of them they can stay ahead of the game.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
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    Tucson, Arizona, USA
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    5,324

    Default Re: Wax moth and wax moth larvae

    And again this morning as I was checking on the virgins in some of my mating nucs. One nuc, in particular, in a stack of two 5-frame medium nuc supers. All ten frames covered with bees and full of brood/pollen/nectar-honey.

    As I was checking through this nuc, the center bottom frame, almost solid with worker brood, both sides. One side was easy to see was almost solid with young worker brood, all with their cappings removed and their little heads swiveling about. It was a heartbreaking thing to see, since all of these young bees are apparently forever trapped in their cells, virtually entombed alive, all thanks to the webs of wax moth larvae.

    Obviously experiences with wax moths and whether or not they can cause problems for strong colonies, varies among beekeepers and, I'm guessing, where they are located.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
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    45,910

    Default Re: Wax moth and wax moth larvae

    In my experience, it's not the number of bees, it's the density of bees. A two frame nuc can thrive if it's crowded. Those same bees in a ten frame deep with empty comb filling the remainger will flounder and get taken over by wax moths.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Pepperell, MA.
    Posts
    3,765

    Default Re: Wax moth and wax moth larvae

    I think location is key but I'm speculating. Here in New England, we tend to get pretty cold winters although we've had some recent exceptions which created wax moth problems for me. I see wax moths in struggling or doomed colonies and I see them in deadouts if I leave the comb out too long. The only other time I've seen wax moths in a strong colony was a hive with three mediums with only the top two covered with brood. The bottom medium was virtually empty of brood but was harboring wax moths. The colony was pretty strong and had two mediums of honey over the brood boxes. It seemed the bees moved up as the year progressed and as I added boxes and the moths took advantage of the bottom, sparsely populated box. Again, the cold winters here seem to knock the moths down a bit and they get going again about the same time the colonies get built up. Until recently (my mistake) I had been spraying comb to be stored with BT and maybe that treated comb, once it's back out in the yard, offers residual protection to augment the natural activities of the bees. Again, just my thoughts.
    "My wife always wanted girls. Just not thousands and thousands of them......"

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
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    Tucson, Arizona, USA
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    Default Re: Wax moth and wax moth larvae

    Tomorrow morning I'll take a few pics and video of the subject colony. That way everyone can see what I see.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  7. #7

    Default Re: Wax moth and wax moth larvae

    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Bush View Post
    In my experience, it's not the number of bees, it's the density of bees. A two frame nuc can thrive if it's crowded. Those same bees in a ten frame deep with empty comb filling the remainger will flounder and get taken over by wax moths.
    At our local association's meeting the other day, our state apiarist said he could look at any hive in the state and find shb, wax moths and mites. There might be just a slight presence, but that they're in every hive.

    His philosophy seemed to be that strong colonies with just enough room is the best defense against pests. It makes sense to me.
    Greg Whitehead, Ten Mile, TN
    Blog - http://gregsbees.blogspot.com/

  8. #8
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    Feb 2005
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    Tucson, Arizona, USA
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    Default Re: Wax moth and wax moth larvae

    Okay, here are the videos:

    Lots of change in just one night (the bees helped to free their comrades, but not rescue them, just release them by chewing down the comb).

    Here is the first video, it just shows the double-super stack, with screened bottom, and a 3/4" diameter entrance hole near the top of the bottom box -->

    Wax Moth Attack 1


    And the second video, showing the same nuc, from behind -->

    Wax Moth Attack 2


    Then video 3, showing what the tops of first, the bottom box, then the top box, which has been set near the ground on another empty nuc box.

    Wax Moth Attack 3


    Video 4, showing the most seriously affected brood frame, where yesterday the side shown was almost solid with trapped worker brood, attempting to emerge. The other bees had removed much of the affected brood by chewing down the comb. There are still many clumps of trapped workers.

    Wax Moth Attack 4


    Here is the last video of the same frame, after shaking the bees off. For some reason, many of the wax moth larvae, evacuated the comb (about a dozen), while the comb was free of adult bees, and before I returned the comb to the hive. If you watch the lower left corner of the video you can see a wax moth larvae exit the comb, and during the moment the camera is not on it, it drops to the ground. Almost a dozen others do the same thing, within a few minutes.

    Wax Moth Attack 5
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Santa Fe, NM
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    649

    Default Re: Wax moth and wax moth larvae

    Joseph in 30 years of keeping bees I can't remember seeing any wax moth larvae like in your video in any hive I would classify as "strong". Once in awhile I'll see a little evidence of wax moth in a starter hive but as soon as they build up their numbers wax moth are history. On another subject are most of your colonies real runny like that on the comb? Just curious.
    "Tradition becomes our security, and when the mind is secure it is in decay".....Krishnamurti

  10. #10
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    Feb 2005
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    Tucson, Arizona, USA
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    Default Re: Wax moth and wax moth larvae

    I do have a few, now, that are runny (those AHB swarms that I recently captured). They've already been requeened, so that should eventually take care of it.

    But, actually these weren't runny, until I had YouTube tweak the video. The true speed of these bees is evident in video 3. Somehow video 4 seems speeded up. I blame YouTube, but don't really know why it got speeded up.
    - - - - - - - - - - -

    I too have been keeping bees for awhile now. I started my first two hives, in Lompoc, CA in about 1964, and I've seen similar wax moth attacks, then and in hives that I've kept in various locations across the country, since then. I've seen wax moth attacks that vary in severity, despite the strength of each colony. Stronger colonies were usually less affected, and weaker colonies were usually most affected. It was never a common occurrence in strong colonies, like it was with weaker ones, but I've often wondered why I seem to be one of the few beekeepers to have the opportunity to see so many wax moth attacks.

    The rarest wax moth attacks have been where a colony occupied by bees is destroyed. It has happened, especially with very weak colonies. But, attacks, similar to the one shown in these videos (where brood is unable to emerge), is something I've seen fairly regularly, even in very strong colonies. But the one I've illustrated here is one of the worst I've ever seen. A usual attack of similar nature, only affects three or four workers, trying to emerge, and that's it. This attack on the majority of a solid comb of worker brood, by a dozen or more wax moth larvae, is the worst I've ever seen.
    Last edited by Joseph Clemens; 05-01-2013 at 05:31 PM.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Location
    Franklin County, PA
    Posts
    469

    Default Re: Wax moth and wax moth larvae

    Hi, It seems like there are plenty of bees to cope with the moths I am surprised to see the moths being successful with the number of bees. I was wondering last year if the screened bottom boards allow moths in. Could a screened bottom board be contributing to the problem?

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Tucson, Arizona, USA
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    Default Re: Wax moth and wax moth larvae

    These past two decades, plus, here in the Marana/Tucson area of Southern Arizona is the first time and place I've ever used SBBs. And of the several dozen nucs and 16-20 full size colonies I'm usually running at any one time, I'll have to say that very few have any more severe of a problem with wax moth larvae, than where a few cells of brood, on any one comb are ever affected. Now, empty comb, idle, in storage, are an entirely different situation.

    And, last year, about this same time, I had two TB nucs, being grown out, had similar problems to this one. Their new combs, where they were solid with sealed brood, were destroyed by wax moth larvae. The bees even completely tore out the affected comb and rebuilt it (and they were strong enough to do this in just a few days). It was so webbed up, I guess it was all they could do.

    I also wonder how regularly and thoroughly most beekeepers inspect their hives. If I weren't such a fanatic about looking to see what's going on, I'm sure I would have missed much of this issue. After all, yesterday video's 3 and 4 would have showed an entire frame with nothing but little bee heads trying to emerge from their cells unsuccessfully. But here it is the next day and most of them have already been removed from the comb. And those TB nucs, last year. If I hadn't been checking on them almost every day, I would easily have missed all of the trauma the wax moth larvae were providing those hives.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Santa Fe, NM
    Posts
    649

    Default Re: Wax moth and wax moth larvae

    Joseph

    You need 100 hives so you can just do 20 a day or so. That, your nucs and queen rearing, will keep you out of the bars ! I think you told me that you used to keep bees in La Cienega some years back. Here's a picture of a small yard I have kept there for about 5 years now. We planted 10 acres of sweet clover there last year and its looking really good this spring on irrigation. I'll probably move some more hives in next month.

    "Tradition becomes our security, and when the mind is secure it is in decay".....Krishnamurti

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    ElDorado,Arkansas,USA
    Posts
    284

    Default Re: Wax moth and wax moth larvae

    I have been using Bt to keep wax moth larvae down.I will see a small short skip by one here and there and they are dead and gone.Since I started back using it on the whole combs I have noticed no more shb larvae and wondering if Bt will keep them killed also.

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