Achroia grisella (The Lesser Wax Moth)
As I’ve said before, wax or comb is an invaluable source for a beekeeper. One of the challenges that faces a beekeeper is how to store this precious resource in order to preserve it for use in future hives. Two factors to consider for frame storage are moisture which can cause frames to mold and most importantly wax moths. As hive beetle larvae can destroy improperly stored frames of honey, wax moths and their larvae can destroy all frames containing comb, though they show a preference for older, darker comb that has contained brood.
There are two ways to store comb that are more successful and full-proof ways to prevent wax moth damage. The best way to store wax frames is in a freezer. This not only kills wax moth eggs that are present in all comb that has been inside a hive for any length of time, but will also protect the comb from pests such as mice and from mold. Unfortunately, most beekeepers do not possess large enough freezers to hold all of their excess comb. In this case, the second-best method of storage is to stack boxes of frames such that they are protected from pests (i.e. with a telescoping outer cover on the bottom and top of the stack), and to apply moth crystals (or Para-Moth, NOT MOTH BALLS) according to the label.
The two easiest ways to store frames of wax do not require a freezer or the purchase of chemical treatments, but are sometimes not as successful. The first is to store the boxes containing the frames in an open-air structure (for ventilation), on their sides (so that sunlight and air flow may penetrate between the frames), and in a crisscross pattern (with each box facing ninety degrees to the one above and below). Wax moths do not like light or the flow of air, so this storage will help deter them, though may not work for frames containing darker brood comb. The final way to store frames is to place the boxes of comb on strong hives that will be able to patrol the comb and keep the frames free of wax moths. With this final method, a beekeeper should check the storage hives about every week or so to make sure they are still strong and that wax moths have not moved into the frames of the stored boxes.
Jen Haeger is a new master beekeeper and board member of A2B2.