Monday, October 12, 2009

Re-thinking my thinking - or - changing my mind is an easy thing to do..

Anyone who knows me pretty well will tell you that I tend to re-think things I do. I guess its because I always want to do the right thing and not have negative consequences. But sometimes, no matter how hard I try, things happen anyway, so I re-think and then change my mind. And beekeeping is no exception. Freud would probably have a field day with me!

Several weeks ago I installed my mouse guard. I figured that with cooler weather here, now is the time to keep Ms. Mouse out of my hive, after all, she'll be looking for a place to nest for the winter, and a bee hive would be an ideal spot. All of the newsletters and information I read said fall is the time to those guards on, so being a newbie beekeeper, I followed the advice. But now I'm thinking I acted a little prematurely.

On Sunday, I go down to put some new syrup in the hive-top feeder and I saw that my bees were clogging up the holes in the mouse guard. They were in a clump on the front, something that I observed for the last couple of days which concerned me somewhat.

The first thing I noticed was that condensation had gathered on the inside of the outer cover. When I took the cover off, water dripped down into the feeder and the inner cover was somewhat damp too. So from my science days in school, I knew that the cool air outside...combined with the heat inside the hive...had caused the dampness above the feeder...and that probably came from a lack of air circulation. 

Even though I have a screened bottom board...I feel like the mouse guard, which restricts mice from entering the probably restricting the air flow as well, and that's not good. I also noticed the other day that some mold had grown on the inside of the shallow super that covers the hive-top feeder. That comes from air restriction too.  

The temperatures here have hit the 70s by day and the 50s at night. The lowest nighttime temperature so far is 48. I find it ironic that a mouse, no matter how bold she may be, is going to chance it and invade a hive full of bees. Maybe when it stays cold day and night, yeah maybe, but with the days still being warm and the nights cool, I don't think she's going to take the chance of being stung to death. 

So anyway, I filled the feeder with more syrup and I removed the mouse guard for now. I am sure I'll put it back on pretty soon. And when I put it back on, to improve air flow inside the hive, I'll use the inner cover that has the popcicle stick risers. It makes a slight vent at the top of the hive and keep the air flow going through the winter. Supposedly it stops condensation from forming and dripping water on the bees through the winter.

My Mama always said it was okay to change my mind if the cause is right. And in this case, I think it was the right thing to do. I'll let you know when I put it back on and I may try to post some pictures of my inner cover with the popcicle stick risers so you can get an idea how it works.


  1. Hi there - you logic seems sound to me. Our local experts advised not to bother with mouse guards unless we see that there's a problem with these trespassers. Most guys had never had mice in their hives so I haven't put one on!

  2. Hi Mark. I started thinking about why I didn't use a mouse guard last year and after talking with several friends over the past week I decided it was because I can't find anyone in the mountains who ever uses one. I also went back and read what Ross Conrad (Natural Beekeeping) had to say. He recommends using a a piece of half-inch hardware cloth three inches wide and cut to the width of the bottom entrance. Bend to a forty-five degree angle and wedge into the space between the bottom board and the first bee box. He further states that manufactured guards like yours reduce airflow, negatively affecting ventilation.

    I'm sending this as information, not advice. Hope it helps.

  3. Cliff: Thank for the post. I'm getting mixed signals about mice here. My brother kept bees with his father-in-law and he told me he's never seen a mouse in a hive or damage a hive. I met a local beek that runs an apiarie 10 miles away and I plan to talk to him to get his input.

    Lynn: I thank you for sending the information, and remember, I take information and advice freely, lol. I can see the airflow issue with the current mouse guard because it has the holes that the bees go through and that's it. I'm thinking an entrance reducer would do the same thing since it is solid wood. I'm going to have to work on the air flow issue to stop condensation at the top. I got a great email I'm going to share, its from Richard Underhill, and he explained some things I can do to help out the air situation.

    Do you use an entrance reducer in winter?

  4. Hey I always figure that's what learning is all about. Now the person who can't change in the face of new information or evidence to the contrary? That's someone who likes learning lessons more than once!

  5. Mark, I used a boardman feeder on my hive all last winter which reduced the entrance some. My bees, being hardy mountain girls, would fly on days when the temps would reached 38. We had a very cold spell, zero, for several mornings, and during that time I did use an entrance reducer. I had to be careful because on several occasions we had snow and it would completely block the entrance. I would be out early brushing the powder away.

    I keep going back to the fact that bees have survived for 40 million years without our interference, and thinking that way, I'm not sure I'll bother with the reducer this year. It may be more useful as a tool against robbing should it occur.

    Hope you are well. I think you're doing an awesome job with your bees :)


  6. I think you're a wise person if you reserve the right to change your mind. It means you're listening and open to new thoughts, ideas and advice. I think you're doing like me and going by the what the beek books say to do. I'm discovering there's a difference between the books and reality... I think it'll turn into a "What they don't tell you in books" blog.....
    Glad to hear you're allowing some ventilation through the top. You don't want moisture dripping on the bees all winter. I have a notched inner cover which I'll be installing once I'm done feeding syrup.



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