Honeycomb with webs and moth frass

What Happens When You Store Your Comb Improperly?

ew.

Conventional wisdom (a.k.a. most beekeeping books and most experienced beekeepers) warn that it is dangerous to store drawn wax comb, because of wax moths.

Those sources are absolutely correct.

Backstory: Since the last time I posted, we lost Thyme hive. It’s a bit of a long, depressing story, but the end of it is that Thyme was weakened by the events documented here, and then they were robbed by yellow jackets, and then they absconded. “Absconded” is bee-speak for “We have had it, we are out of here!” When conditions in a hive become too difficult, they pack up everything they can carry and just – leave. We saw the robbing on Sunday evening, put an entrance reducer on it, and by the time Hubs got home from work on Monday afternoon, Thyme hive was gone. Nothing left but a few stray yellow jackets and some badly damaged comb. We closed up the entrance with duct tape so the yellow jackets couldn’t get out, and plopped the whole hive into the freezer to kill ’em.

After two days in the deep freeze, we pulled it out and assessed it. All the frames that were drawn out wide or not straight, I went ahead and cut the wax out right away and rendered it down. But I saved out ten frames that were nice and straight, so that I could intersperse them with empty frames next year and encourage the girls to draw their new wax nice and straight.

While I was inspecting them, I did see some weird white worms in one or two of the cells.

And right there, y’all, is where my judgment EPIC FAIL began. I thought that those weird little worms might be wax moth larvae. I mean, like I said, Thyme had been weakened already, and wax moths do attack weakened hives. But they were not moving. They looked dead. I pulled them out, and then didn’t worry about them any more. I assumed that the two days in the deep freeze had killed them.

I left a hive box full of frames sitting on my dining room table for almost a month and a half, because procrastination is my superpower. They looked fine. And then, in an attempt to make the dining room table available for stuff – like dining, perhaps – I put it into a lockable plastic storage tub and stored it in a little-used room of our home.

Pop quiz!
Q:  What are conditions like inside a storage tub?
A: Warm, dark, with little to no ventilation.

Q: What kind of conditions do wax moths like best?
A: Dark, warm, poorly ventilated spaces. ¹

All y’all see where this is going, right?

It took less than two weeks.

Honeycomb with webs and moth frass
They didn’t do too much damage to this one, probably because there was not much debris from brood in this one. Apparently their favorite food/protein source is the cast larval “skins” that stay in the comb after the bee hatches out.  Oh, and that black stuff? It’s called “frass.” Yep. Moth poop.

 

Web
A big, ugly cluster of slimy, comb-destroying maggots, all webbed up and waiting for their chance to hatch out into grownup moths and make more icky maggots.

 

MaggotHead
If you look down near the bottom of this hideous mess, to the right of the tip of my knife, you can see the head of a maggot poking out. If you ever see a face like that in your hive, I recommend addressing it with violence and extreme prejudice.

 

Maggots
Maybe I’m overreacting, but these are pretty close to the most revolting creatures I’ve ever seen. Nasty, squirmy, ugly … EW! Once you get over the “ick” factor, look at the frame bars in the lower right corner. Where these beasts tucked themselves in to weave their little cocoons – they hollowed out GOUGES for themselves. In the wood. Of the frames. Seriously, who does that?!

1. http://www.clemson.edu/extension/beekeepers/publications/wax_moth_ipm.html

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