Galleria mellonella

  • Mortality 25% 25%
  • Infectivity 90% 90%
  • Healing difficult 20% 20%

Galleria mellonella

The greater wax moth or honeycomb moth (Galleria mellonella) is a moth of the family Pyralidae. It is the only member of the genus Galleria. It is found in most of the world, including Europe and adjacent Eurasia, its presumed native range, and as an introduced species on other continents, including North America and Australia.

Its close relative, the lesser wax moth( Achoria grisella), is also a member of tribe Galleriini of the pyralid subfamily Galleriinae. The greater wax moth is the type species of this tribe and subfamily.

Description, ecology and use by humans


The adults’ wingspan is 30–41 mm. This moth flies from May to October in the temperate parts of its range, such as Belgium and the Netherlands.

The caterpillar larvae, or waxworms, feed on the honeycomb inside bee nests and may become pests of apiculture. Less often, they are found in bumblebee and wasp nests, or feeding on dried figs.[1] The larvae are commercially available. They can be used as food for the rearing of captive animals in terraria, such as geckos or predatory insects.

Vairimorpha ephestiae is a fungal parasite of the wax moth. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is also pathogenic to G. mellonella. The associations of virulence factors are the same for plant and animal infections.


In research

The waxworms of the greater wax moth have been shown to be an excellent model organism for in vivo toxicology and pathogenicity testing, replacing the use of small mammals in such experiments.[2] The larvae are also well-suited models for studying the innate immune system. In genetics, they can be used to study inherited sterility. NOTE: cellular and humoral immunity are part of acquired immunity, which is only in vertebrates. Insects only have innate immunity.

Experiments with infected waxworms support the hypothesis that the bacterial stilbenoid 3,5-dihydroxy-4-isopropyl-trans-stilbene has antibiotic properties that help minimize competition from other microorganisms and prevents the putrefaction of the insect cadaver infected by the entomophagic nematode Heterorhabditis, itself host for the Photorhabdus bacterium.

G. mellonella is reported to be capable of hearing ultrasonic frequencies approaching 300 kHz, possibly the highest frequency sensitivity of any animal.


As a widespread and somewhat notorious species, the greater wax moth has been described under a number of now-invalid junior synonyms:

Galleria austrina Felder & Rogenhofer, 1875
Galleria cerea Haworth, 1811 (unjustified emendation)
Galleria cerealis Hübner, 1825 (unjustified emendation)
Galleria crombrugheela Dufrane, 1930
Galleria crombrugheella (lapsus)
Galleria mellomella (lapsus)
Phalaena mellonella Linnaeus, 1758
Phalaena cereana Blom, 1764
Tinea cerella Fabricius, 1775 (unjustified emendation)
Vindana obliquella Walker, 1866
Junior synonyms (and otherwise invalid names) of the genus Galleria are:[5]

“Adeona” Rafinesque, 1815 (nomen nudum)
Cerioclepta Sodoffsky, 1837
Vindana Walker, 1866


Jump up ^ Grabe (1942)
Jump up ^ Harding, C. R.; Schroeder, G. N.; Collins, J. W.; Frankel, G. (2013). “Use of Galleria mellonella as a Model Organism to Study Legionella pneumophila Infection”. Journal of Visualized Experiments (81): e50964. doi:10.3791/50964. PMC 3923569free to read. PMID 24299965.
Jump up ^ Hu, K; Webster, JM (2000). “Antibiotic production in relation to bacterial growth and nematode development in Photorhabdus–Heterorhabditis infected Galleria mellonella larvae”. FEMS microbiology letters. 189 (2): 219–23. doi:10.1111/j.1574-6968.2000.tb09234.x. PMID 10930742.
Jump up ^ Moir, H. M.; Jackson, J. C.; Windmill, J. F. C. (2013). “Extremely high frequency sensitivity in a ‘simple’ ear”. Biology Letters. 9 (4): 20130241. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2013.0241. PMC 3730633free to read. PMID 23658005.
^ Jump up to: a b See references in Savela (2009)
Grabe, Albert (1942). Eigenartige Geschmacksrichtungen bei Kleinschmetterlingsraupen [“Strange tastes among micromoth caterpillars”]. Zeitschrift des Wiener Entomologen-Vereins 27: 105-109 [in German]. PDF fulltext
Savela, Markku (2009). Markku Savela’s Lepidoptera and some other life forms – Galleria mellonella. Version of 2009-APR-07. Retrieved 2010-APR-11.