Beekeepers are some of the only individuals that have a keen interest in the greater wax moth. This is due to the fact that many beekeepers lose productive honeycombs to wax worms each year.
Wax worms are the larvae stage of the greater wax moth. Their primary food sources are pollen, bee larvae casing, and bees’ wax. These are the key components of the honeycombs that house honey as well as the honeybees.
Most infestations are with abandoned honeycombs or those that have weak colonies residing there. The female greater wax moth lays eggs within crevices of the honeycomb and the greater wax worm hatches. It begins to burrow and dig throughout the honeycomb leaving a silken path in its wake. These holes and burrows weaken the structure of the honeycomb and cause leakage of the honey itself.
Wax worms are known as pests for this reason. To the common gecko owner, they are known as reptile food.
Materials Required - Breeding Waxworms
· Bran/granular dog food/baby cereal
· 5-gallon tank/sweater box/1-gallon jar (glass)
· Escape proof top/fine mesh screening
· Wax paper
· Rubber bands
Breeding Container Preparation - Breeding Waxworms
The setup that we will use for breeding wax worms will be simple in design and requires absolute minimal maintenance. These breeding environments are designed to self contain the wax worms from egg to adult. The only maintenance that is necessary is when there is a build up of mold and a new container is required or the old container has been disinfected.
We need to begin by creating a substrate that will line the bottom of the container that you have chosen. We are going to create an artificial honeycomb for this purpose.
Take whichever food source you have decided to use and place it in a bowl or mixer. Slowly pour in some honey, mixing them together as you go. You want to create a thick paste that is not overly moist by the honey. The consistency will be determined by the amount of honey that you have used. Try to create a soft, thick paste.
Once you are comfortable with your mixture, place it on some wax paper. Make sure that you have made enough to cover the entire bottom of the container. It should be at least one inch thick. Leave the mixture on the wax paper and allow it to harden while you prepare the rest of the container.
The next step will prove to be the most important. We are now going to create the cover to our container. Our container needs to be well ventilated so that no condensation can form. It also needs to be tight enough so that NO wax worms or wax moths can escape. Moths that escape will attempt to breed within your home. This could lead to an infestation. (Escapees would eventually die off due to lack of food.)
The best ways to contain these insects are by using aluminum window mesh screening. If you have decided to use a tank, it probably has a cover that goes over it. You must cover all the openings with the mesh screening. Use the tape to secure the screening. Make sure that there are NO escape hatches. Wax worms can climb glass so you must make sure that they cannot escape.
If you don’t have a cover for your container, then just do the following.
Place the screening over the top of the container. Pull it tight and place a rubber band around the opening. Your screening should now be covering the opening and should be secured by the rubber band. Cut off any extra screening that is there leaving two inches of extra screening around the opening.
This type of cover is the most secure method for preventing escapes while still allowing for proper ventilation.
If the substrate has hardened adequately, you now need to remove it from the wax paper and break it into small pieces so that it covers the bottom of the container. (It will still be somewhat sticky.)
Take some more wax paper and crinkle it into balls. Drop the balls on top of the substrate. This is where the moths will lay their eggs.
Now take 25 wax worms and drop them in. Be sure to place the cover on the container.
Place the container in a warm, dry part of your home and place a towel over the container so that the container is dark.
General Maintenance - Breeding Waxworms
The only true maintenance that is required with these simple creatures is a general cleanup of the insects. It is inevitable that some of these insects will die before they reach adulthood. They are noticeably black in color. They should be removed as soon as they are noticed.
Periodically you will need to do an overhaul on the container. Remove all the insects in the container and place them in a temporary container. Empty the contents of the container into the trash. You will need to prepare a fresh batch of artificial honeycomb.
With a solution of 1 part bleach and 2 parts water, soak the container. While the container is soaking, wipe out any debris and continue to soak for 10 minutes.
Rinse the container thoroughly. You don’t want any left over bleach to contaminate and destroy your insect cultivation. Now wipe the container dry and replace the “honeycomb”.
Toss the insects back in and your officially back in business.
Feeding - Breeding Waxworms
One of the best characteristics of this type of insect cultivation is that there is no feeding involved. The containers substrate is an excellent food source. This allows the container to be self sufficient without any external interference or daily requirements.
Time Frames - Breeding Waxworms
The time frames for these insects are never accurate. Temperature, environment, etc. are all factors that help to determine how long these insects will live, grow, and reproduce.
The adult greater wax moth will live for roughly one week. They can live much longer if the temperatures, environment, etc. are suitable. Them living longer is not a concern for the breeders of these insects. In the short week that they are alive, the female can lay as many as 1000 eggs.
The eggs will incubate for a short period of time. The temperature within the container also determines egg incubation. Within the first week that the eggs have hatched, they begin to eat and tunnel their way through the substrate that you have provided. At optimal growth rates, these insects will be large enough to feed within as little as 15 days.
Since the temperatures that these insects are kept in plays such a crucial role in their development and growth, the life span for your colony cannot be determined.
The optimal temperature for your colony would be 80-90 degrees.
Additional Notes - Breeding Waxworms
You can prolong the lives of extra wax worms by placing them in a cooler area of your home. Refrigeration is not recommended because the temperatures are too low and will ultimately kill the wax worms or severely decrease their life span.
Keeping your extra insects at a constant 60 degrees can add a significant amount of time to their lives.
When removing insects to be fed to your gecko, be extra cautious that no wax moths escape. It would be a good idea if the removal of the insects were contained to a small room such as a bathroom. If any moths were to escape, they would be contained and easily captured.