anyone ever hear of wax worms? I had a customer call me about this. He said they look like rubber bands on the porch of the hive. I've never seen this. A friend of mine and myself would like to know if this is something new to watch for or if it's common.
Yes I have heard of wax worms, seen wax worms, killed wax worms, and fished with wax worms. They are in fact the larva of the greater and lesser wax moth. If you have a weak hive the moth can enter at will and lay her eggs in the comb, the larva will burrow into the center rib of the wax comb leaving behind a silky tunnel littered with their feces. They will borrow into the wood of frames or hive bodies and spin their cocoon. They will destroy a hive in short order if not taken care of.
I don't know about the rubber band part though, the ones I have seen are pearly white to a dingy white in color. The only rubber bands that I have seen on the landing board are the ones they have pulled out after I have done a cut out. The worms do not like the sun light and will seek the darkness to do their dirty work.
There will be no doubt if the customer does a hive inspection. They usually go for the unused brood comb with some pollen stores in it first. And some still call em wax worms.
I can't remember seeing one on the "porch". Chalkbrood mummies, yes.
He said the bees were dragging them out on the porch to get rid of them. As for pictures or a link, I'll see what I can do. They were dead and drying up when he found them, and I'm not sure if he took any pictures, but I'll try.
++ at this time of year (here) on any number of hives the brood nest is moving upwards leaving nothing in the bottom box besides empty frames. these frames have been heavily brood up over several cycles and are especially attractive to the wax moth and are unguarded by the bees since there is no nectar or brood there. a bit of pollen in the comb can make this a double bad combination in regards to attracting wax moth and enhancing their larval growth. split bottom bars (vs solid) gives the wax worm an nice spot to lay eggs and once hatched the wax worm plague expands right up thru the bottom of the hive moving steadily upward*. some plastic based foundation may somewhat limit the expansion of the wax worm.
an especially robust hive can successfully confront the wax worm by ripping the larvae out from the comb and they typically deposit the remains at the front entry (which I think is what Dorr has described???). there is always a lot of dirty looking wax ripped out along with the larvae and web. at a minimum this activity will leave gaping holes in the infested frames. even the most robust hives will not successfully counter the wax worm on all occasions and in about 80% of the time will push the hive right out the top of the hive consuming all brooded up frames completely. there is no real food value in pure bees wax for the wax moth so infestation will often halt at comb that have never seen any brood.
a bit of intervention by the beekeeper alters the odds significantly. when I locate a bottom box even lightly infested whatever frames looks contaminated gets bagged and frozen for 24 hours. I then monitor for further infestation fairly regularly (say once per week) until I am certain the plague has passed. feeding seem to help... I think (speculating for certain) as much to alter the moral of the hive as much as anything else.
wax moth larvae are larger than small hive beetle larvae although they kind of look the same in shape. with small hive beetles the larvae quite likely have not been removed but are crawling towards the ground where they will pupate into their adult forms.