Bee Pests

Arthropod Bee Pests

Wax Moths

Galleria mellonella (Greater Wax Moth) and Achroia grisella (Lesser Wax Moth)

Wax moths development requires brood combs or brood cell cleansings.  They contain proteins essential for the development of the Wax moth larvae.

The moth is usually stopped from entry into the hive by the guard bees.  However in a stressed hive the guard bees are not as diligent.

Adult wax moths – similar in size to workers

Wax moth larvae leave behind webbing – which the bees find very difficult to remove

Wax moth larvae – off white soft bodied caterpillar

Cocoons of wax moth pupae are very tough and extremely difficult for bees to remove



Freeze combs for at least 24 hours.

Apply Bacillus thuringiensis spores (Bt spores)

Control with Moth crystals (paradichlorobenzene).  But note that the chemicals do not get into the honey.  Stacked dirty honey or brood supers over winter are an ideal environment.  Stack supers outside for at least a week before use.  There must be no presence in honey sold in the EU.

Alternatively, place combs into a sealed box and fumigate with vapours from 80% ethanoic acid (acetic acid).  Note cover any metal on the boxes with Vaseline to protect from the acid.  Fumigate for at least 10 days.   Well air before use.

Increased ventilation to the hive. Wax moths do not like light and fresh air. 

Benefits of Wax Moths

Wax moths are valued by anglers.  They can also be a food source in protein-deficient diets.


Death’s Head Hawk Moth (Acherantia atropos)

When the moth enters the hive it emits a sound similar to the queen bee so the workers remain calm.

The moth then walks around the hive consuming honey without interference.

Deadhead moth


Small and large hive beetles

Aethina tumida

This beetle is destructive as it feeds and defecates in the honey causing discolouration.

The beetle is brown to black and 50-70 mm in length.

Note the clubs on the end of the antennae.

It is found throughout the hive, most commonly in the rear portions of the bottom board.

They will uncap and eat bee brood, honey and stored pollen.  This is not present in the UK.


Small hive beetle in a hive


Larvae of the small hive beetle


The larvae are 10-11 mm in size.   The larvae have characteristic rows of spines on their back and 3 pairs of tiny prolegs (which are absent in wax moth).   The eggs are often laid in large clusters


Store empty combs with moth crystals (paradichlorobenzene).

Beetle traps are possible made from corrugated paper.

Kill beetle by freezing combs overnight.

Fumigate with 70% ethanol (eg methylated spirits).


Large hive beetle – Hyplostoma fuligineus



Beetles others

Carefully examine any beetle found in the hive for the Small hive beetle.  Remove from hive when found.



The bee louse

Braula coeca.  These can be found on any bee but prefer the queen bee.

The larvae can damage the appearance of the brood.   The adult appear not to clinically affect the adults. Not present in Australia.

Braula may be confused with Varroa as they are similar in size – but Braula is an insect with 6 legs, Varroa as a mite has 8.

Methods to control Varro will generally control Braula.  In addition, freeze combs for 7 hours.

Note this is actually not a louse but a wingless fly.



Tropilaelaps external mite

Tropilaelaps clareae and Tropilaelaps koenigerum

These mites can cause abnormal brood development and death of both brood and bees, leading to colony decline.  Found in Asia.


Pollen mites

These may be mistaken for Varro at times.  If found, remove and destroy old combs which contain a lot of pollen



All types of ants are the natural enemy of bees.  Protect the legs of the hive with insect repellants.  Cover in thick grease.  Some will stand each hive leg in engine oil – note odour into honey.  Spreading wood ash or charcoal ash will help to keep the ants away.

Stop any braches etc that might come into contact with the hive.  Be careful not to spill honey or sugar around the hives.



In the UK three species of wasp are significant – Vespula vulgaris, V. germanica and Dolichovespula saxonica.

Wasps are significant as they will rob and kill weak colonies.

When lifting the top cover check for Wasps.


Pirate Wasps

Can be a problem in Africa.  These wasps will catch flying bees and can be a significant problem terrorizing the hive.


Control of Wasp problems

Set up wasp traps – a honey jar with a 10mm hole in the lid and half fill with jam/water mixture.  Do not use honey – this will attract the bees.



Wasps and wasp trap in Korea




Hornets (Vespa crabro) can attack an apiary taking bees in the air or from their alighting board.

May need to find the hornet’s nest and destroy or move.

It may be necessary to move the apiary.




Many spiders may live in bee hives.  They will interfere with the ventilation of the hive and regular inspection and brushing of webs from crevices and removing spiders are all good preventative measures. 

The wolf spider will actively hunt bees and if often the reason why virgin queens are lost for no apparent reason.


Earwigs (Forficula auricularis)

These may damage cappings.

Regular inspection and brushing of webs from crevices and removing earwigs are all good preventative measures. 

Standing the feet of the hive in containers of water or disinfectant prevents earwigs from gaining access.


Other species


Mice and shrews

Especially in the autumn mice and shrews can gain access to the hive and destroy combs and bees.

The presence of pieces of wax comb on the alighting board is a good sign.

Raise the hives onto hive stands.  Remove mice and shrews.



Woodpeckers (Picus viridus)

These Green Woodpeckers can damage hives and its parts and may even eat brood and bees.

If this is a problem build a cage from chicken wire around the hive – sufficiently separated from the hive to prevent the woodpecker’s bill reaching the hive.

Bee catchers and other birds can eat bees and their brood.


Honey Badgers, Badgers, Raccoons etc

These mammals will overturn hives and gain access to the honey.  Place electric fencing around the hive



Sheep, horses, cows and deer

These animals find bee hives excellent rubbing places and can then destroy the hive. Note the bees may become sufficiently annoyed to swarm and kill the offending animal.