Fall is coming quickly. Trees are already turning colors and we’ve experienced a couple cool nights. A form of selective pressure is on its way in the form of Winter. Many beekeepers are frantically checking their hives, fretting about varroa thresholds, stores and whether they still have time for feeding. Having feral sourced bees makes it easier to sleep at night and not worry about those things….. as much. Winter is gonna come, and I’m probably gonna lose some hives, but it’s not keeping me up at night. Losing hives is like just like making mistakes. If you’re gonna call yourself a beekeeper you’re gonna need to lose hives and make mistakes. Sometimes a lost hive is NOT a mistake on the beekeepers part, but poor utilization of mouse guard technology IS a mistake and will contribute to colony loss.
Many factors that contribute to colony mortality I leave up to individual colonies. Accumulating and arrangement of stores, dealing with varroa, SHB, and other in-hive pests all are factors that BEES must deal with. As a beekeeper there are some things I need to handle, one pest I feel I must detour is mice. Mice have access primarily due to the type of hive I am using. Most Langstroth hives have a large opening at the bottom. This is like an opening to heaven-on-earth for a MOUSE in Winter. A bee hive in winter has everything… shelter from wind, rain, and snow, warmth, a concentration of food, and bees that don’t move much. If they contributed anything besides a urine smelling bunch of nastiness and dead colonies their presence could be tolerated. I cannot think of an upside to having them around so I gotta keep em’ out!!!
Losing quality, regionally adapted, treatment-free, feed-free bees, is not my idea of a good time so installing mouse guards is important. Here I try to install mouse guards around corn-shelling time. That’s when I know that cool evenings are either here or on the way. Another way to know it’s time is to watch the GOLDENROD. When goldenrod bloom is fading HERE it’s probably a good time to start thinking about mouse guards. If neither of the previous two methods of telling time work for you figure something out. Depending on where you live there will be different cues.
Do you use another method to know when mouse guards are needed?
There are many mouse guards available on the market, certainly more than I am mentioning here. There are metal ones that are nice, but require screws. I used to use them, but not anymore. Some use wire mesh/hardware cloth as a viable cheap option. Those normally are stapled to the front of the hive. The wooden ones are cheap to purchase, or you can make several dozen of them for next to nothing. Also they rely on friction and do not require screws or staples for installation. If treated as described in Getting Ready for Winter they will last for many years. The mouse guards described in the post were weatherproofed in 2012. They are still holding up well.
Whatever you use get out there and get this done. You’ll have more colonies alive and kicking in the Spring.
Are you ready for Winter?
Disclaimer: You will see that some hives in recent posts had mouse-guards already installed. Some had them all summer. Currently under experiment – [No bottom entrance] more on that in the future…. if I find anything interesting.