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A Bucketful of Waxmoth

This humourous text describes an event that actually happened when I was proprietor of the beekeeping equipment manufacturing company APEX Enterprises

The date was 1991 or 92. My factory was situated in a building that was built in the 1960s and was of a type known as "flatted factories" It was a very large cruciform shaped building with each leg of the cross being a different length and further subdivided lengthways giving eight units of four different basic sizes that could be combined to form larger factories if required. There were six floors altogether and the outer central portion of each limb of the structure had an emergency fire escape.

The unit that APEX occupied was slightly smaller than others as the electricity sub station for the building encroached into it's volume. As a result of company growth we were short of space and I badgered the manager of the estates office to find me some extra room for storage.

What he came up with was a little unusual, but the price was right (nothing!). It was a wedge shaped space underneath the bottom flight of fire escape steps just outside of the back door of our unit. This had originally been a janitor's storeroom, but had not been used for many years. The fire escape was large with crash doors opening onto it at every floor level.

One of my employees was instructed to fill the space with empty beekeeping kit, with strict instructions not to include boxes with frames of comb or foundation. The store was not often used over the next year apart from odd items put into it or removed for use.

Because of the smell of wax and honey there were often stray bees and the odd wax moth flying around. However on this occasion it was Summertime and we had noticed a few extra moths flying around, but we did not think anything was amiss until one day the caretaker came into the factory and asked us if we knew anything about moths. He said that the people who had the unit that backed up to ours had reported large numbers of what they thought were clothes moths flying about in their board room.

I knew that their board room was at the rear of the building next to the fire escape well. It was not fire alarm bells that were ringing in my head as I quickly put all the factors together... It only took me a second to come to the conclusion that some comb must be in the store room under the staircase and that it had been converted into adult wax moths.

It did not take long to prove me correct in my deduction, as I opened our fire door into the escape well I could see a great many moths flying around in the massive staircase and hundreds more running around on the concrete floor. This is how they were getting into next door's board room as they just walked under their fire door.

The next day saw all the window and doors open and all the boxes being pulled out of the store room, about half of which contained the previously forbidden comb. we used compressed air to blast the grubs out of combs that were not too badly damaged, but about half of them were total scrap.

Our most junior member of staff was a keen fisherman and he collected several jars full of larvae to help him improve his catch.

The numbers of lesser wax moths must have been enormous, because after a few days the flying moths abated and the caretakers set about sweeping the entire staircase from top to bottom. They shovelled the dead moths into a 25 litre bucket. When all was done this was three quarters full of the pesky things.

The caretakers enjoyed a few beers in the pub as a reward. and the owners of the board room never knew where the moths came from.

I hope some of you will be a little wiser for reading this, and although the employee did not last for many more months before I sacked him, it was not for this episode that I did so.

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Originated... 24 January 2002, Written... 09 June 2002