honey bee myths predators

Freeze your frames to kill wax moths

Freezing kills all life stages of wax moths, but you need to monitor time and temperature.

Contrary to popular hearsay, freezing your frames will kill all life stages of both the greater wax moth (Galleria mellonella) and the lesser wax moth (Achroia grisella).

To kill the moths, you must monitor both time and temperature. For example, the Mid-Altantic Apiculture Research and Extension Consortium (MAAREC) publishes the following guidelines to kill both species of wax moth:

20 degrees F for 4.5 hours or

5 degrees F for 2 hours.

Similarly, the Department of Primary Industries in Victoria, Australia advises

-6.7 degrees C for 4.5 hours or

-12.2 degrees C [10 degrees F] for 3 hours or

-15 degrees C for 2 hours

These numbers convert exactly. Nevertheless, beekeepers come up with all kinds of wild stories about freezing them for weeks on end, only to have the caterpillars start crawling around when the frames thaw. Don’t believe it.

Here are some points to consider if you freeze your frames for wax moth control:

  • Check your freezer temperature with a reliable thermometer—don’t depend on the dial.
  • Measure times from the point when the frames, combs, wax, or super reaches the desired temperature. Don’t start timing from the moment you put them in the freezer.
  • Remember: if you return thawed frames to a super that was not frozen, re-infection can occur immediately.
  • The same is true if you return frames to an area that contains adult wax moths, such as a storage building or honey house.
  • If you wrap frames tightly in plastic wrap before freezing—and leave them wrapped afterward—you can protect them from re-infestation. Wrapping also keeps condensation from forming on the combs and frames while they return to ambient temperature.
  • Here is a post with special tips on handling wax moths in comb honey.

Freezing times don’t have to be exact as long as you meet the minimums. For example, my freezer is 9 degrees F. I just wrap my frames in plastic and freeze overnight . . . or over 30 nights. There’s no need to create an ordeal.

One reason the myth persists is that some beekeepers have reported that wax moths survived the winter in their hives in spite of the fact it was less than 20 degrees for weeks on end. This is most likely true because it is not 20 degrees inside a healthy beehive.

Remember: The cluster of bees keeps the wax moths warm and cozy all winter long. But as long as the colony remains healthy and strong, it will destroy most of the moths as the bee population expands in spring.

So just remember, wax moths are not an inexorable pest destined to take over the world—they are both predictable and manageable. When the day comes that they can drop me in the freezer, then I’ll start to worry.

Honey Bee Suite


  • Freezing also kills the small hive beetle (larvae and eggs). Actually in regards to both the small hive beetle and wax moth it is really the egg stage that you need to worry about the most.

  • First time on this site. Does anyone have any good info on fighting the hive beetle? I lost my Russian hive this past summer, so bought a bottom board with large holes and oil pan for my Carniolan hive. So far my Carniolans are ok. Live in Missouri. Thanks.

    • You can store drawn foundation in a place with lots of light and good ventilation. This will keep infestations down if the combs are not already badly infested. Or you can freeze the combs for 24 hours and then store them in a moth-free place. Keeping comb in light for just 24 hours won’t do much for moth control.

  • I don’t know what to believe! We had wax moths in a bunch of stored equipment and comb. Looked on line to see what would kill these little critters. Wrapped everything in plastic garbage bags, and arranged to take the whole works down to a commercial freezer which registered 18 degrees. Left the equipment for 22 hours. You would think that should be plenty of time for everything to get good and cold. Took it back home, and checked the bags ….. wax worm alive and well !!!! Now I just have it all piled outside in the garden and waiting for some extended cold weather before I do anything else with it.
    Will the worms, eggs etc be dead by the time spring arrives? Really? We get sub zero weather at times and I am hoping, but don’t know “weather” it will take hours, days, or weeks of cold.

    • Lin,

      With everything wrapped together in a plastic bag, it will obviously take more than 24 hours to get everything solidly frozen.

  • After several rainy weekends that prevented us from checking our hives, we went into them this weekend and discovered they were basically gone. There were a hundred or so bees, several open queen cells, and evidence of wax moth, though far from an infestation. There were a few hive beetles and lots of stored nectar and some honey. We shook what was left of the bees down into one box and continued feeding them a 2:1 syrup. We’ve pulled the frames with evidence of webbing and will freeze it. I’m not hopeful for the few bees left, but didn’t really know what else to do with them. There was so little brood left and what was there contained half emerged, dead bees. I guess once the rest of the bees die off, we’ll freeze the rest of the frames. Can we reuse them in the spring – will the bees clean them up or do we need to re-wax them? Is there anything we should do with the hive boxes? Should we be worried about the hive next to it? There was no evidence of moths in there. Also, if we freeze the frames with honey and nectar in them, will it be ok to feed back to the bees? Lots of question, I know. We’re very sad to have lost our first hive. Thanks for any further guidance you can offer.

    • Maria,

      There’s an old saying that beekeeping doesn’t take much time, but the necessary steps must be done on time. By going in several weeks ago you may have saved a lot more bees. Rain and cold would not have killed nearly as many as waiting.

      But about your questions…Once you wrap and freeze the frames, you can store them at room temperature until spring and then place them back in the hive. The bees will clean them up. You don’t need to do anything with the boxes. If you have frames in there that once contained brood, you want to protect those from wax moths. If you live where it freezes, you can just store the frames (and boxes) in a cold place that freezes, like a shed. You don’t need to worry about the adjacent hive as a healthy hive can take care of the moths and usually the beetles as well. Previously frozen honey and nectar is fine for bees. You can just give the frames back to them.

    • I have had the same. It appears to be hornets.

      I have reduced the entrance to a small opening and am custom making some experimental entrances.

  • I feel a bit silly asking, but how do you give the frames back in winter? Will frozen frames chill the cluster when you put it in the hive? And, should there be a position you put the frame in?

  • Do you remove and discard everything on the frame before freezing, or freeze the frame comb and all, then put back in the with new bees (I lost my bees)?

  • Hi Rusty – I’ve come home from a week of camping to find a hive I’d been nurturing back from the brink now challenged by wax moths. The infestation is new but I can see that it is established enough to be on several frames in the upper of two supers and a few in the lower super. This particular colony lost its queen in midsummer and after two tries at requeening it was the second queen that took and appears to be doing well — active and with a nice brood pattern. However the length of time the hive was without a laying queen left the hive population diminished to the point that predators are a real threat. (By the time I introduced the second queen and she began laying, previous brood had all completely hatched with no eggs or larvae to follow.)

    The strategy I’m running with is to remove the visibly infested frames not containing brood, freeze and return them to a clean hive box to which I can move the colony. An immediate obstacle I see is that some wax moth evidence exists on several of the frames of brood that the colony and new queen have set up. I am thinking I might scrape these frames in the areas where I see wax moth evidence but I’m concerned there may be eggs and other beginning moth stage activity I can’t see or easily remove from these frames. Do you have any suggestions regarding this problem or the strategy I’ve come up with? Thank you.


    • Bill,

      A strong colony will control the wax moths. As you saw first hand, the moths moved in while the colony was weak. As it gains strength due to the new queen, the workers will clear out the moths. Freezing those frames you mentioned is fine, but I think the situation will clean itself up.

  • I wonder if bees got sick or died off wouldn’t you think that maybe that honey might have some bad crap in it and when the new bees use that honey they catch whatever the last bees had?

    • Christopher,

      The only common bee diseases that may be transmitted through honey by resistant spores are EFB and AFB. I wouldn’t use that to feed new bees, but it is perfectly fine for human consumption.

  • I know this post is old but I’m new to keeping. I saw Michael Palmer’s video regarding wax moths. I was wondering about your thoughts on it? Unfortunately I didn’t see any more details than this short video.

  • I lost a hive to wax moths. I harvested a super about a week prior to discovering the wax moths. The frames look fine but I decided to wrap them and freeze for a few days until the missing part for my new extractor arrives and then I will thaw. My question is this, since the moth infestation I want to know if it will be safe to put my new hive in the same location? When it all happened and I took the hive apart I could see larvae crawling all over the blocks the hive sits on. I’m in Kansas so it is definitely going to freeze here over the winter. Will that make the location safe or should I move it?

    Thanks so much!
    Lisa Elliott

    • Lisa,

      Wax moths can fly and they are attracted to the odor of bee hives, so moving the hive from place to place won’t do much good. A quick freeze will wipe them out, however, since there are no bees left in your hive to keep them warm.

      In the spring, you can just start again. Keep your colony as strong as possible. A healthy large colony can easily control wax moths.

  • Some portions of some of my frames of capped honey appear to be untouched by wax moth infestation. Is it safe to eat?

    Also, what will become of the bees that are in the infested hive that I will dismantle. I plan to take all the frames out, freeze them and start over in the spring. Thanks.

    Pat in upstate NY.

    • Pat,

      I assume you mean is the honey safe to eat. But yes, in either case. You can eat the honey or the wax moth infestation or both. It’s funny, I’ve been reading a lot about entomophagy, and many societies are quite taken by eating bugs and some people think that insects will play a larger part in the human diet as the population continues to increase. Of waxworms, https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/53j4vn/how-to-cook-bugs-waxwormsx says, “When you freeze them and bake them on a cookie sheet, for instance, they have an almost pistachio flavor.”

      If you’re not thinking of cooking the waxworms, you can always put your honey through a strainer. The antimicrobial properties of honey will keep any bacteria from growing.

      Oh yes, the bees will likely try to move in with another colony, if they can find one. Otherwise, they will die.

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