Greater wax moth (Galleria mellonella)


    The greater wax moth is a major pest of the beekeeping industry in the United States, particularly in the south.  The larvae damage the comb and honey by tunneling into the wax and leaving behind a mass of webs and debris.  Healthy bee colonies  are usually able to defend themselves against this pest and suffer only minor damage.  A strong colony will carry larvae and adult moths out of the hive and prevent damage.  Comb which has been removed from the hive and stored by the beekeeper, however, is the most vulnerable to attack.  Fumigants, heat, and cold can be used to protect stored comb.
    The wax moth undergoes complete metamorphosis: egg, larva, pupa, adult.  In nature all stages of the wax moth may be present at the same time and except during cold weather, development is continuous.  The mated female moth deposits small, white, slightly oblong eggs in masses in cracks away from the light.  Eggs hatch in five to eight days at 75 to 81 degrees F, but may require up to 35 days of incubation at temperatures of 50 to 60 degrees F.
    Newly hatched larvae immediately begin to burrow into the wax.  Although the larvae consume a large amount of wax, it is the impurities and remains of the old bee coccoons which provide them with most of their nourishment.  Because of this, new comb or foundation is a poor food and is seldom attacked.  Depending on the  temperature, larval development ranges from one to five months - the warmer the temperature, the faster the development.  The most favorable temperature for development is 84 to 93 degrees F.
    Young larvae are white, about 1mm long, and very active.  Mature larvae are about 25 mm long, golden-gray or brown in color, and move much slower.  When ready to pupate, the larvae spin coccoons.  Pupation takes from eight days to two months depending on temperature.  The wax moth is about 2 cm long with a wingspread of 2.5 to 3 cm.  The size of an adult varies depending on the quality of food consumed while a larva.  The male is slightly smaller than the female and has scalloped-shaped wing edges.

Availability: These need to be ordered and will be available after spring break.

Housing: Keep the larvae in a glass or plastic jar, about quart jar size, with a cloth lid tightly secured so no larvae escape.   It is best to cover the cloth lid with a wire mesh screen, as larger larvae can chew through cloth alone.  It is best to keep the culture jar in the dark.  Larvae will burrow into their food and may not always be visible.  The jar should be kept at 84 to 93 degrees F for best results, and development from egg to adult at this temperature should take four to six weeks.  When the larvae are ready to pupate, they will leave the medium and pupate in the top part of the jar.  The white coccoons can be easily removed and place into a new container (new jar with cardboard to climb on) to await adult emergence.

Food: Fill the larval jar two-thirds full of medium (you will receive medium with your larvae).  Larvae will not need any additional food or water outside of this medium.    Adults do not need food and water and will live for one to three weeks under these conditions.