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Do Beehives Attract Rodents? Here is What You Must Know

Beekeepers all face invaders at their beehives at some point. But do honeybee hives attract rodents?

Rodents can be troublesome, primarily during winter when they look for shelter in the warm hives. If mice get into your hive, they will eat honey, pollen, and combs that are not protected by bees. Invading rodents will destroy the frames and combs to make space for their nests. Keeping the bee entrance small will prevent mice from invading the hive.  

Almost every farm in the US has problems with rodents.  In this article, we discuss if beehives attract rodents. Let’s find out how you can keep your hives safe from invading rodents.

Rats, Shrews, and Mice

Rats, Shrews, and Mice are common problems to beehives in winter.  This is when the hive is at its most vulnerable to attack when the bees are clustered and unable to defend the hive entrance.  Rats and Mice are indiscriminate feeders; they will eat pollen, honey and chew into the comb. 

Shrews are insectivores, and they focus their attacks entirely on the worker bees.  Shrews won’t nest in the hive, but they leave behind droppings and empty bee carcasses. 

Shrews eat the bee’s innards and leave behind the hollowed exoskeleton.  They get at the insides by removing the head of the bee. Leaving dead bees with their heads chewed off around your hive.

Mice will often invade a hive because it is protected, warm, and all the food inside.  Mice can ruin the comb and, when they eat the honey, cause the colony to starve.  

Mice will eat invertebrates occasionally but eating a colony of bees is not their first choice.  However, the damage mice cause to the hive will be devastating enough.  Once a mouse gets into a hive, it will usually chew out the bottom corner of a frame to make space to bring in nest material.

How to Keep Your Beehive Safe from Rodents?

Managing your beehive comes with a lot of responsibilities; one is keeping predators away.  As a beekeeper, learning about how to protect your hive becomes a priority.

Rodents and shrews can easily stop getting into and overwintering in your hives with an entrance blocker or wire mesh cover that screens them out.  However, make sure the holes are big enough for your bees to get through without scraping off their pollen.

Bees often forage in late winter and early Spring on willow flowers.  The hole should also be small enough to exclude shrews.  The hole size for the winter entrance should be 3/8″.

Size of Holes to Keep Mice and Shrews Out

The size of the openings most beekeepers use as a mouse guard; are between 1/4″ (6.35mm) and 1/2″ (12.7mm). Commercial entrance guards are typically using a 3/8″ (9.25mm) diameter circle on their products.

When installing a rodent guard, make sure you leave enough space for good ventilation and let the bees remove their dead.  While securing it from mice and shrews in early Spring, make sure you leave enough space for the bees to bring pollen in when returning from foraging,

Many beekeepers wonder whether a 1/2″ gap is sufficient to keep the mice out versus 1/4″, making it too hard for the bees to do everything they need to do.

As for the 1/2″ camp, beekeepers say they have not faced a problem with that size. 

There is an online reference to using both 1/4 and 3/8″ spacing for winter and then switching to 1/2″ once the bees return with spring pollen.

Using the 1/2″ wire mesh with the vertical opening height made slightly smaller as it overlaps the wood of the hive proved to be very successful in keeping out shrews.

Rodent Guards

A mouse or rodent guard is a simple piece of material placed over the hive entrance that prevents mice from entering the hive.  Mesh rodent guards are typically made from metal, so mice and shrews cannot chew through them.  The mesh openings are big enough to allow the bees to come and go freely.

Wire mesh rodent guards can be bought from most beekeeping supply stores.  If you are a do-it-yourself person, try your hand at making one yourself.

The added benefit of a wire mesh rodent guard is that the wire mesh also keeps out skunks.  Skunks like to claw at the front of the hives to draw bees out so they can eat them.  The bees are a high-protein snack for skunks.  This becomes a huge problem for beekeepers when skunk returns night after night.

There are standard hive entrance reducers or rodent guards available to purchase.  However, the standard wooden hive entrance reducers are not good enough to exclude mice and other rodents.  Many beekeepers report the wood being chewed away by rodents to make the opening wider.

When you use the wooden entrance reducers, good results were seen when simply adding nails to a standard entrance reducer and using thicker wood entrance reducers from 1.5″ wide wood.  It is also popular for beekeepers to make or purchase metal excluders with holes drilled into them.

When is the Best Time to Install Rodent Guards? 

September and October are the perfect time of the year to install hive entrance guards.  There are still warm days in the forecast for you to inspect the hive. Installing your rodent guards now will give you an advantage on the mice, who will start looking for new, warm hiding places when it starts to get cold outside.

Wire mesh rodent guards are easy to make.  Use 1/2-inch mesh that you can buy at most hardware stores.  Take a pair of wire cutters and cut the wire mesh to the right size.  For a standard 10 frame, Langstroth hive cut a rectangle 28 squares by 10 squares.  When you use the 8-frame hive, cut the piece to 24 by 10.

Trim the wire of any wires sticking out to make handling the guard easier and safe.  Place the mesh wire guard in front of the hive entrance and staple it to the wood.  Make sure it is securely fastened.

A vital part of installing a mesh guard is checking for mice before installing a wire mesh guard.

Installing a rodent guard works best if you get a second person to help you.  One person should use the hive tool to pull the bottom board away from the lower hive box and then tip the hive back.

Be careful because your hives will be full of honey at this point in the season and could weigh 175 and 260 pounds.

While one person is holding the hive in place, tipped back away from the bottom board, the other should look for rodents in the hive with a flashlight. 

Whether you choose to purchase your rodent guards from a beekeeping supplier or prefer the do-it-yourself, the important thing is that you take the time to get this on before the mice move in.

What is a Beepod Hive?

A Beepod is a top-bar hive that is less invasive than the ordinary stacked box hive.  The beepod design has been used for thousands of years. Top-bar beehives are based on a centuries-old design that resembles a large cradle on legs. The bees build their combs on several individual slats of wood that lie across the top of the cradle.

Wire Mesh Rodent Guard for Beepod Hives

Using the older Beepod design for your beehives, use the same wire mesh material to install the rodent guards inside your hive instead of the outside.  Installing the mesh on the inside won’t show marks on the beehive when it is time in the Spring to remove them again.

This is how to start with the unused side of the entrance, position your wire mesh with the shorter side facing down to match up with the cradle.  It is ok to bend or cut the mesh if it is too long.

Use at least four staples to fasten the mesh guard in place.  Just remember that you must remove the staples again when it becomes Spring.  The more staples you use, the more worn down your hive will become.

Continue with the side entrances, installing the mesh wire with your staple gun, positioning the mesh wire with the longer sides facing down.

Wire Mesh Guard on the Front Door of Beepod Hives

Open your hive and expose the inside of the front entrance, the same way you installed the side and back entrance guards, remove the front panel. Lift your hive with something like a five-gallon bucket and remove the bolts that attach to the front panel of the hive.

Staple the mesh rodent guard in place.  Once done, reattach the front panel again. 

Conclusion

Many animals are attracted to beehives.  Rodents are not excluded from this list.  Rats, Mice, and Shrews are common headaches for beekeepers everywhere.

Installing a rodent guard is the perfect solution to keeping these pests out of your hive.  Rodent guards keep Mice, Rats, Shrews, and other animals out of your hive while allowing your bees to travel in and out at will. 

Besides the damage rodents cause to the comb, honey, and pollen, the pungent stench of urine that rodents leave behind in the hive is worrisome.

With a rodent mesh guard installed, your bees are hunkering down for the cold in peace.  As for the rodents, well, they need to find accommodations somewhere else.

Sources

Frank Pearmain

As a homesteader, survivalist, and previously a safari guide in Africa, I have extensive bush and wilderness experience. I am passionate about living a self-sufficient, off-grid lifestyle and continuously learn and strive toward that goal!

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