comb honey production honey pests

Freeze combs to prevent wax moth damage

The purpose of freezing wax combs is to kill the eggs and larvae of wax moths. Wax moths can destroy beeswax combs, especially combs in weak colonies and those in storage. A strong colony of bees does a good job of controlling the moths, but a weak colony can become overrun.

Although the moths cannot survive long periods of cold, a healthy hive stays fairly warm all winter long. The moth larvae chew cavities in the frames, spin their cocoons, and spend the winter as pupae kept warm and toasty by the honey bee cluster. In the spring, they emerge as adult moths.

The larvae of wax moths destroy combs while they search for food—mostly cocoons of bee pupae and bits of pollen. For this reason, comb that once contained brood is much more susceptible to attack by wax moths than comb that has contained only honey. On occasion, however, the moths will destroy comb that has never contained brood. Such is the lot of beekeepers.

Freezing overnight will destroy all stages of wax moths. It is not necessary to store combs in the freezer—only to freeze them overnight. But freezing will not prevent the immediate re-infestation of wax moths if the comb is placed where moths can reach it.

Combs that are frozen and immediately returned to the hive will immediately become re-infected, but a strong hive will manage them. Combs frozen and placed in a shed or garage will also become re-infected if adult moths are in the area. Only combs kept away from adult moths will remain moth-free.

You can freeze combs that contain honey

Comb can be frozen even if it contains honey. Honey is low in moisture and will not expand and break the cells. If handled carefully, it can be frozen and thawed with no loss of quality and no change in appearance.

Comb honey producers routinely freeze their honey before packaging it. Even if the probability is small, no comb honey producer wants creepy crawlies writhing over the lovely comb—and certainly no customer wants to buy it. So combs are frozen and thawed before going to market.

But producers of extracted honey can freeze their frames as well, especially if they want to delay extraction until the entire crop is in. As long as the thawed comb is kept away from moths, it can be easily held until extraction time.

One word of caution about freezing: condensation. Condensation will form on combs that are taken from the freezer. If the combs are stored before they dry, mold will appear in a spectacular display of gross. An easy way to prevent mold is to wrap the combs tightly in plastic wrap before you place them in the freezer. After you remove them from the freezer, allow them to come to room temperature before removing the plastic.

Honey Bee Suite


  • Hi Rusty,
    What is your opinion on using shallow supers that show some
    evidence of wax moth? I’m just leery of using
    frames & foundation, since people will be eating the
    I’d appreciate your opinion.
    Thank you,


    • Bruce,

      I’m not clear on what you’re asking. Do you mean there is wax moth damage on the supers and frames, or on the comb, or on the foundation? Are you planning to extract or make comb honey?

      If there is just some damage, and you put the supers on a strong hive, the bees will control the wax moths as long as the hive remains strong. The bees will repair any damage to the comb itself.

      The most critical time is harvest time. You should either freeze your frames immediately after harvest or extract within two days of harvest. If you do one or the other, your honey should be fine–assuming the colony was strong enough to keep the wax moths from seriously damaging the new comb.

      Bruce, if I haven’t answered your question please write back. Your situation isn’t totally clear to me. Thanks.

  • Hi Rusty,
    I found some debri (webbing) on the shallow frames that were in storage from last years honey harvest. Is it okay to re-use those frames? I do not want to contaminate honey that would be used for human consumption.
    I really wasn’t clear with my first post..

    • Bruce,

      If you want to be absolutely sure your frames are not infected, you can freeze them overnight. Or, if they are wooden frames with no comb, you can take a hand-held propane torch and sweep it across all the wooden surfaces to kill any of the moth life stages.

      However, if your hive is infested with wax moths, they will re-infect the frames in no time. The most important thing is to freeze or process your honey as soon as you harvest it.

      The larvae are most unattractive and can ruin the comb, but they are not harmful to humans. Freezing kills the eggs, but the remains of the eggs are still there. People eating these would never know it and it won’t hurt them. It’s just like eating all those insects parts that are in your cereal. Out of sight, out of mind.

  • Here’s an idea: Because I don’t have a freezer big enough to store all the unused pollen/brood frames over the winter, I’ll freeze a batch for 24 hours, then put them in a hive box that’s screened on both ends. I staple the screen on, and take it off when a box is needed. So far, no wax moths.

    • Laura,

      Great idea! It is inexpensive, effective, and solves the storage problem. I think I will try this. Thank you.

  • Thanks Rusty,

    There was no sign of larvae, just some webbing and what looked what looked like moth debris.
    Thanks Again!


  • I extracted honey on Friday and wanted to get the wet frames back in the hives on Saturday for cleanup. It’s Monday . . . should I freeze them overnight. They look like wet frames without any webs but I don’t want to upset my hives with any moths that may be there. I have six hives and still have more frames to extract. Need to get moving before it’s too cold!!! Anyway, these wet frames are sitting in a sunny room inside but you never know when a moth with come in. My hives are happy, healthy & strong and I don’t want to kill them . . .

    • Donna,

      The conventional wisdom is you should drop everything in the freezer within two days. But, in truth, wax moths are not interested in honey frames unless those frames have contained brood. It is the cocoons, excrement, and bee parts they are really after. So if the honey supers have not contained brood, and if your hives do not have obvious waxmoth infestations, chances are pretty good that the wet frames will not become infected, especially if they are indoors and in the sunlight. It is not a guarantee, of course, but it’s a reasonable bet.

  • Question: when freezing jars of chunk honey, do I wrap them like I do frames? Do you need to wrap comb honey that in the box as well? Or, because there is already an outside surface for water to condense upon, I don’t need to wrap the comb boxes or the chunk honey bottles. Thanks!

    • Anna,

      I would freeze comb honey before I cut it up for chunk honey; I wouldn’t freeze it in the bottle. In any case, there is no need to wrap the jars because they don’t absorb moisture. With honey in boxes, I would wrap the honey sections in plastic, freeze, allow to come to room temperature, and then place the combs in boxes. You don’t want condensation on the honeycomb, nor do you want condensation on the boxes.

  • Hi, I can’t find an answer to a question I’ve had for awhile. I bought a home from a 30 year+ master beekeeper who has since passed away. We started looking around and found a freezer under the house that was housing hives and frames. It smells of moth balls and everything is covered with a white mold. We have no idea how long they sat in the freezer. The equipment looks to be in decent shape. What is the process of removing the mold and getting the hives/frames back into action. Or is it a lost cause? Thanks in advance.

    • Aaron,

      I would put them out in the sun and rub all the surfaces with a bleach-soaked rag, and then let them dry out completely. You don’t say if the frames contain combs or not, but one thing you have to do is get the mothball smell completely out of them. If the frames contain wax combs, that will be harder to do.

      • Thanks for the advice @rusty, I haven’t pulled any any of the supers or frames out to check to see if there is any foundation in them. There are probably around 10 total, mixed hive bodies/med supers. They appear to be in decent shape structurally but that is just at a glance. When I remove them, will the mold begin to recede any? Or will I wait a couple of days and then begin to scrape the mold off? I have no problem removing the foundation and/or frames completely as long as the supers are in a usable state. Any suggestions on bleach/water ratio? Thanks again for your help!

        • Aaron,

          If you can put the woodenware in the sun, the mold should dry up into a powder. Then you can wipe it down; I would use about a half cup of bleach to a gallon of water.

  • Thanks for such a helpful site. Question: Can you freeze empty honey supers all through the winter until needed next season? Appreciate your thoughts. Sarah Malone

      • Thanks for your reply. One word of caution though is that frames that have been frozen must be defrosted slowly – with care – as the wax becomes brittle and can easily break otherwise. (At least this is what my local beekeeper friends have told me.)

  • Hi Rusty. So I pulled a few frames of honey last week, and had some “issues”, dropped a frame, ticked off the bees, etc. I ended up sticking two full frames into the freezer, bagged, but not tightly wrapped. The third frame broke up, so I salvaged what seemed clean and manageable, and also froze that.

    Today I am starting to extract honey through what is essentially a slow “crush and drain” method. I am wondering how much I need to worry about condensation. I have cut the honeycomb away from the frames, and THEN wrapped tightly in “Press ‘n Seal” while still cold, then wrapped in a dishcloth in hopes of absorbing condensation as the honey defrosts. It is also a relatively dry day… low humidity. I have no idea if this even matters. haha..

    Do I need to worry about mold developing in my jarred honey if too much moisture is introduced, or primarily just fermentation? I don’t have a refractometer. Should I fear contamination if I “rescued” a bit of honeycomb from the lawn, with only a few blades of grass ad perhaps a bee-leg evident?

    • Hey Peg,

      I’m not sure what you’re saying, but starting from the bottom: If the honey is fully ripened, let’s say less than 18% moisture, contamination is not a problem. Honey is too hygroscopic for things to grow in it.

      But less cured means less hygroscopic means there’s a possibility of fermentation. If I understand correctly, and the comb is inside the Press ‘n Seal, it shouldn’t get condensation on it. Even with low humidity, if the comb is cold enough, it is best to keep it protected. Just keep it in there until it reaches room temperature.

      I think any time the honey has more than 18% moisture, you can start having problems with mold and/or fermentation. So it depends if existing honey moisture + condensation is greater than that amount. I would guess it is not. Maybe you are over-thinking it? I assume it will be fine.

      • Thanks, Rusty. I actually did go ahead and assume it would be fine! The thing that concerned me was the possibility for condensation to form INSIDE the wrap, and also I was collecting honey from a few small, stray chunks direct from cold. But everything had been fully capped (therefore fully ripened) when I harvested…

        Another post you wrote mentioned how brittle the comb can get from freezing… Well, THESE combs have essentially disintegrated. To extract, I am just cutting open the bottom of the thawed Press N Seal packet and pouring (squeezing) everything into sieves over containers. So again, any condensation that had formed inside the wrap would be introduced to the honey. But overall, the moisture did seem to collect outside the wrap, absorbed by the towel wrapped around the packet. I’ll send you a picture of my nutty set-up.

  • I have been out of the country for over a year. My hives did not survive the winter of 2014, and since I was going away I did not start with new bees that Spring. I did remove all the wax and comb because there were moths. I then left them in my outside shed for the year, which included what I understand was a very cold winter. I have checked the frames now and do not see any evidence of moths. I would like to use the frames again next year and wonder whether I can, and what I should do to prepare them.

    • Gowen,

      You can use them next year. If they are free of moths and beetles, just put them in the hive and the bees will clean them in no time.

  • Hi Rusty – First, thank you so much for your informative site! This is our fourth year beekeeping, but only our second year with an actual honey harvest. This year we experimented and did one shallow super of wax foundation that we turned into cut comb honey. I boxed them all up nicely–gorgeous honey–but made the rookie mistake of not freezing it. Imagine my horror now 3 weeks later when I spied two little caterpillars crawling around in my cut comb honey! I’ve since put all 25 boxes in the freezer to kill the little buggers. But what do I do after that? Is the honey salvageable? Do I just cut out the parts containing larvae? Could I miss some, since they tend to burrow to the midrib? What about condensation on the comb once they come out of the freezer? Do I just crush and strain at this point? Would love your advice!

    • Hillary,

      Oh no! I feel so bad for you. But, if it were me, I would see how much is infested. Since wax moths don’t normally like comb that didn’t contain brood, it may be that only some has the moths. Just cut those larvae out with a knife, and you should be fine. Certainly they don’t look very nice, but they won’t hurt you. I would just do a visual inspection, and where I don’t see any larvae I would assume there isn’t any.

      I’m guessing from your question that you didn’t wrap the combs in plastic before you froze them. So after they come out of the freezer, let them stand on a table or kitchen counter (a place with lots of air circulation, but not outside) until they are totally dry. Once they are dry you can wrap them or package them, just don’t wrap them while they are still wet.

  • Hey there, hoping for some advice. I’ve just this morning discovered that one of my two hives succumbed to wax moths shortly after I harvested (maybe I took too much honey?). The damage to the drawn comb is not extensive — I only see moth larvae in a couple frames, in fact, and no webbing. I’d like to save the comb, but I don’t have any freezer space to spare. As an added dilemma, in a few days I’m on my way out of the country for the next three months, so I’ve got to deal with this in a very quick way. Any advice is greatly appreciated!

    • Chris,

      This isn’t advice, just an observation. Wax moths are scavengers. They seldom if ever cause the demise of a healthy colony. Instead, they move in once a colony has already been weakened by another cause. In other words, wax moths don’t come in and weaken a strong colony, instead they come into a weak colony and perhaps finish it off. So my advice would be to try to determine why the colony went weak in the first place.

  • Question: can I freeze a mason jar full of honeycomb with honey? I packed jars last week…I didn’t know honeycomb should be frozen to prevent things growing.

    • Susan,

      You can freeze the jars with honey although I don’t know how much head space you need. Honey is only about 18% water, but it might expand a little. But if your comb is surrounded by liquid honey, you don’t have to worry. Any eggs won’t hatch if they are without oxygen, plus the water in the eggs will be drawn out by the hygroscopic honey.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I’ve just had all the neighborhood bugs over to help clean out 32 frames that were partially filled with uncapped honey. I enjoyed seeing all manner of insects enjoying the open feed together, with no apparent aggression. They did a stellar job, only leaving a bit of pollen on some of the frames. I waited till dark and tapped the frames on the deck railing to get rid of any stragglers. I did notice just a small amount of wax moth webbing on three of the frames. I have a very small freezer. Could I just put all the frames in a big Tupperware bin with a lid, and leave it in the shed for the winter? I’m in Michigan and it will start to dip below freezing very shortly here. Do you think that will be sufficient to prevent any damage?


    • Andrea,

      In warm weather, wax moth eggs hatch in 3 to 5 days and these new larvae do all the damage. In colder weather, they take longer to hatch. It sounds like you don’t have much webbing, so you might be okay. Normally, your idea would work perfectly, but if it doesn’t freeze fairly soon, you run the risk of some eggs hatching. It’s a judgement call. It only takes a few hours of freezing to finish them off, so if the frames freeze at night, that would do it.

  • Thanks, Rusty. I can only fit 2 or 3 frames in my freezer, so maybe I will rotate them all through there for four hours minimum each before sealing them in the bin. It is a small inconvenience, compared to what might happen if we stay above freezing for a while.

    • Andrea,

      That’s how I do it. I usually leave them in overnight. The length of time necessary depends on how cold your freezer is, but you need all the eggs (if any) to freeze solid.

  • Thanks again, Rusty! I will leave them in overnight. Don’t want to take any chances. Love your blog. It has been an invaluable resource to me during my first two seasons as a beek.

  • Tried to do a split with 2 frames of comb, 2 frames of brood, bees, drone and 3 closed queen cells and 1 frame of honey. Checked 1 week later, and very few bees or sign of queen cells or queen. Queen cells just gone. A lot of baby bees half emerged but dead, honey all gone. what do I do with the frames with dead brood? They are in the freezer now. Thanks, Linda

    • Linda,

      As long as there is no sign of brood disease, you can give the frames to a colony and they will clean them out.

  • Hello. I had a spare bee hive I wanted to use. It was in a storage for about two months sealed and closed. Today when I opened it, it is full of moths and some black residue? Looks pretty scary. How can I get rid of it? I was thinking to scrape it and freeze the frames. But I don’t know. I bought it used and framed had some wax on it. Thank you for such a great resource for newbies like me.

    • Adnan,

      At least there are some good lessons here. Storing bee equipment “sealed and closed” is always the worst thing you can do because (as you found out) it encourages wax moths and mold. When you store bee equipment it should get lots of ventilation to discourage mold and lots of light to discourage wax moths.

      I think I would make a solution of bleach and water, wipe down all the woodenware and then let it dry in the sun. Once dry, just go ahead and use it. It will still be stained, but that won’t hurt anything.

  • Hi Rusty, Our wax moth infestation happened over the winter months last year. We froze the frames after removing supers from the hives in the fall, but they must have become re-infested with wax moths in the garage. After freezing a super at a time, we basically placed the super on a sheet of plywood and topped with a telescoping outer cover. As each super with frames came out of the freezer, we added it on top of the other supers that had been frozen and topped the uppermost box with the telescoping outer cover in the garage. At some point, the frames must have become infested with moths again. In the spring, we discovered the horrible mess that the wax moths left behind after a winter of freezing. Once a super worth of frames has been frozen, what is your advice for storing them until spring? How do we prevent reinfestation once the frames are removed from the freezer?

    • Sue,

      You need to wrap each frame tightly in plastic wrap before freezing. After freezing, you need to leave the wrapping on, otherwise re-infestation will occur. Garages are excellent places to raise moths, and covering the boxes with the telescoping cover is just the encouragement they needed. The best way to arrange boxes is to stack them criss-cross so light gets in each an every box. Nothing will deter wax moths as much as light. They will simply not lay eggs if light is present.

  • So I read this entire thread but it doesn’t say exactly how to do a few things.

    1. How to store out of reach of moths? I would say once the 24 hr freezing is done store in your basement? or outside shed? Not garage since it’s opened too much? Where is out of reach of moths?

    2. Wrapping in plastic. Like a plastic grocery bag? trash bag, cellophane? Wrapped tight? Loose? After freezing leave plastic on? Off? Are any of these plastic wraps ok?

    3. How do you store something inside and still be in sunlight? Do you mean not in dark place? No windows? Most books say after freezing, store them in a sealed trash bag. If so, isn’t that in the dark? Maybe I’m reading into this too deep. Thanks for the help. Much appreciated.

    • Greg,

      There is no exact way because everyone’s situation is different.

      1. Sheds, basements, garages, and barns are fine if they don’t have moths. I don’t know if your buildings have moths, you will have to determine that for yourself.

      2. I use cellophane, but any plastic would work. You want it tight to eliminate air that may hold moisture. By wrapping, you are trying to minimize moisture condensation on the honey comb. You need to leave the plastic on until the combs come to room temperature to avoid condensation.

      3. If the honey is protected from moths, you don’t have to keep it in sunlight. In fact, you shouldn’t. You want to keep your boxes in sunlight if they are in a place where wax moths can get to them.

      4. If you keep the frames in a cold and damp place. they may mold if sealed in plastic. If you are going to keep them wrapped after thawing, make sure the place isn’t cold and damp. I think combs store best if allowed to breathe. Many beekeepers will tell you they ruined all their combs by storing them in plastic containers that don’t ventilate. You may have to experiment to find the right environment.

  • Ok i see the answer to #2. Wrapped tight and leave on after freezing. But Can tightly wrapped be several frames in a sealed trash bag?

  • So, I have 5 frames in a trash bag in the freezer. What’s the best way to store them when they come out of the freezer? Leave them in the bag or remove them? Then what is best way to keep them. I won’t be using them for a month or so.

    • Bill,

      You don’t have to leave them in the freezer. Once any moths or eggs freeze, they are dead. Just store the frames where they won’t get reinfested with moths.

    • Jesse,

      Well, if you see wax moths, I suppose you can freeze them any time. But wax moths will appear on any brood frame, not just drone frames.

  • No wax moths, but bees are evicting drones from hives. There must be 50 drones on the ground that they have kicked out. Just wondering if I should pull drone frames and freeze them and put them back for the bees to clean up.

    Jesse S.

  • I love your site!! I have a question about freezing frames…. Can I wrap and freeze frames and thaw and replace frames into a hive if they are needed to support weak hives later in the season?

  • Rusty

    I’m still confused. Have just frozen 8 frames wrapped in plastic zip lock bags. I intend to keep them there for a week. When I remove them from the freezer, do I let them thaw in the plastic or unwrapped? Wouldn’t the condensation be a problem if they’re not able to air? I have an airtight container for storage over the winter – frames wrapped or unwrapped?
    Btw, I live in Sydney Australia, so we’re just going into winter now.

    Many thanks.

    • Marina,

      You should leave them tightly wrapped until they come to room temperature. That way, nearly all the condensation will form on the outside of the plastic and the honey will stay dry. After the combs reach room temperature, you can unwrap them to get rid of any extraneous condensation on the inside.

  • Dear Rusty,

    I’m from Sri Lanka (past Ceylon), an Asian country.

    I’ve been beekeeping for two years. I had a wax moth problem when storing honeycomb in a well-sealed plastic container. These days I’m in a hurry to find a solution to this problem. I have found a solution to this by putting honeycomb in a freezer from your articles. My problem is that I don’t have a freezer in my house. Can I store honeycomb in the refrigerator to destroy wax moth eggs and larvae? How long should I keep it in the refrigerator? Temperatures may be around 20’C.

    • Bhathiya,

      You only need to leave the combs in the freezer until they are frozen solid. The time that takes will depend on individual freezers, but overnight is often long enough. Sometimes it requires a couple of days. The freezing kills any eggs, larvae, or adults that are present on the combs. However, the combs can easily be re-infected if adult wax moths can get to them, so store the thawed frames in such a way that new adult moths are kept away. With good storage, you will have no further problems.

  • Hi Rusty,

    I’ve had a colony abscond due to wax moth infestation – the colony was weak, but that’s another puzzle I am trying to figure out. What’s odd is that when it absconded, the colony left capped honey in the brood and honey supers. Can I reuse the frames with a new colony? Would you recommend reusing the frames, comb, and honey with a new colony after freezing them?

    • Todd,

      The only way I would believe your colony absconded is if you saw them go. Did you? Weak colonies in the fall are not going to abscond and leave their food behind. The wax moths, being opportunists, discovered a weak colony and moved in. They didn’t weaken a strong colony because a strong colony would toss them out.

      When a colony appears to have absconded but leaves honey and capped brood behind, it generally means the colony died of varroa mites and the viruses they carry. See Absconding bees or death by Varroa?

      Yes, you can freeze the frames to kill the moths and then reuse them with a new colony.

  • Hi Rusty,
    Thank you for your thoughts and expertise. I really appreciate your help and think your website does a great service to the community. Best wishes.

  • Hi Rusty.

    I am in south-central Idaho. Quick back story, I have two hives in my backyard. Hive #1 has been aggressive and strong since day 1. Hive #2 started strong this spring and I did a split. That was their downfall and they never regained their strength. It became a weak colony over the summer though not through lack of effort of me trying to revive them. I requeened twice, put in frames from the strong hive, etc. It did unfortunately die. When I cleaned the frames of this dead hive last week there were a few wax moths that had moved into this dead hive. I did see moths, just caterpillars and their web. Sad, but it was dead so I could freeze the frames.

    I just did my third mite treatment on hive #1 today. When I went to put the inner cover and lid back on I saw several wax moth caterpillars crawling on them. I killed about 6 of them. How can I help this hive? I have not found information on how to help a living colony combat these annoying creatures. Thank you for your help.

    • Teressa,

      The best, and perhaps only, thing you can do is maintain a strong hive. Wax moths don’t kill colonies, they simply take advantage of weak ones. In a strong colony, the bees will kill the larvae and eggs. It’s next to impossible to use any chemical treatments since they are both insects.

      If you are only seeing a few, the bees may be keeping up with them. Don’t leave empty space in the hive because that gives the moths a chance to escape. The boxes should be filled with either honey, pollen, or brood.

  • Rusty, I read this post after I put some full bars of comb honey in a chest freezer without wrapping them first. You mention that they must be fully dry before storing to prevent mold. Does this mean they must be fully dry after thawing before giving back to the bees? Before crushing and straining? Before cutting the comb for sale? Any tips on adequately “drying” the comb? Thank you for your help with this!

    • Rhonda,

      After you remove the frames from the freezer, allow them to thaw at room temperature until no more condensation forms on the surface. At that point, you can store them any way you like. You can most likely give them back to the bees while they’re still frozen, although doing so would cool down the inside of the hive quite a bit.

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