Monday, August 27, 2012

Honey Bees + Wax Worms= Epic Fail

Several week ago I asked a friend of mine, Shannon, to come out and help me open up my hive and see how they were doing. I was concerned as I had noticed an extreme reduction in the number of bees hanging out around the hive. When Shannon arrived we gathered our equipment and headed to the hives. We smoked the larger hive and opened it. I could tell my bees were gone....just gone! I told Shannon, and he said they were out foraging. I knew better. I sit and watch these bees all the time and I know their habits. We began taking the hive apart and discovered a few wax worms. We killed them and removed the damaged comb. As we delved deeper into the hive we found several more wax worms and each one was killed and the contaminated comb removed. We put the hive back together and moved onto the next hive. This hive was young, and wild caught. I've only had it about 6 or 8 weeks. They seemed to be doing well and we saw no evidence of wax worms.
I was still deeply concerned about the older larger hive, but decided to try not to worry too much.

The following week we packed our bags and went to the Smoky Mountains for a family vacation. Eight days later we returned home and I had to plan a large event for work and my time was tied up with last minute details revolving around that event. It was an additional week before I was able to get around to checking on the hive again. To say I got a surprise would be an understatement.  I opened the top on the hive and got a face full of moths. I was so disgusted by what I found, the entire hive was desecrated by wax worms!

Waxworms are the larval stage of the Wax Moth in the family Pyralidae which are the snout moths. There are two species that are often bred for fish bait and are often called waxies by bait shop owners and fishermen. They are favored by fishermen who enjoy catching small game fish like sunfish, but for beekeepers they are a nightmare.  They are a parasite of bees and feed on the honey comb, beeswax, shed skins of bees, pollen and cocoons. They can destroy a weakened beehive in no time. A strong, healthy hive functioning with all members can usually fight off a waxworm threat. A divided hive with no queen is severely weakened and would not be able to deal with a scourge like waxworms. Which is essentially what happened to my hive.

This fall when the weather cools down  I will clean up the mess in the hive and sterilize it. Next spring I will try once again to raise a successful hive. The smaller hive I had I gave to Shannon to hand over to another bee keeper so as not to risk it getting contaminated with waxworms. So hopefully next spring will turn out better.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Hayhurst Scallopwing

Tonight while outside photographing the insects attracted to the only thing blooming in my yard, the peppermint, I noticed this dark butterfly. I wasn't familiar with it and at first thought it was a sootywing of some sort. I posted this image to facebook and my friend Betsy Betros was able to identify it for me as a hayhurst scallopwing (Staphylus hayhurstii). 

She said this species is fairly easy to tell apart from the other small black butterflies by the wavy, or scalloped wings. These butterflies belong in the family hesperiidae with the skippers . Most skippers are tiny butterflies with upfolded wings when in the resting position. This species is a spread-wing skipper measuring up to 1 1/4 inches and rests like other butterflies with its wings open. They are dark with checkered fringe and tiny transparent spots on their wings. Those spots are visible in this picture as two tiny dots near the corner of the forewing.

Hayhurst scallopwings can be found throughout the eastern portion of the United States as well as in Texas. They occur in a wide variety of habitats including open woodlands, backyards, roadsides, and weedy lots. The adults nectar at most any flower but seem fond of peppermint,marigolds, clover, cucumber and dogbane. 

Males will perch low in vegetation to attract passing females and will mate with receptive females. Eggs will be laid one at a time on the leaves of host plants such as Lambsquarters, in the goosefoot family, and occasionally chaff flower (Alternanthera) in the pigweed family. In Missouri there will be two broods, one in the spring and one in the late summer.
Thanks Betsy for the ID on this subtly beautiful butterfly.