Wax worms are a thick, medium-white worm-like creature with black feet and brown heads, that are commonly used as fishing bait.
Despite their name, wax worms aren’t actually a type of worm, instead being a type of caterpillar larva that nest inside of beehives
Like any caterpillar, wax worms undergo an extensive transformation during their lifecycle – but what exactly do wax worms turn into?
The guide below covers all the info you need to know about wax worms, including what they are and what they turn into!
What Does a Wax Worm Grow up To Be?
The name wax worm is somewhat misleading, as it’s a caterpillar larva rather than a type of worm.
Depending on the species, a wax worm will turn into one of the following:
- a lesser wax moth
- a greater wax moth
Wax Worms Life Cycle – How do They Grow and Change?
The life cycle of wax worms (wax moths) consist of the 4 stages below.
How fast or long these stages of development last are dependent on many environmental factors such as how much and what wax worms eat and especially the temperature of their habitat.
Female wax moths lay eggs shortly after mating, laying anywhere between 300 and 600 eggs over a period of five days.
Beehives provide ideal nesting conditions for these eggs, being dark, warm, and providing various food once the eggs hatch.
Wax moth eggs are laid inside honeycombs and take about three to five days to hatch.
If the nesting conditions aren’t ideal, such as having lower temperatures, then eggs could take up to 35 days to hatch.
Wax Moth Larvae
Once hatched, wax moth larva burrow into hive comb, lining it with silk.
While essential for their growth, the burrowing process is incredibly damaging to the beehive.
If the temperature inside of the hive is warm enough, between 83-86F, the wax moth larva becomes fully grown in just 20 days.
Wax worms eat all sorts of things inside of a beehive, including beeswax, pollen, and even shed bee skin casings!
Should the temperature be cooler, it takes upwards of five months for the larva to become fully grown.
A fully grown wax moth larva is a thick, medium-white caterpillar with black spotted feet and brownish heads.
Wax moth larva size varies, usually between ¾ to 1 inch.
Once fully grown in their larva stage, the wax moth worm forms a silk cocoon around itself inside of the burrowed tunnels, a process that takes about 2-3 days.
At the start of the pupal stage, the cocoon takes on a whish yellow color, darkening into a brown color as the pupal stage ends.
In ideal conditions, the pupal stage lasts for between three and eight days.
The pupal stage lasts much longer if nest conditions are less than ideal, taking up to two months for the cocoon to hatch.
Adult Moths (Lesser Wax Moth or Greater Wax Moth)
After the pupal stage, a wax worm transforms into a wax moth, either a lesser wax moth or greater wax moth depending on the species.
A female adult wax moth has a lifespan of around 12 days, while a male wax moth lives slightly longer at around 21 days.
During their life, adult wax moths don’t drink or eat – they focus entirely on mating!
An adult lesser wax moth is around ½ inch long with a ½ inch wingspan, while a greater adult wax moth is around ¾ of inch long with a 1 ½ inch wingspan.
Lesser wax moths are a lighter color, featuring a gray-beige body with brown head.
Greater wax moths are darker in tone, featuring a gray-brown body and head.
The female wax moth will lay eggs and the life cycle wax worms life cycle begins again.
How Long Does It Take a Wax Worm to Turn Into a Moth?
It depends on the nesting conditions for the wax worm.
For example, if the temperature is warm enough, then it only takes between three and eight days for the wax worm to turn into a moth from its larval stage.
If the nest is cooler, then the wax worm takes longer to turn into the wax moth, anywhere up to two months.
How Do Wax Worms Reproduce?
Wax worms reproduce once grown into adult wax moths.
Female wax moths’ mate for 12 days after transforming from the pupal stage, while male moths’ mate for about 21 days.
Males attract females by releasing a chemical pheromone and ultrasonic signals.
A female moth lays between 300-600 wax worm eggs before dying!
Bee Colonies Feed Wax Worms (and Plastic?)
Well, bee colonies don’t literally feed them..
They just have no choice as wax moth eggs are usually laid into the cracks of bee hives in huge numbers.
The larvae then burrow their way into the hives when they hatch and waxworms eat the impurities inside the hive (rather than the honey, contrary to popular belief).
They prefer the protein from the used brood comb or the brood cell cleanings to help them mature.
They will also eat:
- dead bee larvae
- shed skins
- eat cocoons silk
- bee faeces
While, this may seem harmless, they can destroy the structure of beehives and contaminate stored honey, causing leaks.
They are considered nest parasites by some for this reason.
FUN FACT: Wax worms eat plastic, too!
They’ve been studied for a possible solution for plastic pollution due to their unique ability to biologically degrade polyethylene plastic films and polyethylene bags.
What Does Wax Worms Turn Into FAQ’s
We found these related questions which were commonly asked online about what wax worms turn into.
Here are the answers:
Can Wax Worms Turn Into Flies?
No, wax worms turn into wax moths, either the lesser wax moth or greater wax moth.
Can Wax Worms Turn Into Beetles?
No, they can only turn into the adult moth species we’ve mentioned in this article.
If your caterpillar larvae are maturing into darkling beetles, then you’ve likely mistaken the larval form for mealworms or superworms.
Can Wax Worms Turn Into Butterflies?
No, wax worms cannot turn into butterflies.
You may have mistaken the adult moths for butterflies or the larvae for a different type of caterpillar that turns into a butterfly.
Why Do Wax Worms Turn Black?
Wax worms may turn black in their larva form if the exposed to cold temperatures.
During their pupal stage, wax worm cocoons turn into a darker brown.
Are Maggots Wax Worms?
Despite looking like large maggots, wax worms or wax moth larvae are not a type of maggot.
Warm worms are a caterpillar larva of the wax moth.
As you now know, Wax worms turn into two types of adult moth – the greater or lesser species of wax moth.
They start as the caterpillar larva form of the wax moth.
A wax worm lives an interesting life cycle that undergoes four distinct stages.
The first stage of their life cycle are wax worm eggs, with female adult wax moths laying up to 600 eggs inside of an abandoned beehive.
Wax worm caterpillar larva emerge from these eggs, burrowing into the beehive honeycomb to create tunnels, which are then lined with silk.
After tunneling, the worms eat bee pollen and wax until they are ready to enter the pupal stage.
They are voracious feeders and can destroy the structure of beehives completely and even kill bee larvae.
During the pupal stage, the wax worm wraps itself in a silk cocoon.
Once enough time has passed – anywhere from three days to two months – an adult wax moth emerges from the cocoon.
Adult wax moths only live for a few weeks, spending their entire lives mating before laying more eggs and repeating the cycle!