Saturday, October 3, 2009

New Bees 101: How to Manuever a Mouse Guard!

So imagine that you leave home, you go to work...and when you get back, someone had put a wall up...and you had to crawl through a hole to get inside your house! Well it happened here today. No, not my own house, but at my bee hive. As I mentioned a few posts back, with fall here now, I figured it was time to install the mouse guard on the front of the hive. I really don't think that a sneaky mouse would invade this hive because it sits off the ground pretty high, but since there is a bunch of bamboo and weeds near the creek, I'm not going to take any chances. So today was installation day, plus I decided to do a brief inspection while I was at it.

First though, the mouse guard. I had already fitted it to the hive a few weeks ago, so all I had to do was to put it in place and then tack it up. I used a large thumbtack instead of a screw. I would have used a screw, but I didn't want to make holes in the wood, plus I'm sure the last thing they would appreciate is some odd vibrating of their house. You should have seen (or felt) the ones returning who banged into me while I was squatting down in front of the hive. With the hive beind white, and my overalls and veil being white, I don't think they saw me in their flight path. But I hurriedly got out of their way so they could get back to coming and going.

As you can see, the girls are rather curious as to what is going on. Like all my other pictures, click on them for a better view, and pay particular attention to the holes...especially on the far right. Notice how they seem to be checking each other out. I'm not sure if they're guard bees, but they're definitely checking out the situation. Even though I'm near the hive, just off to the side with my camera, they acted like they could care less about me and seemed more interested in what this new thing is that's blocking the front door. 

It didn't take long before a crowd gathered. There were lots of incoming bees during this time, and I'm sure they were totally confused about the whole situation. It sort of reminded me of a busy airport, where planes are flying into the airport, but because so many people are waiting to disembark ahead of just have to wait it out. I wondered what the guard bees inside the hive were thinking about all these things popping through those holes. Did they realize they were their own sisters? Or did they have to change the method of how they inspect each bee upon arrival back to the hive? I wonder.

Now take a look at all the bees flying all around, some are hanging on the front, and some are crowding into the holes in the mouse guard. It kind of reminds me of the day after know, people out in the dark at 5:00am trying to get in Walmart to be the very first to buy something. You know how it is, as soon as the doors open, they go pouring in? That's what this reminded me of! But I'm happy to report that these smart girls figured it all out and within an hour and everything was happily back to normal. It was so normal that I mowed around the hive, pulled weeds, gave my crepe myrtles and plants around the hive a fall feeding, and everything was just groovy. I think they have it all figured out now.

The hive inspection was very brief because it was cool...but here's what I saw. Plenty of the incoming bees were loaded down with pollen, I mean sacs stuffed full. I think they're bringing in goldenrod pollen from some nearby fields, and I mean bringing in a that means no pollen supplement for now. The honey store in the top chamber was so heavy I could barely lift must weigh over 50 pounds easily. The bottom chamber, or brood box, was jam packed with bees! Not only that, but in the six frames I checked, capped brood was everywhere. I didn't see the queen...but since there is evidence that she's in residence, I stopped the inspection and reassembled everything -- plus I added two gallons of new syrup. Things looked really good. My only complaint was that the propolis inside the hive was like glue! It was hard to manipulate the frames...basically because it seemed like they were stuck to the rack in the hive. Even my hive tool didn't help much! I have tried to keep excess propolis and burr comb out of my hive...but I'll have to work harder at it next season. if I ever invent a glue...I'm naming it propolis! 

I plan to feed them for a little while longer, basically because there are two frames that are not drawn yet, but they're working on it. I may feed until the first heavy freeze or they stop taking the syrup -- whichever comes first. If the winter this year is as mild as winters past, I think they'll do just fine with the store they already have. I have my fingers crossed anyway!

Until next time, my friends...bee sweet!    


  1. Hi Mark. You must be incredibly proud of this colony of bees considering how they started out. Great job! They look terrific. I think they'll survive the Triad winter very nicely.

    I didn't use a mouse guard last winter, but am considering it this year. Last year was so cold here the mice probably went south for some nice sunshine. Anyway, glad you reminded me. Something I need to do this week.

    I'm going to be in Kernersville the weekend of the 16th and would love to catch you on your show, but I don't know where to look. How 'bout letting me know where I can see you on the tube.

  2. I must say, your hive is looking really good isn't it. That's a wonderful amount of stores.

  3. Very nice; I haven't used mouse guards yet, but glad to see how you've done it. I'm still feeding, and probably will for a while yet.

  4. Hi Mark,

    I have the same mouse guards and could not fig out how they went until I looked at ow you had them white side out! Duh. Am up in Boston so they REALLY need to be on now and you helped me do that! This is my first year and am finding that you are spot on! EVERYONE does things differently and it is a bit confusing. I have 2 hives and had to requeen both of them....and then one swarmed on Father's Day. It was insane but I was able to catch it and put it in a extra super. I have consolidated down to 2 hives now from three so am hoping to get them through the winter. Wish me luck!!



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