Learn More About the Bee Moth

A Bee moth, also known as the Wax moth, Honeycomb moth, Waxworm, or Greater wax moth, is a moth that lives in North America and is known for laying eggs in bees’ and hornets’ nests.

Bee moth species summary

Scientific NameAphomia sociella
Family NamePyralidae
KingdomAnimalia
GenusAphomia
HabitatWoodland rides, urban areas, gardens,
RangeNorth America, sometimes Europe and Asia
Host PlantsDogbane, honeysuckle, bumble bee, hornet, and wasp nests
Moth DescriptionBrownish, with folded wings
Caterpillar DescriptionDescription Yellowish, changes to dark brown during the last instar

Moth Physical Description

Bee Moth (Aphomia sociella)
Bee Moth (Aphomia sociella)

On average, an adult Bee moth can have a wingspan of about 0.70 inches long, a bit larger than the Lesser wax moth, meaning this species is small.

Adult Bee moths have gray exteriors with white and black mottling all over their wings. The caudal part of the wings has a subtle hint of bronze shade. You might say it looks like several other brown moth species.

Their wings are folded when they perch on an object or a plant.

Males are typically smaller than their female counterparts. The former’s distinguishing features are the indentations on their forewings — a trait absent in females.

Larva Physical Description

Bee moth caterpillar
Bee moth caterpillar

Newly-hatched Wax moth larvae have yellow or white thorax that will change to dark brown towards the end of the larval phase. Another variation in this species is a white shade that gradually changes to gray as they grow.

The larvae have dark heads, and their trunks are divided into multiple segments. They can reach roughly an inch in length when they mature.

Does temperature affect their lifespan?

The Bee moth eggs typically hatch faster when laid in warm climates. The average time usually lasts from 3 days to a week.

On the other hand, it takes about 2 months for the eggs to hatch when subjected to cooler weather conditions.

The same can be said for the Bee moth larvae. When they hatch in a warm habitat, the larvae take less than a week to grow to their full sizes before transitioning to the next stage.

The opposite happens when they hatch and grow in places with colder climates. In this case, it usually takes them a couple of months to fully transition to the pupal stage.

Usual Habitats

The Bee moth usually lives in the following types of places:

  • Woodland rides
  • Urban areas
  • Gardens
  • Coastal areas

Host Plants and preferred spots

The female Bee moths typically lay their eggs in these host plants:

  • Dogbane
  • Honeysuckle
  • Wild honeybees, including their honey stores and larvae
  • Snowberry

Females also prefer laying eggs in bees’ and hornets’ nests.

What do Bee moths eat?

As soon as the larvae hatch from the eggs, they feed on the leaves of the host plants. Bee moth caterpillars also feed on the following food sources:

  • Pollen
  • Sick honey bees
  • Declining bee colonies
  • Beeswax
  • Cocoon silk of honey bees
  • Feces of honey bees
  • Remains of the honey bee larvae

Like other moth species, adult Bee moths do not feed on any food source. The fat and nutrient stores they develop during the larval stage are enough to get them through their entire lifespans.

Behavior

Female moths prioritize ovipositioning in cracks and crevices of the beehives over host plants. If the female adults decide to lay their eggs on the beehives, larvae will feed on the beehive components.

In such cases, they burrow holes into the comb and spin their webs while consuming the outer surface of the bees’ pupae, resulting in adult bees with deformed wings or legs.

The adult Bee moths are generally nocturnal and fly during the night. This is also when they start the beehive infestations and mating. The adult males use ultrasonic sound pulses to call the attention of potential females with whom they can initiate courtship.

How long can these moths live?

The total life span of Bee moths depends on their gender. Female adults can live up to roughly 2 weeks, while male ones can live a bit longer, up to 3 weeks.

Usual Predators and threats

Like other moth species, the Bee moths have the following insects, viruses, and animals as their natural enemies:

  • Wasps
  • White muscardine fungus
  • Birds
  • Sericesthis iridescent virus
  • Cuban fly
  • Iridovirus
  • Aphid lion
  • Spiders
  • Granuloviruses
  • Green muscardine fungus
  • Small mammals

Distribution

There have been sightings of the Bee moths in the following locations in the US:

  • California
  • Utah
  • New York
  • Virginia
  • Connecticut

This species sometimes visit Europe and Asia.

Does a bee moth sting?

While it shares the name with a stinging insect, this moth doesn’t sting. Its only defense is to pretend to be dead once the predator attacks.

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