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Wax moth horror show 😵


Friends, this has to be the worst day of my short beekeeping career.

Last week I noticed that my formerly stronger hive of two had almost no traffic at the front door. I popped the outer cover up to peek before heading to work one day & only about three guards climbed up to investigate. It was overcast & chillier for a few days & finally today I got out to open the whole thing to see what’s going on.

It was a nightmare. Gross, ugly wax moth larvae hunching along, cocoons, webs EVERYWHERE. Workers valiantly trying to deal with the mess. No brood, no eggs, no queen. Many small queen cups, as if they started to make an escape plan but got overwhelmed by the infestation. Or maybe some contingent did manage to get away.

I killed every moving larvae I could find and put the two ruined brood boxes several yards away. Some workers still clung to their combs & were trying to do their job :worried:
I put a small plastic tub of comb honey on the bench where their hive was, and put the inner cover over it, hoping to help the remaining workers out:

Gradually they’ve congregated there, and now I am thinking to take away their lid and shift this honey over next to the other hive, where they will possibly beg their way in?

WARNING: graphically disgusting photos :nauseated_face:

I’m about to check in my other hive just in case. Population & activity looks normal from outside, so fingers crossed they aren’t infested too. Kicking myself for not putting a wax moth trap out.


Hello Eva,
ewww. Yuck :persevere:
Have you read this information from Michael Bush on wax moths?


Good luck!


Hiya. Yes, read tons of MB info last year but appreciate the refresher. Last year I used the plastic soda bottle trap and saw many moths inside. Who knows if it would have helped this year. I believe things went south last month. Population & activity levels were normal & even bustling when I did OAV treatment. I am guessing they lost the queen around then, and in came the moths.

Just came back from checking the second hive and thank goodness, all is well :sweat_smile: Filled with calm & purposeful workers. Saw a hive beetle scuttle away so I added an oil “jail” trap.

Hoping they accept some refugees this evening.


Let me also emphasize the usefulness of giving your hive a quick lift now and then, on those days when you’re curious but don’t have time to look further. If I had done this before, I’d have noticed the drastic ‘weight loss’ the moths caused and possibly been able to act sooner & with a better outcome.


Hi Eva,
Do you think that your hive might have swarmed after the OAV treatment?


That’s possible. I did see many queen cups, which the remaining workers - perhaps nurse bees not yet flying - never managed to do anything with.


Hiya Eva shame about the bees and thanks for sharing.
I had a similar thing happen to me and I was also disappointed in myself for not noticing… Then last summer I had a colony suffer a severe starve out during a dearth and I was kicking myself for letting it happen. I guess my point is that things will happen and as long as you learn from it alls not lost. :smirk:
Lifting the hive would have told me, on both occasions, that it was too light and action was required.
Was there any honey in the moth hive?


Hi Eva,

What I have noticed myself and read many times (your case for example) is how often a colony seems to leave itself queenless. It happened to me twice last season. It does surprise me really for an insect seemingly so “clever” in so many ways. Once there is no queen, in come the wax moth.

It is not just a problem for the hobby beekeeper. A very experienced beekeeper (600 hives) told me that the season just gone, “was a bad year for queens” - here in Tasmania at least.

A swarm is such an easy thing to miss. If you are away from home for a while in swarm season through the 10 am to 2 pm time slot - just for one day - you could miss it. Furthermore, don’t necessarily expect any of your neighbours to tell you about it. They could be out too or on the computer. I’d say (at a guess) your hive swarmed (perhaps more than once) and for whatever reason, the hive was left queenless.


Thanks Tracey, Dan & Skegs for your support and encouragement :slight_smile:️ It really does help. Feel like I can stop kicking myself, for now.

Update - went out before dusk & took away the last bit of their old hive, the inner cover I’d put on top of the tub of comb honey. The comb was completely dry - they were definitely hungry. @skeggley there was almost none left in the moth hive. I pushed the tub up against the other hive, figuring that the last hangers-on would smell bees & try to be let in. There was already a crowd of hopefuls on the front face of the healthy hive.

Tomorrow after work I will deal with all the bungled comb. Guess I’ll freeze the best, straightest frames & reuse, and render the stuff that was wavy anyway!


Sounds possible, or the hive may just have got really hit hard with Varroa. Did you do three OAV treatments?

Everybody loses hives if they keep bees for long enough. I bet even @JeffH loses the occasional hive for no apparent reason. I know that @Red_Hot_Chilipepper loses hives too. It doesn’t imply negligence, sometimes it is just nature.

We lost a hive last year to Argentine ants. That was a new one for me. This year we have 3 hives, and so far they have been OK - going to check on them this weekend.


Hi Dawn, thanks, I lose the odd hive through sheer negligence & forgetfulness. One time I can recall doing a great job of bringing a hives population back to a healthy number from almost zero, while at the same time completely forgetting about another colony that was in the same boat. Naturally the SHB got to it before I did. That was a lesson learned. I cooked/suffocated a beautiful big swarm on a hot day a couple of months ago. Another hard lesson learned.

Hi @Eva, beekeeping can have lots of heart ache, lots of times it can be avoided. As long as we can learn from the experiences, it will hopefully make us better beekeepers.


Hi Eva. It must feel devastating to see your hive overrun by those wax moths. I cringe already when I see one or two.
When you hear that here in Australia beekeepers don’t loose colonies very often, it is because we don’t have varroa and therefore don’t have to use harsh treatments. That’s so lucky. You guys do the hard yakka, finding out what works and what not, paving the way for us, so we know what to do if varroa slips through the biosecurity net.
Another reason why we live in bee paradise (I believe) is that there are vast areas here where no pesticides and fungicides are used. I live in such an area.
One can say, if you loose bees in Australia, it is either AFB, mismanagement/neglect or a big weather event.
If you loose bees where you are, it is more likely due to agricultural poisons or varroa and associated treatments plus a cold winter and dearths.
Most of us don’t have harsh winters and the bees forage year round in the subtropics and tropics.
It’s good that you get up, dust off and start over. A bit of grieving is healthy, just don’t keep blaming yourself.
Happy new beginnings!


I did indeed, starting at the end of August & finishing up at the beginning of September. There were satisfying mite drops for both hives after the first two, and nearly none for the last. They still could’ve been goners though, disease-wise.

I’m inclined to think they swarmed, with all those queen cups. @BeePeeker were you thinking maybe they did so because of the OAV? Anyone else know of this as a cause of late season swarming?

@Webclan I appreciate your kindness :blush: and agree the conditions here in the US are much harder for bees and beekeeping, especially because of rampant herbicide & pesticide use. It’s good to know there is still a paradise somewhere!

And, that even @JeffH manages to goof up once in awhile :upside_down_face::honeybee:

Thanks everyone, for such good encouragement :rainbow::sun_with_face::hibiscus:


That’s not so bad. I given frames like that to strong hives and they’ve cleaned them right up. Bad is when all the wax is completely gone. They haven’t even started on the wood yet in your hive.

I still don’t trust OAV as my sole treatment (unless broodless) so I stick with Apivar with OAV as a November/February treatment.


Hi Eva, that is what I was thinking; we had a couple different experiences of late season swarming and absconding that we never were able to pinpoint a cause.

Each hive can have such a different personality and work ethic. it’s :joy: And like teenagers or cats, they are pretty independent in their decision making.


And like teenagers and cats, bees are impossible to “herd”. :sunglasses:


Update - I just read another excellent post by Rusty Berlew, about the difference between swarming, absconding and colony collapse due to varroa mites. While I can’t pinpoint the exact sequence of what went wrong, it would be incorrect to say that my colony “swarmed”. More accurately, they either died out or absconded :cry:

Edit: I deleted the previously copied link because it went to the main page of honeybeesuite.com. Great site, but I wanted a specific post about this topic - I’m a tech dummy so please be patient while I punch & squeeze at my phone some more…




“When the hive is sufficiently weakened, predators and scavengers may move in. This can give the appearance that they are the cause of the problem when, if fact, they are the result of it.”

Great point Rusty, pertinent.

Thanks Eva, like I havnt already spent enough time reading through Rustys blogs… I have other things to do you know!!! :wink:


Oh c’mon, Skegs - like anything else is as mesmerizing :nerd_face: