Bumblebees nests & wax moths- the silent but deadly killers! MUST SEE VIDEO!!

January 14, 2011

in A selection of my garden wildlife videos, Bumblebee pests, enemies, etc., Bumblebees and their ecology, Gardening For Wildlife

A healthy colony making use of a nest box hanging from a garden fence

All my articles, videos and work are funded by my teaching and sales of award winning bumblebee nest boxessolitary bee boxes,  and wormeries.

Having successfully survived hibernation, avoiding pests and predators, surviving inclement spring weather, finding enough flowers from which to feed and sustain herself, a red tailed bumblebee queen (Bombus lapidarius) has now succeeded in finding a suitable nest site. Probably some time in April to mid May and decided this was as good a place to build her own nest. Being high up on a fence would offer protection from some predators, such as the wood mouse ( Apodemus sylvaticus). Cute as they are with their large ears, huge eyes and small white patch on the chestnut brown coats, they are known to destroy the nests in search of tasty grubs, honey and even some bees themselves. An estimated 2/3rds of such nests in England may be destroyed by wood mice. Strange thing though, many queen bumblebees also are known to seek out old mouse nests to convert into a bumblebee nest!  Warm, dry, and safe from wood mice, a good choice for the queen bumblebee. But others are out there, soon to seek out and destroy the bumblebee nest……

These worker bumblebees were outside of the bird box nest early morning. Their job is to beat their wings to create a cool intake of air to flow into the nest itself. Many more workers were busy inside feeding young, building wax cells, cleaning cells and undertaking the numerous other tasks needed to thrive and survive. Note the speckles of yellow pollen grains around the entrance hole, brushed from the pollen baskets on the rear legs of the workers as they land.

Take a real close look at the wax moth larvae

Stranger at the door at midnight!

Occasionally on warm midsummer evenings I would go outside and shine a torch at the nest entrance hole. I would see a few workers just inside the hole, possibly on guard duty. Late one evening was a little different though. Just outside of the nest hole, as if waiting to creep in unnoticed, I saw a little insignificant brown speckled moth. It looked similar, in torchlight anyway, to the brown moth that you associate with clothes, the clothes moths….except it had, what could best be described as a prominent snout. I had, at last come into contact with the wax moth, (Aphomia sociella) a pest that had destroyed nests in my garden in the past. I did not expect it to be so small and to be honest, insignificant for such a powerful enemy of bumblebees.

Photo from Flemish Entomological Society.. will invade bumblebee nests its preferred option, social wasps the other option!!! I wonder why? !

To think, such a small moth can create so much havoc. Although bumblebees do have a sting,(except males!)  in the case of this small moth and the actions of the moth, it is virtually useless. It is to be hoped that they don’t arrive in bumblebee nests BEFORE the resident queens have successfully reared the next generation of queens and males.

Wax moths destroy bumblee nests- The hive (!) of activity has finished……even a snail found peace here!

As the summer draws to a close, the busy bumblebee activity has died down. And so alas, have the vast majority of the bees. Only the young queens born here, have left, mated and will soon be looking for somewhere to hibernate. The front cover has been removed to find a snail that would find shelter here and food as well. Amongst the debris of the nest material, you may notice some white silken strands….

Wax moth caterpillars in bumblebee nest remains- Note a few dead bees amongst the nesting material

The wax cells, made by the bumblebees to store nectar and pollen and house the young bee larvae, have been completely destroyed. More strands of silk can be seen to the top right of the nest. A few live workers remained in this now dead nest and flew away unharmed, eventually to die in a short time. The  bottom left of the nest you will see a few white grubs with orange heads ….the culprits.

Wax moth caterpillars have destroyed the nest completely

The silent but deadly killers !

The moth I saw that warm evening was a female wax moth, (Aphomia sociella, also known as the bee moth) a parasite of bees and wasps. It may well have been waiting its chance to enter the nest undetected, at night when nest activity is at it lowest. This is the only moth that occurs in bumblebee nests and is not to be confused with the lesser wax moth ( Achroia grisella) which is attracted to honey bees. It has been found to use artificial bumblebee nests placed in gardens more frequently than artificial nests sited on farmland. In a recent study, as gardens were found to have a higher nest density than any range of rural habitats and that those gardens provided suitable habitats, a continuity and wider variety of food for some bumblebees, then what is favourable for the bumblebees may well become favourable for the wax moth.

Wax moth caterpillars spin this tough silk screen to hide behind and move down it to feed in relative safety from the bumblebees, which have difficulty penetrating it

Using scent to target the nests

From June to August, the females moths actively seeks out its potential hosts, in my case bumblebees, it is believed by scent. Each bumblebee nest will have its own unique scent or smell and as occupants of that nest, the bumblebees born and living in it will also have the same smell, used by the bees to recognise each other and to distinguish themselves from intruders. Any insect that enters will do so at the risk of being attacked and killed by the resident bees. It does n’t smell right…! Cuckoo bumblebees ( Psithyrus. spp.) have been found to enter  bumblebees nest and remain concealed in nest material for a few days without attracting the attention of the resident workers bees and also may possibly acquire the ‘smell’ of its hosts, so as to be adopted by them as being recognised as one of their own, before taking over the nest itself, by killing the queen (in most case) and laying its own eggs, which are adopted and reared by the host bees.

I can only assume that the wax moth I observed for several minutes at it sneaked around the nest entrance hole, on the several occasions I visited that evening, was doing something similar, timing its entrance so as not to be noticed and hence attacked. Once inside the nest, burying itself in the nesting material, or hiding somewhere else out of harms way and possibly gaining the scent of the nest as well. Either way, it lays its eggs.

Hastening the nest’s decline

The female wax moth lays about 100 eggs in a cluster inside the nest. They hatch after a week or so. At first I noticed that, when small, they  lived behind the silk screen and move up and down it to feed safe from the bees. They are very active and can move forward and backwards very easily and relatively fast, something they would have to do if chased by bees inside the nest, (see later!)  Gradually, as they grow, they leave this screen and build silk galleries right in the heart of the nest itself, actually burrowing galleries through the wax cells. If they were found by the residents workers, they would either be removed or killed. It is likely that the caterpillars only move inside the tubes they spin for themselves, in and amongst the wax cells containing food. This would enable them to eat in safety undisturbed and also further acquire more of the nest scent as they rummage in the nest cells. The caterpillars have a vegetarian diet and feed on the old wax cells, detritus, pollen, nectar, and droppings. Then totally abusing the hospitality of their hosts (!)  very unusually for a moth species, they become predatory feasting upon the young bee larvae themselves and dead adult bees found in the bottom of the nest.

Wax moth caterpillars inside bumblebee nest –  live in tough silk galleries inside the nest itself

Once fully fed and developed they will crawl out of what is left of the nest, find shelter out of the nest debris and make even tougher silk galleries, gregariously, side by side, each gallery or tunnel containing one caterpillar, in which they overwinter. In another artificial nest I had, again attacked by the wax moth, galleries were made inside the wooden box, that once housed the bumblebee nest. I tried to remove them from the roof and walls of the wooden nest box and this proved very difficult. Not only physically trying to pull the strong incredibly tough silk from the wood,  but to take the larvae out of their tunnels. I had great difficulty actually ripping it apart. It was like trying to tear a soft cloth. It really did take much longer than I ever expected. They were fed to my wild birds!

Wax moth larvae Nurturing Nature

Wax moth larvae in their silk tunnels where they will stay overwinter till spring and emerge as adults

Control ?

I think it is difficult to stop the wax moth entering nests. This is exactly why, being fed up of these horrible larvae destroying my bumblebee nests,  I designed the award winning bumblebee  nest box with bumblebee cat flap and other anti pest control features. Almost 3 years or research, trials and tests. They have been sold all over Europe and N. America! As a result of a presentation I gave in Norway, Atle Mjelde, a well known and respected bumblebee biologist, from Norway wrote:

In the design of the bumblebee box nearly everything has been thought of, so I can really recommend it. This is one of the very best bumblebee nest boxes I have ever seen. So if you only prepare the nesting material properly you have a pretty high chance to get a bumblebee nest in the hive. But you also need to have nest searching bumblebee queens in your area and place the box so the queens do find the nest box. Read the full review.

Artificial nests in gardens may be easier for them to find than a nest down a hole in the soil, or under a hedgerow, tussock of grass etc., in the countryside. I wonder it it is possible to perhaps try to mask the scent of the nests in some way? Perhaps spraying the outside with lavender oil, disinfectant or concentrated orange oil? Or laying some strong scented oils, mixed with water in a tray outside the nest? Something I will try IF I am successful in attracting a queen to nest. I am aware that scientists are researching the use of pheromones that these moths use to communicate with eachother and to atract mates. Pheromone traps can be bought in most garden centres to attract and catch males of the codling moth, which attacks apples. Perhaps something similar could be done for wax moths. Bearing in mind that without bumblebees there may well not be that many apples for the codling moth to attack in the first place!!!

Update. I tried all of the above and they all failed.

Read more articles about bumblebees.

Read more articles about the bumblebee nest box

See how my new bumblebee nest box thwarts pests including wax moth and has a  wax moth monitoring system build into it

For more information about bumblebees join the Bumblebee Conservation Trust.

Must see video

This has to be the best video of life inside a bumblebees nest ever!  You can see the wax moth caterpillars destroying the nest, cuckoo bumblebee laying eggs inside a nest and a lot more. Its just over 8 minutes long so go and make a brew to watch it. Although in German its very interesting and pictures say so much more irrespective of language!

 Refs: Besides my own observations and experiences;

Benton,T. (2006). “Bumblebees”HarperCollins Publisher, London.

Goulson, D. ( 2010). “Bumblebees behaviour, ecology and conservation” Oxford University press, Oxford.

Kearns, C.A. and J. D. Thomson. (2001).”The Natural History of Bumblebees: A Sourcebook for Investigations”. University Press of Colorado, Boulder, CO.

With thanks to Laura Smith of             http://www.bumblebee.org/


{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Catherine King March 2, 2011 at 11:02 pm

All the above information is very interesting to me as sadly in January I discovered wax moth cocoons with larvae in my sitting room. I first noticed a cluster of them on the clothes of a doll which was sitting on the carpet in a corner of the room. Then I found some cocoons in curtains and on further inspection found them embedded under and behind skirting boards, between my floor boards, in joists and God knows where else. When some of the floor was lifted near the window, I found a bumble bee and a wasp nest with all the signs as described by you. Access was gained through a rather open underfloor vent which was concealed by a shrub. At no point was there any evidence in the room of wasps bees or moths.
Do you know what is the best way of getting rid of them from my house?
If any of the larvae currently in my room mature to adult moths, are they dependent on having a bee or wasp nest in which to lay aggs to start a new cycle of life?
I am finding it difficult to get information relating to getting rid of them from the home.
I am sure that the moth problem started last summer/autumn whereas the nests may have been there for much longer.

I would rally appreciate any information to help to deal with this problem. Many thanks,

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nurturingnature March 3, 2011 at 8:08 pm

Hi Catherine,
Both wasps and bumblebee nests fade and die in the autumn, never again to be used as such by their makers. The queens are the only survivors and after mating they will hibernate to start a new nest in the spring. The wax moths will pupate and crawl out into the wide world outside to seek out another bumblebee nest early summer. You could destroy the larvae as they overwinter in your home. I would remove the old bee/wasp nest. In cases where the wax moth cannot find a fresh new nest to invade, they may find your old abandoned nests and eat the remains. Then they will not bother you again as they simply need a bumblebee nest site to start their cycle of life again. HTH George

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Neil Birkin June 26, 2011 at 4:39 am

Hi after reading the description of the Wax Moth habitat I am certain that I have discovered several of the remains of them in my garage they were silky tube like constructions really difficult to remove I had to use a broad wood chisel to cut them from the wall and wooden shelves. Last year we had lots of Bumble bees entering and leaving and I was convinced I had a nest underneath some stacked wood and other Items. I was pretty sure that they were harmless and in deed beneficial that I left them alone. I am upgrading the structure of my Garage and so have removed all the stacked items this is when I discovered the nests stuck to the wall and wood, am I right to think that these are likely to be Wax Moth cocoons? However I did not see any evidence of bumble bee nest remains. I hope that I have got rid of them all now, are they likely to return?

Thank you N. B.

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nurturingnature June 26, 2011 at 5:41 pm

Hi N.B. The structures that wax moths make in which they, en mass, overwinter, are indeed very tough, almost cloth like. Extremely difficult to tear off from structures that they have constructed them on. And I mean tough and difficult! I suspect that if of course they are the wax moth to which I am referring to, they would have destroyed the bumblebee nest and then, en masse, crawled away from it/them? to find a suitable place in or on which to construct their overwinter site. The bumblebees are indeed harmless and beneficial. I suspect that the actual nest may have an entrance which itself was hidden by the stacked items, hence you may not have found the remnants of a bumblebee nest. The wax moths may not return, unless you have another bumblebee nest in your garage this year. They have been known to lay their eggs in old bumblebee nests and old mouse nests. HTH George

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James Webster September 7, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Hi, im a pest controller, but don’t worry i don’t kill bees!!
just wondering if you have any tips on how to defeat the wax moth, also we are soon building a few bumble bee housing boxes, im presuming just one small entry/exit whole will be suffice, and help the workers cath intruders.
failing that please invent an insecticide that only kills moth caterpillars, would be much appreciated!
James

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nurturingnature September 8, 2011 at 6:01 pm

Hi James, I am investigating exactly what you ask and will put my results onto this website, when I have finished. There is a caterpillar insecticide called Bacillus thuringiensis, at one time available for the amateur gardener though I think in the UK it has been withdrawn and only available to commercial businesses, farmers etc.

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Mike Welch January 31, 2012 at 4:03 pm

I’ve only just seen this – the video is astonishing! Has anyone obtained a transcript that can be translated? Do you have any guidance on separating wax moth larvae from clothes moth larvae please? Last year I hade a regular B terrestris nest under floor boards, access through an airbrick. I found by chance an infestation of larvae above the nest under a carpet where there was access from below. Although there was some damage to the back of the carpet, I was surprised at how little. The larvae I found were in silk tubes in the floorboard grooves. I replaced the carpet but fear if these are clothes moths they will appear again.

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nurturingnature January 31, 2012 at 5:39 pm

Hi Mike, Wax moths do make extremely strong silk material in which they pupate en masse. It sounds like they were wax moths and not clothes moths. They will not return unless there is a bumblebee nest in situ again next year established by a new queen. If you wait a while you will see what I have done to help bumblebees in their battle against wax moths, besides my bumblebee cat flap!The wax moth caterpillars may well have damaged your carpet, they can chew through plastic and polystyrene!

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Gary Wright August 12, 2013 at 8:57 pm

Very interesting. I recently found a bumblebee nest in my loft and also two groups of wax moth larvae (although I didn’t have a clue what they were at the time). The larvae I found made their homes in standard electrical junction boxes (the nest was nearby) and they had filled the entire space around the wires with their tough silk tunnels. It was difficult to prise open the junction boxes as the silk is also adhesive. The sheathing on the electrical wires had started to perish and I’m not sure if it was a chemical reaction or chewing by the larvae. It all seemed very strange, but this discussion has explained everything.

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nurturingnature August 12, 2013 at 10:45 pm

Hi Gary, These larvae can chew cardboard, cloth, polystyrene, wood and some plastics and their silken overwintering tubes are so so tough! I will be writing no the article on it soon with videos..keep an eye out! Cheers George

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James Bridgeman August 24, 2013 at 8:35 am

I would like to thank you for helping me identify this destructive pest. I had some bees take over an old dilapidated bird box that had fallen from a tree a short while ago at the end of my slightly overgrown garden. It was fascinating watching the bees take up residence from a single bee doing repeating aerial movements around the hole to attract others; to more bees arriving and doing the same and eventually taking up residence. It was only yesterday that I decided to inspect the nest box to find dead bees lying around and a large mass of fibrous silken material with a large number of active caterpillars as described above. The moth nest had completely destroyed the bees nest and was exactly as others had described. I removed the nest and gave the caterpillars to the birds. I’d never heard of the Wax Moth before today but I’ll certainly keep my eyes open for it in future. Thanks for posting this information, its certainly been of great benefit to me. Thank you.

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nurturingnature August 24, 2013 at 4:40 pm

James, Thanks for your comments. I am soon to write another article re these very moths, so do keep looking the site up. Kind regards, George

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Phil Thatcher December 22, 2013 at 10:55 am

I echo the the thanks already given. I have just cleaned out the old remains of a bumblebee nest from our bird box. I found the tough silken tubes and had to use a metal scraper to scour them out. Although I was sure it wasn’t an active nest I was troubled that maybe I had acted in error. So after much trawling am very relieved and intrigued to have found your site. Kind regards, Phil

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nurturingnature December 23, 2013 at 12:54 pm

My pleasure Phil. Similar posts to follow so keep visiting! Cheers George

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nurturingnature January 23, 2014 at 1:57 pm

Thanks Phil. Cheers George

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Sandra Crabtree May 25, 2014 at 12:52 pm

Hi George, I contacted you last year about finding wax moth larvae in my hedgehog and bird boxes, which were all destroyed. A few days ago I noticed a few bees going under the roof tiles on the eaves of our house. There are now ‘hundreds’ going into our roof space somewhere. We can’t see them from inside the loft. I’m concerned the wax moths will get them again – I note from your articles about masking the scent but this isn’t an option due to the height of the roof. Any other suggestions?

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nurturingnature May 25, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Hi Sandra, see my email to you. Cheers, George

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Fin May 31, 2014 at 12:23 pm

Hello, I’m very excited about finding this site. I had bees under the house crawl space/in the cavity (I don’t know) four years ago but non since. Three years ago I found that moths (I have now identified them as wax moths) were coming into the house through the floorboards. The first year there were only a few, second more and this year I have been awash with them. When I researched it, the advice was to just leave them alone as they will eat the old bee nest, then go once there is no more food source (so a natural way of getting rid of an old nest). It’s been three years now, I have redecorated the room where they were and about to put down a new carpet but can’t until I get rid of them. I am now in the process of ripping up all the floorboards to try and find the old nest. What I am very concerned about is the info that they eat through wood so am worried they will eat through my joists? Do you have any advice please?
Thanks

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nurturingnature May 31, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Fin, I have emailed you! Cheers George

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moira July 4, 2014 at 3:55 pm

I have a bumble bee nest under the floorboards of my front room, coming in and our of the airbrick I have left them alone thinking they are harmless, but I have the wax moth lavae coming up into the bathroom, which is located next door to the front room. I cannot see where they are getting into the bathroom because the carpet is down, and they are coming out at 11pm and some in the day and crawling up the hallway and other rooms. I have to keep checking everything to get rid of them. Now I am worried that they are munching through the joists and floorboards to come up into the bathroom, and don’t know what to do, except spray the skirting boards and all around the bath panel and room with insect, flea killer. A pest control company will only tear up the floorboards of my home, which will be a nightmare, spray chemical and leave me to restore the damage done, plus I am sensitive to chemicals and poison. What do I do?

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nurturingnature July 5, 2014 at 9:30 am

Hi Moira, Although the wax moth larvae are capable of chewing wood, they only chew it to make a scraping in it so they can bind their silken blankets to it prior to pupating. They will not chew through your floor boards!They would rather find a gap to crawl through and in my experience they usually all pupate gregariously not singularly. HTH Cheers George

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David August 21, 2014 at 9:51 pm

Thank you for posting this valuable information. We had exactly the same problem as several people have posted finding first the wax moth larvae in the carpet and underlay then after taking up several floorboards saw two young queen bumble bees emerge…. I also noted these larvae were in tough caccoons and difficult to dislodge ( although a team gun makes short work of many!) Often they were located in the tongue and grooves.

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nurturingnature August 22, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Very strong silk is nt it? Cheers George

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Adele Duckworth March 30, 2015 at 10:04 am

Hi George, I really hope you can help. A couple of years ago we were having a lot of tree bees visiting the eaves of our dormer bungalow and we did some research and found out they were fairly harmless and we let them be (excuse the pun). The following year we only got a few bees but an awful lot of moths around May inside our house on the landing area (which is near the loft space where the bees were entering the eaves and where we leave a light on in the evenings). I counted about 30 one night on going up to bed. I sent a picture of one of the moths off to be identified and was told it was a bee moth which inhabits bees nests (which then made a whole lot of sense). Over the winter my husband sealed the area where the bees were coming and going from the previous year hoping it would sort the problem of the moths. However this year we have seen half a dozen moths in the last month (march 2015) and I’m getting really concerned that we are going to be over run with moths again this year. My husband checked the loft and couldn’t find either any bees nest or evidence of moths (its a split level house so some areas of the loft can be difficult to get to plus we have a mountain of insulation up there too). Please could you give me some advice on getting rid of them especially seeing as we can’t find the original bees nest. Any help well be greatly appreciated.
Many thanks,
Adele

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nurturingnature March 30, 2015 at 7:59 pm

Hi Adele thanks for your question. I will email you. Kind regards, George

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chris May 19, 2015 at 8:55 am

Hi there, I know this post is rather old but hopefully u can give me some advice. A few years ago we had a bee nest around the entry of a pipe coming through the outside wall into our bathroon under the floor, we left it alone as we didnt see any harm. Now for the past few weeks I am getting up in a morning and seeing moths in the bathroom , there are no windows open and we have been closing the bathroom door so we know for definate they are coming either under the skirting or up from the wooden floor.. They just hang out on the wall I have not witnessed them flying around. Most mornings they will be two or four of them, we get rid of them only to be greeted over the next day or so with more. My question is can you tell me how to get rid of them and will they be causing structural damage under the floor? Will they be laying more eggs so that this is going to be an ongoing problem? I would really appreciate your advice on this as its starting to worry me and I want rid of these moths once and for all. Thank you .

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nurturingnature May 20, 2015 at 9:29 pm

Hi, have a look on my site bumblebee ecology as there are several articles on wax moths which sounds likely culprits. They are a species that live inside bumblebees nest eating eggs, larvae, wax etc. buy a yellow sticky insect trap from a garden centre to catch them as they leave, they do not cause structural damage to your house and soon will be leaving to invade bumblebee nest. Hope that helps cheers, George

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chris May 21, 2015 at 8:57 pm

Hi George, thank you so much for taking the time to reply, from what i have read and the pictures i have seen they are definitely wax moths. Im relieved to know they are not going to be an ongoing problem to us at home just wish I could say the same for the bumblebees out there as they are truly a destructive pest to the bees and their nests. Thank you again

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nurturingnature May 22, 2015 at 9:17 pm

My pleasure Chris. Cheers, George

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JAYNE June 20, 2015 at 2:09 pm

Hi, we are having a problem with moths in our sons bedroom(loft conversion) When my husband lifted the floor boards in there, he found a bees nest, no longer active, but with some dead bees around it. Some of the moths have what look like a snout. He removed the old nest which was very sticky and sweet smelling but we are still having a problem with moths.W

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nurturingnature June 20, 2015 at 4:46 pm

Hi Jayne, the ones with the snouts are the female wax moths. Remove All of the bumblebee nest and if possible just clean that area to remove the scent. The moths will soon move out of their home!! and will trouble you no longer. HTH, cheers, George

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Teresa Fowler July 28, 2015 at 10:03 am

Hello George
I’ve only recently discovered this article, which I found very helpful in understanding more about what I’ve observed, this year, via nestcam in one of my nestboxes. Last spring (2014), this nestbox was used by a female blue tit, which almost completed building a nest in it, but did not use it for breeding. As you may know, this is common with blue tits; the females tend to start building severeal nests, simultaneously, then she and her mate decide which one to use.

This spring (2015), a queen Tree Bumblebee (B. hypnorum) found this partially completed bird nest and made her own nest inside it, though, until her first brood of workers emerged, all I could observe was her comings and goings, of course. It was only a few weeks later that I first observed a moth inside the box and guessed it was probably Aphomia sociella, as I sometimes find these in my light trap (which I only use occasionally) and had read a bit about their lifecycle. From my observations, I am fairly certain the adult moth(s) (I never saw more than 2 at any one time) did not spend any time inside the nesting material. They tended to sedentary (perhaps to acquire the nest’s scent before laying their eggs?), on the inside walls of the nestbox, moving only when disturbed by a worker bee bumping into them. The bees seemed to be unaware that the moths posed any threat. I never saw the workers make any attempt to attack the adult moths or, later, their larvae. In fact, when workers bumped into a moth, they almost seemed apologetic and would ‘step back’ and change direction, while the moth would flit to another side wall and settle, again, until the nest time they were disturbed in the same fashion. Sometimes, this would happen quite often, as the some of the workers seemed to do a lot of apparently purposeless wandering, inside the box, especially during the hours of darkness.

My first sightings of moth larvae co-incided with the late June/early July heatwave, when the wax cover (which the worker bees had gradually built over the top of the nest) started to develop holes. I couldn’t tell whether the holes were the result of larvae activity or the wax starting to melt, due to the high temperatures (perhaps a bit of both?). Initially, the holes were fairly small and the workers were able to keep up with repairing them. Gradually, more and larger holes started to appear and the whole wax cover started to disintegrate, and I could see moth larvae moving about inside the bees’ nest, often occupying what I asssume were either nectar pots or partially open cells. The bees made no attempt to attack the larvae.

Gradually, the view from the nestcam became increasingly blurry and I now know this was because the larvae had started building their cocoons on top of the nestcam, perhaps wrapping some of the threads around it and across the lens. Yesterday, as all bee activity had ceased, we took down the nestbox and carefully removed the front, top, and the side access panel (to the camera). Inside, it looks very similar to some of the ‘after’ photos in your article.

Very pleased to see you’ve developed a (hopefully) moth-proof bumblebee nesting box and I shall probably purchase one of these, very shortly.

Thanks again for a very interesting and informative article (and website), which I wish I had found much earlier!

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nurturingnature July 28, 2015 at 5:12 pm

Hi Teresa, what a great observation. It is something I have not actually witnessed in as great details as you were fortunate enough to view through the webcam. I have observed bumblebee workers what appear to be purposelessly wandering around the nest box, over the nest, along the walls etc. Perhaps they are looking for any stray young bees, larger intruders or pacing up and down as a guard would who eventually becomes bored! What to us appears a waste of time, in nature I suspect there is always reason for every action. This is great account. Did you manage to film any of it? Many thanks for sharing it.Great stuff!! Thanks, George

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Alan Harper July 29, 2015 at 8:43 pm

Hello George
I set up a bee house this year and was very happy has it was very lively at its peak, there were always bees flying around it all day guards I presume, then it all seemed to stop and today I opened it up and it is full of the strong silky covering and pulling it out which took a lot of effort I found the yellow wax moth grubs which I will destroy later after I’ve shown them to my neighbours, has they have become very interested, my question to you is can I clean out the box and try again next year, and thanks for this article because it’s cleared up the mystery of what went wrong. Regards Alan Harper.

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nurturingnature July 29, 2015 at 10:11 pm

Hi Alan, Absolutely! Steam clean inside of nest box and replace for next year! Thanks for sharing, George

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Paula Hosker May 21, 2016 at 7:46 pm

Hi George,
I wondered if you could give me some advice on how to get rid of what I think are wax moths. Last year we had a bees nest in our loft and left them alone knowing they are harmless, this April we started getting moths in the spare room (where the loft hatch is) we checked all the clothes in the room but there was no sign of damage to them. I did some research online and discovered that wax moths are associated with old bees nests, so I think this is our problem. We went in the loft and found bits of what we assumed was the old bees nest but it was just bits mixed in with the insulation, we got rid of all we could find but could have more in there. Can you give me some advice please on how to get rid of them, Thank you. Paula

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nurturingnature May 22, 2016 at 9:56 am

Paula,

If you are quick you may find them all nesting together in a mass silk web. Remove this and get rid. Most of them will be inside this tough silk blanket. Otherwise they may have already emerged and are flying around trying g to get out. HTH, Cheers, george

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John September 5, 2016 at 4:54 pm

Hello, i live in Holland and i have just found a hive,nest or what ever you like to call it of these moths in a bird box that some bees were using. i have cleaned out the box in the hope that the bees or birds will come back to use it next year

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nurturingnature September 6, 2016 at 10:11 pm

Hi John, Sounds like wax moths and/or their larvae. Please destroy them. Thanks, George

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Jackie Prestidge May 13, 2017 at 5:07 am

Hi there, I live in a top floor flat , and about over a year ago I got a bees nest in the roof, the bees have gone but last year I had loads of moths, so a pest control came out and got rid of them, but only reason I have got the moths back , please could you help and advice the best way of getting rid of the moths.

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nurturingnature May 15, 2017 at 5:15 pm

These are likely to be wax moths that ate your bumblebee larvae and pupated. Now they are trying to get outside and start that process again to other bumblebees. They will either escape or die in the not to distant future. The only way to stop themis to stop the bumblebees nesting in your roof. HTH, Cheers George

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nurturingnature December 11, 2011 at 10:22 pm

No they are n’t and may well, scientist say, destroy up to 80% of nests in urban gardens! AS their numbers are declining, this is something I am working on and have been for some time.

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