Beekeeping: oops–keeper oversight!

We  had a few days of delightful (read low humidity) weather here. I’m a fresh air freak. If at all possible (even with spring pollen), I’ll have doors and windows open while I work in my office, or even while sleeping (well only the door to the second floor back porch open). Last night I went to sleep while reading–not unusual but that meant that my reading lamp didn’t get turned off. Usually, no big thing but this turned into a really BIG, HUGE thing.

I was awakened a few hour later by an infestation of moths bumbling into me, and by Frankie (the cat) tearing around the room and tromping all over me and over furniture.  I don’t mean one or two moths had managed to sneak in from the screened back porch as expected in North Carolina in the summer. This was a major invasion, and being attracted to the reading lamp, the were bumping into me. Frankie

This was a major invasion–I quit counting when I got to 13 of them. Besides, it’s difficult to count moths that are practically zooming around the room. Frankie was obviously having a lot of fun. For me, I was not in the least amused.

brown moth

Lesser wax moth from BAMOA

These were not the really neat ones that you love to see like a Luna moth or a Sphinx moth–these were rather plain looking brown ones–a bit smaller than the ones that usually wander in to visit. These were very active, smaller and, as it turned out very hard to kill. Everywhere I looked there were brown moths practically buzzing around. Believe me, these guys do not flutter pleasantly as most usual brown moths do.

Now I’m pretty tolerant of insects. My first response is not “kill”; it’s usually catch-and-put-outside, but there were just too many in my bedroom; I opted for kill mode.  I will admit to keeping insecticide at home for occasional use but not often since I do share the house with Frankie.

So I got the spray can and went to work. Weird thing, the insecticide that I usually use (that has usually worked on anything I needed it for) didn’t kill them–it seemed to only make them agitated and flying around faster and more furiously. That kill option failing, I opted for my other kill option–an old fashioned fly swatter, with a chair and step ladder strategically placed for hopping up and down. (These seem to be one of the few things that I found that Frankie, the cat, really got off on chasing and playing with although he wouldn’t kill them.)

That kill option failing, I went to something more direct–an old fashioned fly swatter, with a chair and step ladder strategically placed so that I could hop up and down to reach the ones on the ceiling. (While I’m doing my up, swat, down, up, swat, Frankie really got off on chasing and playing with them although he wouldn’t kill them.) In retrospect, I suspect this might have been a candidate for one of those “funniest video” programs.

As I got more awake, I had a horrible thought.

I had been sorting some frames from my hives that I lost late last fall. The frames had been stored with paradichlorobenzene (PDB) for to protect the drawn comb but I had frames stacked all over the place in the process of evaluating the foundation. But I’d put all those away again, carefully protected with the PDB.  Hadn’t I?

Extermination in the bedroom finished, I went back to sleep.

On exploration of the porch next morning  I discovered that I had, indeed, overlooked some frames that still had some foundation in them–they’d just gotten pushed to the side a bit, out of sight, and left in our lovely summer weather. It was now very obvious where all of the moths in my bedroom had come from. Not a pretty sight!

There were more of them, many more of the, on the porch, clustered around the ceiling–a veritable plague of the critters. The fly swatter was not an option for dealing with this. So, to the grocery store for the most potent insect spray I could find–after sufficient label reading to really confuse me I just opted for the Black Flag for murdering these flying insects since that was the most lethal sounding product there. Even with that, it seemed that they didn’t succumb as rapidly as most six-legged wildlife.

I’ve since found instructions for a trap for wax moths (on Bee Works). This was to bewax_moth_pupae hung around the hives to catch them outdoors rather than letting them go into the hives although a good strong colony will control them– they can quickly become a problem if the colony is weak. I have seen how quickly they can take over when a hive is failing.

Several days later, I seem to have successfully wiped out the population of wax moths on my porch and in the house. Frankie seems to miss them as entertainment, but I’ve now had all the experience with wax moths that I want–either in the hive or especially in the house.