Freezing comb honey cuts wax moth damage

You can kill wax moth larvae, as well as adults and eggs, by freezing honeycombs.

You do not need to freeze comb honey before eating it, but freezing prevents wax moths from hatching

Contrary to rumor, comb honey does not need to be frozen before it’s eaten. If you like, you can eat it warm and gooey right out of the hive.

However, comb honey is often frozen to protect it from wax moths. Wax moths—also known as bee moths, wax millers, or webworms—live and reproduce on honeycombs and can destroy them very quickly. Since freezing kills all life stages of wax moths, it assures that your comb honey will not become infested during storage.

A healthy and populous hive of bees easily controls wax moths. But hives that become weak—or combs in storage—are easy targets for wax moths. The adult moth lays her eggs on the surface of the comb or in the cracks between hive boxes. After the larvae hatch, they dig through the comb, looking for bits of pollen or the empty cocoons of bees. Because the larvae eat the pollen and cocoons—not the wax—they are seldom found in clean, new comb or fresh foundation.

To get to the food, however, the larvae tunnel through the comb and line the tunnels with silken webbing called “galleries.” As they move through the comb they open capped cells of honey and brood, tearing apart the entire structure. Depending on the temperature and environmental conditions, a heavy infestation can ruin a brood box in a week.

Tips for protecting your comb honey

You can minimize the problem of wax moths in several ways.

  • Keep hives strong. Combine weak hives. Populous colonies are the best defense against wax moths.

  • Don’t allow odd pieces of wax comb to remain in the vicinity of your hives as these may attract moths. Collect wax scrapings and burr comb and remove them from your apiary.

  • Store empty combs in a cool, well-ventilated area such as outside or in an unheated building. (They must be protected from mice, however.)

  • All hive openings—other than entrances—should be covered with screening to prevent the adult female moth from flying into the hive.

  • Keep boxes in good repair. The adult moth may lay eggs in the space between the boxes if she senses the presence of comb. Solid contact between the boxes makes it harder for the larvae to squirm their way in.

Although some beekeepers place a chemical called paradichlorobenzene in stored boxes, this is carcinogenic and cannot be used for honey meant for human consumption. Worse, it does not kill the eggs, so when the chemical is removed the remaining eggs may still hatch. It is far better to use good management practices and skip the pesticides when at all possible.

Honey Bee Suite


  • I had wax moths get in my honey super. I mistakenly pulled it too early and had it stored in my garage for two weeks. I’m a newbie and have learned my lesson. Is it correct that I can freeze the frames for 24 hours and then put them back on the hive for the bees to clean? The infestation of wax moths is not bad at all but were definitely present. After the bees have repaired the frames (10-14days??) am I still able to harvest the honey?

    • If you put the frozen honeycomb back in the hive it will become re-infested with wax moths. The larvae are probably in the brood boxes eating the castings inside the wax comb wherever they can find it. So when you put the honey supers back on, the moth larvae will just crawl onto it.

      The other issue is that at this time of year–going into winter–I don’t know how much repair you can expect from your bees. If we have a warm fall, they may be able to repair the damaged comb, but if it quickly gets cold they will stay in their cluster.

      In a normal hive with healthy bees you wouldn’t normally see any damage to the combs because the bees quickly control the moths. But as you have seen, when you remove comb from the hive, the moths can hatch and begin eating comb.

      You didn’t say whether you were trying to make comb honey or extracted honey, but if you are extracting, you can just go ahead and extract. The wax moths are interested in the castings from brood–not the honey–so there should be no problem.

      If you are trying to make comb honey, I think maybe you should just clean up the combs yourself. If you already put them back in the hive, make sure you re-freeze them when you take them out again, clean up the combs the best you can (since you said the damage wasn’t very bad), and enjoy your honey.

      In the future, just try to freeze the combs as soon as possible after they come from the hive. I try to freeze within a day or two and then you just don’t have to worry about them anymore.

      If we have a really cold winter, the wax moths will be killed. But if some are in the brood chamber and kept warm by the winter cluster of bees, they will make it through the winter. But, even so, the bees will keep them at a reasonable level and everything will be fine as long as you freeze your frames before storing them.

      I don’t know if I answered your question, but let me know if you need more. It is really an interesting question. . . and a problem you will probably never have again.

      Thanks for writing.

  • Hello, thanks for the very informative article.
    If I freeze frames but not the super, can I then put the frames back inside the super and then inside a sealed garbage bag to be stored in a closet or perhaps in a garage? I am in the Florida panhandle so I am thinking that the garage may be too hot? Thanks!

    • If wax moths have laid eggs in the wood of the super you could re-infest the frames of honey by putting them back in the super. If you wrap the frames in plastic before you freeze them and then leave the plastic wrap in place, you can put the frames in the super and they will be protected from re-infestation (assuming they are wrapped tightly). I have done this many times and it works for me.

      The garage may be kind of hot, but will it damage the honey? Probably not. Many times we beekeepers have to do things that are not ideal but are pretty good . . . and “pretty good” usually works. At this very moment I have nine full supers stacked in my bedroom. Not ideal by any means, but sometimes you do what you have to do.

  • I have a wax moth problem in one hive. I am in the process of freezing frames that had a mix of capped and uncapped honey, what should I do about storing them after they come out of the freezer? (There are 2 mediums and 1 deep) I’m concerned that the uncapped honey is going to go bad, and some of the frames have dead wax moth larva. I have two other hives in a different location but I hesitate to put the frozen frames on them in case they can’t defend the extra volume or if there are eggs in the wood.

    If I extract what do I do with the wet frames? I’m also guessing that given the condition of the frames, anything I extract has to be discarded. Is leaving the wet frames outside in the open for the wasps and other local bees to clean up a viable option?

    Thanks so much!

    • Rachel,

      1. I would have shaken the frames before freezing them to remove most of the uncapped honey. Then I would wrap them in plastic, freeze, and then store them still wrapped in plastic.

      2. Don’t worry about dead wax moth larva. If you give the honey to bees, they will clean them up. If you extract it, you will strain them out. Remember, honey is highly antibacterial, so nothing will survive in the honey itself.

      3. Any eggs in the wood are also killed by freezing. You can give the frozen frames to your other hives if and when they need them. You don’t have to leave them on all winter but you do have to protect them from reinfection (by leaving the plastic on until you use them).

      4. If you extract, let the bees clean up the frames and then remove them when they are clean. Put them in a super above your hive bodies. I don’t recommend open feeding. Then filter your honey in the normal way.

    • Rachel,

      No I’ve never tried it. It’s not registered for wax moths in the US and, as far as I know, we can’t even buy it here.

  • Hi Rusty! Your blog and advice have been instrumental to my beekeeping journey. Thanks!

    I had a hive go queenless and the numbers dwindled, so I added a couple frames of eggs/brood from a stronger hive. When I checked on their progress 2 weeks later, I found wax moths in the second brood box/capped honey comb. I have the entire box and frames in the deep freeze now. Would it be okay to just place it back on a new hive (I’m about to step up a nuc into a 10 frame deep)?

    • Michelle,

      Although freezing will kill everything, the box can easily be re-infected when new moths lay eggs. The best way to keep them at bay, is to have really strong hives. So the answer is yes, you can just put it back on a new hive, but to prevent re-infection, wait for the populations to build up. Eight of the lower ten frames should be covered with bees before you add it back.

  • Hi Rusty!

    If had a hive infected by wax worms, and I’m freezing the frames, but I don’t have room in my freezer for the supers. I don’t plan on using the supers again until next spring. Will any eggs hatch out, or do they remain dormant? Is there anything I can do to the supers to kill any eggs? How should I store the supers to keep them safe?

    Thanks for such an informative site!

    • Michelle,

      One thing you can do is take a propane torch and lightly singe the inside of the super with the flame. Don’t burn it, just pass the flame quickly over the bare wood. Wax moths don’t do well in light, so stack your boxes in a crisscross pattern so light can get into each one of them.

  • Hi Rusty,

    We pulled 5 capped honey frames to extract. Couldn’t get to extracting for a couple weeks so covered them inside a super and put on a screened porch. (It’s June here in Ohio, very hot and humid.) I just opened the super and the frames/combs of honey had wax moths on them with a little bit of webbing. Not bad but I pulled a few large cocooned larvae off (very alive) and quickly put the entire super with the frames in the freezer. My question is can we still harvest the honey 1) after freezing and 2) after wax moths were on the frames? Also, is it best to pull & toss the drawn comb from those frames, clean frames and super with clorox, and replace the frames with wax foundation? Really hate losing 5 frames of drawn comb but not worth infecting hives with wax moths. Thanks for any advice.

    • Lorie,

      A few wax moths on the frames certainly won’t hurt the honey. Freezing kills all stages of wax moth growth, so once you freeze everything you are good to go. No further steps are necessary. Don’t waste that drawn comb.

  • Thanks. And thawing the honey frames and extracting after they’ve been frozen is fine? Again, when I saw the moths on the comb, I immediately put all honey frames and super in the freezer (where they still are) since I won’t have time to extract for awhile.

    • Lorie,

      Yes, extracting honey after freezing it is fine. You won’t notice any difference except the moths will be dead.

  • Like others I am new and learning. Harvesting honey from several hives and two or three frames had brown spots that you could see through the honey. On one side a rather large brown spot that I picked at with a scraper and found small white or very light larvae moving. Is the honey from those frames good if run through a number 2 filter or is it all bad? Are those wax moths or small hive beetles.

  • I wrote a few minutes ago about brown spots and a larger brown spot with some live larvae. I should have mentioned they were pulled from hive about two weeks earlier and kept in plastic container in garage. I would say that on each side there were maybe a dozen or so of the brown spots but the honey seemed good. Is it?

  • If you use moth crystals does that mean you cannot put the honey supers back on the hive or eat the honey the following season?

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