Waxworms are easily accessible feeder insects that nourish our beloved reptiles. They are commonly used for fishing. They produce the silk used in biological treatments to control pollution. Therefore, the multipurpose feeder insect benefits you and your pet. However, not many understand the science behind waxworms and what they turn into.
Waxworms are the larvae stage of wax moths. As such, waxworms turn into wax moths after pupating. Wax moths have a short lifespan as the males live up to 21 days while females live for about 12 days. Both the waxworms and the wax moths can be fed to your pet. Waxworms are also bait and human food.
I’ve had an interest in these worms given their uses, especially in the silk they produce and its properties. I ventured to find out and found them even more interesting than I thought.
What are Waxworms?
Also known as wax millers, webworms, bee moths, or honeycomb moths, waxworms are caterpillars, or larvae, at the stage of wax moths. Waxworms are differentiated according to size. The two common species of waxworms are the lesser waxworm and the greater waxworm.
Where are Waxworms Found?
Waxworms are found in almost all parts of the world. This includes the introduced species in Turkey, Europe, North America, Russia, and Australia. They live in and around beehives.
They are also found in mud near water bodies and below moist areas such as logs, rocks, and rotten stuff. However, waxworms are so sensitive to vibration that you need to sneak to gather them.
What Do Waxworms Turn Into?
After gorging, the waxworm pupates as a chubby white larva. In the darkness, it spins a cocoon on the wall, while in the presence of light, the larva spins a cocoon in the medium. The larvae rest in the cocoon and transform into pupae. Later, adult moths emerge within one and two weeks.
What are the Uses of Waxworms?
The high nutrient composition of waxworms makes them have multiple uses. Here are some common uses of waxworms:
1. For Human Consumption
Lesser wax moths are commercially bred for their high nutrient value. They contain high contents of protein, phosphorous, and vitamins. Notably, they have a high fat composition compared to other edible insects.
This makes them excellent round bugs used for cooking a staple diet or as snacks alongside edible mealworms.
2. For Feeding Pets
Waxworms are a staple food for terrarium pets and pet birds. However, compared to other feeder insects, waxworms have low nutrient content. In addition, waxworms have high fat and calorie content that can lead to health disorders such as obesity when fed to captive animals regularly. Therefore, using the feeder waxworms as a treat rather than the main meal is highly preferred.
3. As Bait
Waxworms are commonly used in Japan by anglers to catch trout fish. The anglers prefer the largest, most attractive waxworms since they are irresistible to the trout fish.
Waxworms are also great for catching brin, bluegill, perch, catfish, crappie bass, and other panfish. They have soft bodies that make them known to break off the hook.
4. In Biodegrading of Plastic
The Galleria mellonella and Plodia interpunctella species of waxworms have been discovered to digest and eat polyethene plastic. This process involves the waxworms metabolizing the polyethene plastic into ethylene glycol – a compound that biodegrades rapidly.
According to previous tests, 100 Galleria mellonella waxworms placed in laboratory conditions can consume 0.1 grams of a plastic cover within 12 hours.
Waxworm Nutritional Value
Waxworms have various nutrient contents. The table below summarizes the nutritional components of waxworms:
Waxworm Life Cycle
Waxworms’ life cycle entails four main stages: eggs, larva, pupa, and adult moths. The development of each stage primarily depends on the temperature conditions. 28-30°C is the optimum temperature for waxworms’ rapid reproduction. Proper lighting and ventilation are also necessary for enhanced results.
After mating, female waxworms lay eggs consistently for 5 days. The number of eggs laid by the female waxworms depends on temperature. Under appropriate temperatures, they can lay up to 600 eggs.
Female waxworms lay eggs in batches, in the dark and out of their way. Eggs take 3-5 days to hatch under a temperature of 84-95°F (29-35°C) and up to 35 days under 64°F (18°C).
After the waxworm’s eggs hatch, larvae immediately start to burrow through the comb of the hive and align the resulting tunnel with a silken web. The burrowing damages the brood comb and honeycomb cells. The presence of larval webbing and damage caused to the combs compromises the yield and marketability of honey products.
Damage to cells in the brood comb can sometimes result in a bald brood. Bald brood results from waxworms larvae removing cell caps partly when burrowing through the comb. Later, the worker bees chew the capping remainder, exposing the heads of bee pupae, resulting in deformed wings or legs in adult bees.
Larvae grow in only 20 days at warm temperatures and even more than 5 months in cooler conditions. After the larvae have grown, they find a place to pupate. This usually takes place on the wooden frames of the hive.
The larvae chew a cavity into the frame causing permanent damage to the equipment. This happens between 2 and 3 days before forming a cocoon from silk thread. Large numbers of waxworm cocoons stored between combs can fuse the box to the combs.
3. Pupae/ Cocoon
During the pupae stage, the juvenile larvae are transformed into adult waxworms. Initially, a newly formed pupa inside the cocoon appears white to yellow. Later, dark brown transitions are made at the end of the pupation.
Under warm conditions, pupa hatch within 3-8 days, while it can extend to 2 months in cold conditions.
The waxworm life span varies depending on their sex. Males live up to 21 days, while females live for about 12 days. Males use chemical pheromones and ultrasound signals to attract females.
What Do Waxworms Eat?
Here is everything you need to know about the waxworms diet:
- Waxworms feed on beeswax as well as honey.
- Adult waxworms do not eat or drink.
- Domesticated waxworms can be raised on a mixture of honey, cereal grain, and sometimes glycerin.
Generally, there is no need to feed your waxworms.
How Fast Do Waxworms Grow?
You can watch waxworms grow, spinning themselves into cocoons and then pupating. After 2 weeks, they emerge as wax moths, living for approximately 1 week to mate and lay eggs.
Waxmoths lay their eggs in wax paper balls. For enhanced growth, keep waxworms at room temperature.
Do Waxworms Bite Humans?
No, waxworms have small, weak mandibles that make them unable to bite humans and reptiles. While superworms bite, most other feeder worms don’t.
Is It Safe to Put Waxworms in a Refrigerator?
No! Most refrigerators have a relatively lower temperature which kills the waxworms. Usually, waxworms are kept at a constant cool temperature between (55-60°F). This temperature keeps them dormant, ensuring they last up to 8 weeks.
How Do You Identify Dead Waxworms?
Dead waxworms appear black and deflated/ flat. This happens when they are exposed to extreme cold. However, when waxworms turn dark brown, they enter their pupa cycle, and you can use them to feed your chameleon.
How Do You Care for Waxworms?
You can buy some at the pet store if you aim to keep and breed waxworms. Secure an escape-proof container, a 3–5-gallon tank with a screened lid, then seal it with tape.
You will also need a substrate composed of bran and honey that should be well-mixed by blending it in a double boiler. This is different from cricket substrates which don’t necessarily have food value.
How Much Do Waxworms Cost?
Below are the average price details of waxworms at most pet feeder stores:
|Quantity (Cups)||Price ($)|
|1 = 250 worms||10|
|2 = 500 worms||15|
|4 = 1000 worms||28|
|10 = 2500 worms||65|
Are Waxworms Maggots?
No, waxworms are caterpillars of the wax moth, and their main work is to recycle old disused honeycombs. On the other hand, maggots are larvae of flies that, in most cases, recycle the dead flesh of animals. Some maggots also eat live flesh. Waxworms are the larvae stage of waxworm moths.
Can You Use Dead Waxworms as Fishing Bait?
Yes, dead waxworms will squish bait and submerge them in holes for chum, attracting the fish. Unlike waxies, mousies, maggots, and spikes, you tear off the hook when changing to fresh bait. Any legal angler can conveniently use dead waxworms for fishing.
Do Waxworms Have Smell?
Waxworms have no odor. However, dead ones have a smell. Dead waxworms are easily found in containers when you order online.
Do Waxworms Feel Pain?
Waxworms feel pain. According to research by Swedish researchers, waxworms have a chemical system similar to that of human beings that protects them from pain.
The feeder insect waxworms have a fascinating science. Waxworms are at the larval stage of the greater wax moth, Galleria mellonela. They have high nutrient contents and a soft body that makes them edible to your pets. However, they should be used as a treat to reduce the chances of health disorders in your pets.
With ease in maintenance and the multipurpose uses of waxworms, they are fascinating insects. Keeping a colony of waxworms can be a rewarding experience. If you find waxworms a perfect treat for your pets, consider using this helpful post to keep waxworms and supply your reptile pets with a healthy and nutritious diet.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are wax worms just maggots?
Wax worms, which are the larvae of the Greater Wax Moth (Galleria mellonella), may look like maggots but are more like caterpillars and not maggots.
Is a wax worm a moth?
A wax worm is the larva stage of a wax moth. The most commercially bred species are the lesser wax moth (Achroia grisella) and the greater wax moth (Galleria mellonella). They belong to the family Pyralidae (snout moths).
How long does it take for wax worms to turn into moths?
In warm temperatures, the wax worm can turn into a wax moth in just 10 days after spinning. This can take longer in cooler temperatures (up to 40 days in the case of lesser wax worms).
Clarion University. Greater Wax Moth Larvae May Help The World’s Plastic Woes.