Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Galleria mellonella (Linnaeus)
Orig. Comb: Phalaena mellonella Linnaeus, 1758
Phylogenetic sequence # 167050
The only species in this genus in North America.
Adult - forewing outer margin concave, more deeply so in males than in females; forewing gray with broad brown shading along inner margin, narrowing to anal angle; variable black streaking; vague curved PM line of black dots hindwing dirty translucent whitish with variable light grayish-brown shading [description by Charles Covell].
Larva - newly-hatched larvae are white but successive instars are medium to dark gray on top with creamy white undersides; head capsule brown.
e US to CA, less common on plains, rockies, PNW - Map
Cosmopolitan: may occur wherever honey bees occur. Introduced from the Old World. (2)
In, on, or near honey bee combs; adults are nocturnal and attracted to light.
Adults fly from July to October in the north; any warm period in the south.
Larvae feed on beeswax, dried apples and other fruits, crude sugar, pollen, cast skins of larval bees, and dead insects.
A pest of unprotected honey bee combs in weakened colonies or neglected hives. "As the larvae chew through the comb, they spin a silk-lined tunnel through the cell walls and over the face of the comb. These silk threads can tether emerging bees by their abdomens to their cells and they die of starvation because they are unable to escape from their cell. This phenomenon is termed galleriasis" [U. of Georgia].
The larvae are used as experimental subjects in insect physiology labs, as fish bait, and in the study of nematodes.
Recently it has been discovered that the larvae can digest polyethylene, reducing it to ethylene glycol. See Curr. Biol.
Bombelli, Howe CJ., Bertocchini F. Polyethylene bio-degradation by caterpillars of the wax moth Galleria mellonella
. This may be very valuable to control plastic pollution.
Powell, J.A. & P.A. Opler 2009. Moths of Western North America. University of California Press, pl.24.51, p.186. (1)
. Wax moths can consume plastics.