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.


  1. i had never heard of this,so many problems can arise

  2. Shelly,
    The wax worms ruined my hives as well. As you may know, we're planning to relocate next year, and I suspect my beekeeping days are over. I have several hive boxes (mostly full-size, with one smaller honey super), metal-covered tops, bottom boards, as well as a nearly new bee suit, gloves and veil, plus smoker, hive tool, etc. I'll GIVE you all the stuff, the next time you come down this way, but LET ME KNOW if you want it. Otherwise, I'll dispose of it elsewhere. Contact me by e-mail.

  3. I forgot. I also have a fair number of frames (probably a few dozen), which you can have. The wax is eaten up, and they are dirty and need to be rewired, but they're yours for the asking.

  4. Sorry to hear about your hive. I have some wax moths in mine too and I'm working to get their numbers down and hopefully eradicate them. I keep hearing that you have to make your hive smaller or add more bees, so there is not more area inside than your bees can defend. I just recently made the connection between these horrid things and the fish bait worms. I'm not sure how to feel about them being bred on purpose...

  5. I'm so sorry to hear about your failure. But you should try again, and succeed.
    Ed of