September 2002

George Imirie’s PINK PAGES

“What” about Wax Moths?

Just about now, I often hear some one say, “The Wax Moths have KILLED my hive of bees!”

They are WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! Wax moths can NOT kill a healthy colony of bees! In fact, the wax moth larvae can not even stay alive in a healthy colony of bees. Wax moths can only “come to life” and begin destroying old brood frames in a SICK hive of bees, particularly one that is not producing any healthy brood.

Let me tell you all about THE GREATER WAX MOTH, Galleria mellonella. At least the Latin name is pretty, even if the wax moth larva is just a nasty looking grayish, white worm, that makes excellent fish bait.

The wax moth is not a great problem in our northern states, but can be a bad problem in our warmer southern states. In any case, it is not much of a problem for a beeKEEPER, but can be sure wreck the frames of a beeHAVER or the colonies in an out-apiary whose bees don’t get inspected very often.

The adult female moth, 1/2″-3/4″ long, emerge from their nest at night, dash outside to mate high up in the trees, return to bee hives and start laying up to 300 eggs before leaving shortly before daylight. These eggs can hatch into larvae in as little as 3-5 days if the temperature is 90°, but remain as eggs for 30 days or more if he temperature is only 60°. The larva, that white worm, feeds on honey within an hour after hatching and then go hide themselves from the bees by burrowing under pollen and later migrating to the mid rib area of the comb. From here they construct silk lined tunnels through the cell walls as they search for their choice of food, honey bee larval skins which were cast-off when the bee was pupating in a capped brood cell. Depending on how warm the tempera- ture is, this larval period of constructing tunnels and eating honey bee larval skins might be as short as 18 days or as long as 3 months; and the white worm finally becomes 1 inch long. When it reaches this size, it is a mature larva and spins a white cocoon attached to the inside hive body, inner cover, or on the exposed wooden part of a frame. In this cocoon the wax moth larva transforms into a pupa and an adult moth may emerge within 7-8 days in very warm weather or last for up to 4 months if it does not freeze.

The MOST IMPORTANT POINT FOR YOU TO KNOW is that a strong colony of healthy bees will NOT tolerate the presence of wax moth larvae, and will quickly dispose of a larva they locate before it does any damage by building silken tunnels through frames. However, if the colony is weak because of an inferior queen, a dead queen, brood dying from disease, poisoning, or starvation, then the wax moth larva thrives because there just aren’t enough bees to kill and dispose of the wax moth larvae. Wax Moths

Control and Treatment of the Wax Moth – If you find frames with the beginning of wax moth silken tunnels, you therefore should know that the colony is weak for some reason, and transfer these frames to a very strong colony who will clean them up and kill active wax moth larvae. However, you must be sure that the colony weakness is not caused by American Foul Brood, and the transfer of its frames to a strong colony for cleanup might infect the strong colony with AFB.

It is easy to protect empty drawn combs from wax moth infection by the use of PDB, para-dichlorobenzene. Put a tablespoon of PDB on a piece of paper and lay that paper on the frame tops in a super, construct a column of 5-10 of these supers, each with the tablespoon of PDB, seal all the cracks between supers with masking tape, so you have a closed “fumigation” chamber of PDB killing wax moth larvae. Depending on the tempera- ture, you may have to repeat this procedure every 30 days until the average temperature is down to about 60°. These frames will be ready to re-install in hives next spring by just letting them air out for 24-48 hours before installation on hives.

I want to REPEAT, so you positively understand. WAX MOTHS cannot KILL a colony of HEALTHY bees. If you find wax moths have destroyed the frames in a colony, the colony was weak and SICK from something, and I suggest that you do your best to determine if the sickness was caused by DISEASE or the death of the queen.

Now you know the “WHAT” about Wax Moths!

Should Colonies be Treated for Nosema Disease?

A SMART beekeeper knows that sick bees do not pollinate very well and don’t collect near as much nectar as healthy bees; and hence, he automatically treats every colony for Nosema in the fall with Fumidil-B at a cost of about $3/colony. Now the question is: Are you SMART or too cheap to spend $3?

Bee scientists and bee researchers have estimated that over half of all bee colonies have some infection of the Nosema disease, and although the disease rarely kills a colony, it badly weakens most of the bees in the colony with a “bellyache” and diarrhea. These sick bees just can’t attack a good nectar flow with a great deal of vigor. Think about it – How well do you work when you have a case of the “runs”? Also, the disease shortens the already short 42 day life span of the worker bee; and this sickness is just one more of those secondary illnesses associated with PMS, parasitic mite syndrome. A sick bee is much more likely than a healthy bee to be infected by mites or Foul Brood which eventually kills the colony.

It is so simple to treat the bees ONCE each year with Fumidil-B and so cheap, I think that a beekeeper who can’t be bothered to treat either doesn’t give a damn what happens to his bees or has some mental sickness himself or maybe is the LAZIEST person around. In Central Maryland, I like to wait until the last part of October to start treatment, so that much of the treated syrup is NOT CONSUMED right away, but stored as a winter food and hence consumed during much of the total winter months. You feed 2 gallons of 2:1 sugar syrup that has 2 tablespoons of Fumidil-B dissolved in each gallon. By the way, Fumidil-B is very difficult to dissolve, so you spoon the fumidil into a cup of warm (NOT HOT) warm and stir vigorously for a long time until it is dissolved, and then pour this cup of dissolved fumidil into the COOLED 2:1 sugar syrup. Too much heat destroys fumidil, so avoid any heat over about 110°F.

Fumidil-B comes in 3 different size containers: the smallest is enough for about 6 gallons of syrup, the middle size is enough for about 20-24 gallons of syrup, and the large size is enough for about 95-115 gallons of syrup.. Obviously, the largest size is the cheapest cost per colony to buy. I keep my fumidil in my home freezer all year around to protect it from deteriorating by time and warmth.

Perhaps you get a flu shot every year to prevent being sick with influenza. Your dog gets a heartworm pill every year to prevent illness from worms. Even your car gets antifreeze in the radiator to prevent a frozen motor. Why not treat your bees with fumidil to prevent Nosema disease and maintain their health rather than being sick and weak from diarrhea?

Feed NOW – Don’t wait until November!

I wish someone would explain to me the opposition or resistance of the average beekeeper to feeding his bees sugar syrup. It has been PROVEN (not guessed) that sugar syrup is a BETTER winter food than honey, and never causes any gut problems to a bee that some honies do, particularly fall honies. Further, it does NOT require rocket science to understand that it much easier for bees to accept and STORE any feed in the warmth of September than it is in the chill of November. Maybe beekeepers are hoping the bees get a fall crop of goldenrod or aster honey (they crystallize rapidly and “stink”), and then, they would not have to buy sugar at 30¢-35¢/pound.

I grew up during the GREAT DEPRESSION, and I would rather sell my honey for $3.50 per pound and feed bees sugar syrup that only costs 30¢-35¢/pound; and that does not require the thinking of a scientist – at least, I hope not.

Further, it seems some beekeepers believe that the bees store sugar syrup as sugar syrup. This is NOT true. The bees add invertase to the sugar syrup which converts the di-saccharide, sucrose, to two mono-saccharides, fructose and glucose, and evapor- ate the excess water down to 16%-18%, and then this is stored in wax cells near the center of their brood area.

If you keep your bees in two DEEP bodies for the winter, the bees should have a minimum of 12 frames completely full of stored honey, which equals 18 medium size frames if you keep your bees in three Medium bodies like I do.

Can you think of any death worse than STARVING to death – I can’t!

Winter Items That Might Be Forgotten – But DON’T!

Remove all queen excluders or division screens! If left in, the queen can be left below and starve as the bees eat upward.

You don’t want a mother mouse making a nice warm crib for her baby mice in your wax frames, so install 1/2″ hardware wire screen over your front entrance. The entrance reducer “stick” that came with your hive can be chewed by mice allowing their entry.

Maybe “somebody” reverses the bottom board to the shallow entrance, but this act is as obsolete as grandma’s bustle. Science has now proved that good VENTILATION is very healthy for bees, so DON’T reverse the bottom board to the narrow side.

Speaking of VENTILATION, it is so well proven that a TOP ENTRANCE to a colony is extremely important particularly for the escape of WARM HUMID bee breath so that breath does not condense into water droplets against a cold top and “rain” back down on the clustered bees when the outside temperature might be freezing. Make sure that your inner cover has a slot or half auger hole cut in the front edge not only to allow the escape of air and moisture, but the escape of bees if the lower entrance is blocked.

Although INNER COVERS vary in their design dependent on the manufacturer, most have a “deep” side and a “shallow” side. In the winter, it is FAR BETTER to have the “deep” side facing DOWN which increases the space between the frame tops and the inner cover providing an area for bee movement in going after food and increased clustering space. Somebody is going to say “the bees will build burr comb in this larger space”; but bees DON’T build comb in the winter or without a nectar flow.

George Imirie
Certified EAS Master Beekeeper

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