Tag Archive | wax moth

Wax Moths…Eww!

September 9, 2015

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I just had my first, and hopefully last encounter with wax moths. My fault…most wax moth encounters are due to the beekeeper’s negligence. I uncovered several stacked boxes of frames with drawn comb in which I had forgotten to add moth crystals. The frames had been stored there since mid-July. I could smell the stench upon lifting the cover – the frames were infested with wax moths, wormy larvae, webs and droppings – like a creepy, disgusting Halloween prop, only this was real.  Blah!

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Wax Moths and Bees

A wax moth infestation can destroy a hive. They like dark, warm areas with minimal air flow; and because they’re highly attracted to beeswax, the combination of dark, closed up boxes with frame upon frame of drawn comb is irresistible to wax moths who prey on and infest weak hives.

I’m grateful they only infested two boxes of frames and not four or six.  I’m even more grateful that they weren’t in my hives. What a horrible demise for bees, and a shameful mess for the beekeeper.

 

Preventing Wax Moth Infestations

There are several ways to store frames to prevent wax moth infestation.

  • Store frames in an airy location with plenty of light. Moths do not like light, nor do they appreciate steady air flow. I’ve heard of beekeepers openly hanging frames across the inside of well-lit buildings or barns, for example.
  • Use a fan to blow a steady flow of air through the frames. The downside would be the 24×7 operation of a fan (or two) over several months.
  • Store frames in a truly airtight container. I know beekeepers who store their drawn frames in airtight rubbermade containers – like the kind you keep clothes in under the bed – and store them in their basements. However, you need to be 300% certain it is truly air tight. Wax moths can access the tiniest of openings.
  • Store boxes and frames outdoors in freezing temperatures. All stages of wax moth will die within 24 hours in freezing temperatures (36 degrees F or lower).
  • Store frames with PDB moth crystals. This is my method (so much for chemical free beekeeping). Only use moth crystals containing paradichlorobenzene (PDB). These will kill all stages of wax moth, except the eggs. The crystals will dissolve gradually over several weeks/months time, so check every few weeks to determine whether the crystals need to be replenished, otherwise, you risk the moths returning. When you’re ready to reuse the boxes and frames, air them out for 2-3 days before introducing them to the bees.

 

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Cleaning Up the Mess

So what steps did I take to clean up this mess and ensure it doesn’t happen again?

  • Freeze the boxes and frames. Wax moths, eggs and larvae will all die if frozen for 24 hours. I have a freezer in the garage for freezing frames and boxes. This luxury has been put to great use over the last 2 years. It’s always a good idea to freeze boxes and frames before moving them to the hives, or even before extracting honey; or for saving honey frames until you’re ready to extract. I can easily fit two 8-frame boxes with frames into our upright freezer.

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  • Clean the frames. I placed a tarp on the ground in the driveway and grabbed my trusty pallet knife and scraped off the webs, droppings and debris, and cut out the areas that were severely damaged.

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  • Store the frames and boxes. I use moth crystals containing paradichlorobenzene (PDB) to store frames with drawn comb. No longer will I boast of chemical free beekeeping – this is my one vice. For me, it’s the easiest, most worry free way to ensure that your comb and boxes are moth free. I simply add a spoonful of crystals on a piece of cardboard that’s placed on top of the frames, then I add another box of frames and another piece of cardboard with another spoonful of crystals. When all boxes are stacked, air tight, then place a top cover on top with a heavy brick or object on top of that to weigh it down.

 

The crystals will dissolve gradually, so check every few weeks to determine whether the crystals need to be replenished, otherwise, you risk the moths returning. When you’re ready to reuse the boxes and frames, air them out for 2-3 days before introducing them to the bees. Preferably in an open, well lit, well ventilated location. And if that location happens to bee below 36 degrees F, then even better!

Just keep in mind that not all will bee lost. Wax can always bee rendered down in the spring and replaced with new wax, and frames that are salvageable can go back into the hives and will bee cleaned further by the bees. Bees are workers and cleaners. They’re programmed to build comb in the spring, so they’ll fill in the gaps and put the frames to good use. Waste not, want not…you’ve gotta love’em.

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YH2 Gets a Brood Transplant

August 2, 2013 (Day 84)

Battling Beetles and Helping Yellow Hive Requeen

Yellow Hive 2 (YH2) is still having problems. Based on the last inspection, the hive has Small Hive Beetles and the comb is empty and without brood. I also found a wax moth larvae. All serious issues if not dealt with right away.

The Plan of Attack

The best defense for any hive against pests is a strong colony. Granted, YH2 has not been as active, but it still has ALOT of bees, and they are still guarding their hive. After speaking with my bee supplier, he suggested I reduce the size of YH2 from 4 boxes to 3 boxes. This condenses the colony so they have more bees and less space to cover for fighting off the beetles and pests.

Beetle pic

His other suggestion, besides using a hive beetle trap inside the hive, was to take a frame of brood from GH1 and put it into YH2. This would give the YH2 girls a good foundation for breeding a new queen.

Making Pollen Patties

I also started feeding the girls pollen patties since they’re not bringing in pollen and they really need the protein. I had ordered a bucket of BeePro pollen substitute, mixed it with sugar syrup and HoneyBHealthy, and rolled out my own homemade pollen patties. The girls have taken to them well. I posted this tutorial on SnapGuide, so go check it out!

Check out How to How to Make Pollen Patties for Bees by Paula P on Snapguide.

Two Homemade Pollen Patties

Beezilla Returns

Inspections are one thing, but this time I really had to know exactly what to do and how to do it BEFORE going in. I entered YH1 first, removed all the boxes down to Box 1. I looked through box 1 to verify there indeed was no brood. And I couldn’t find a queen, and no brood means either she’s died or she’s not in good laying order. So that meant leaving YH2 open while digging into GH1 for a frame of brood. GH1 has been doing outstanding, so they could afford to help YH2 out. I removed a center frame from YH2’s bottom box, shook off the bees and set it aside.

Helpful Tip Using Pillow Cases or Landscaping Fabric

I don’t like just leaving the boxes open like that. The bees operate in a dark hive and don’t care for the sunlight, plus they fly around like crazy wondering what’s going on. A fellow Maryland beekeeper and blogger, Suburban Rancher, suggested overlaying open boxes with pillow cases. A brilliant idea, except I didn’t bring any pillow cases with me to the apiary, and I don’t know that I have any on hand anyway. Then I remembered I had some black landscaping fabric. I pulled it out of the greenhouse and laid it over YH2 and it worked like a charm. It’s lightweight, keeps the bright light out, and the bees were more settled and not flying around everywhere.

Stealing Brood

I opened GH1 and removed a beautiful frame of capped brood, verified the queen was not on it, then shook the bees off and back into the box. I replaced that frame with another drawn out frame from an upper GH1 box, and replaced the upper frame with a brand new frame.

Capped Brood from GH1

Capped Brood from GH1

GH1 received a nice pollen patty as a reward for their donation, then I closed them up and grabbed their empty feeder bucket for a refill. GH1 goes through a lot of sugar syrup! I also did not see any beetles in their hive. A testament to a strong hive’s ability to fight off their foes.

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YH2 Gets a Brood Transplant

I placed the capped brood frame into YH2 and placed a pollen patty over the top bars of the brood area. The last pollen patty was completely consumed so I was hoping this one would be just as popular. Protein aids in brood production. In this case, I hoped it would aid in queen production.

Beetles were emerging left and right. I smooshed as many as I could. I’m sure a few will go for the pollen patty. I closed up the hive, with the exception of box 4 (the top box). I shook the bees from box 4 into the hive and left YH2 with only 3 boxes. I wrapped box 4 with kitchen trash bags and happily discovered that the entire box and frames fit comfortably in the bottom of my freezer. Freezing will kill any unwanted pests and bacteria and then I can figure out how to store it for later.

I also inserted two homemade hive beetle traps made with CD cases and some boric acid bait into the hive entrances. The bees chase the beetles around, and hopefully the beetles will seek refuge in the bait filled CD case. This is an experiment so we shall see if they work. I’ll still be picking up some Beetle Blaster this weekend.

YH2 only ate half their sugar syrup. I refilled it anyway. Now we just wait and see if YH2 can requeen and make a total recovery. Fingers crossed.