Common Name: Greater wax moth
Scientific Name: Galleria mellonella (Linnaeus)
Description: Full grown caterpillars vary in color but are generally dirty white, 1 ½ inches long. Adult moths are grayish to purplish brown, have dark markings and lead-colored tips on the forewings, pale brownish or yellowish hind wings and have a wingspan of about 1 to 1 1/4 inch. Wings are held over the back when at rest.
No other caterpillar pests are known to infest bee hives. Red imported fire ants, Solenopsis invicta Buren (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), occasionally invade bee hives and prey on immature stages of honey bees. Winter is spent mainly in the larval or pupal stages although adult moths can emerge during warm periods. Mated females lay eggs at night. Tiny caterpillars hatching from eggs are initially white and turn yellow, brown to black on the upper side as they develop through seven or eight stages (instars). They pupate in tough silken cocoons in and around the hive in protected places. Up to three generations occur annually.
Habitat and Food Source(s): Caterpillars have chewing mouthparts. Adults have siphoning mouths. Caterpillars tunnel through wax of honeycombs in bee hives during the night and construct silken tunnels and feed on wax, pollen, cocoons. Older, dark honeycombs of weakened colonies are more frequently attacked and seriously damaged. Tunnels through infested honeycombs are littered with fragments, silk webs and excrement (frass). Caterpillars can be dissected from infested bee hives. This insect is cultured for fish bait and scientific studies.
Pest Status: Caterpillars (larvae) are destructive to bee hives because of their tunneling and feeding habits on honeycombs; medically harmless.
Literature: Little 1963. Swan & Papp 1972.