Earlier this week I was asked to look over a bee hive that had not been attended to since last fall. For a number a reasons the owner was not able to care for the hive.
Opening it up I found just a few bees and very little honey. There was however a serious infestation of Wax Worms.
Wax Worms are the larval stage of a moth that sneaks into weaken hives to lay its eggs which then hatch into larvae. A strong healthy hive will keep Wax Worm moths from entering a hive.
Something had happened to this previously healthy hive. Upon closer inspection, I was unable to find any bee larvae or eggs indicating that the Queen bee had died. With no Queen around to lay eggs, the remaining bees will simply live out their lives and with no young bees to replace them the hive will eventually be completely empty.
In the natural world, Wax Worms play an important part in the honey bee population. If a wild bee hive succumbs to a disease, the Wax Worms will move in and eat the remaining wax combs and other debris left over from the dead bee colony. This is good because the infected wax is destroyed and will no longer be able to infect other bees that may want to move into that space.
Wax Worms are the only organism that can consume and digest beeswax and thrive on it.
When beekeepers store their extra empty bee hives, they have to be careful to protect them from Wax Worms moths because the worms will destroy those hives too. They not only eat the wax combs but can chew through the wooden parts of a hive as well.
I will probably go back next week and clean up that hive and try to salvage what I can from it.