Wax Worms and Spikes
This is ice fishing season in North Dakota. The wax worms and spikes are flying of the shelves of area bait shops. For those of you not familiar with these baits, they are small insect grubs. I got to wondering the other day just what wax worms and spikes actually are. Here is a bit of what I discovered.
I was surprised to learn that wax worms are a common destructive pest of honeycombs. They are not the beekeeper’s friend! The larvae pass through several growth stages or instars, feeding on the comb wax (thus the common name), pollen, and honey before pupating. The adult moths are about three-fourths of an inch long, gray or brown, with a wingspan of an inch-and-a-half.
Spikes on the other hand are the larvae of blue bottle flies (Calliphora vomitoria). How’d you like to have that for your scientific name? It is a reference to one of the more seemly sides of fly behavior.
We’ve all seen the adult flies. They are found most everywhere and look like a larger version of the common house fly with a bright metallic blue body. These half-inch long flies feed on dead animals, feces, and other dead material. Eggs are laid on the same material and then hatch into larvae within 48 hours.
Spikes are utilized in some rather unusual ways. They are among several insect species used in forensic applications to determine time of death. As some of you may know, in cases of some old corpses, the time of death may be accurately estimated by the species and ages of various insect larvae occupying the corpse. This new science of “forensic entomology” is a rapidly developing field.
A considerably larger business has developed in raising wax worms and spikes (as well as other insects), not only for bait, but also to provide food for zoo animals and pets such as lizards, chameleons, geckos, and such.
So now you have all kinds of things to muse about when you go fishing or see wax worms and spikes for sale!
Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Dakota College at Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.
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