Winter Mouse-Proof Mesh

My patented mouse-proof entrance reducers worked well enough for us last winter. They’re cheap and easy to build. But I decided to try something different this year. It’s not as cheap and easy, but neither is it complicated. I simply stapled some half-inch mesh over the entrances of the hives like this:

I got this tip from a Brushy Mountain video (I just can’t remember which one). I chose this method for mouse-proofing the hives this winter because it provides better ventilation. I just hope it doesn’t provide too much ventilation by allowing more cold wind to blow through the hives.

The bottom boards of our over-wintered hives were thick with dead bees by the time spring rolled around, probably because the reduced entrances were so small that they got clogged up. The mesh will make it easier for the bees to pull out their dead. But I wonder: Is half an inch small enough to keep mice out? It doesn’t look that small to me, but if it’s done at Brushy Mountain, I assume it works.

UPDATE (Oct. 20/11): I found the video from Brushy Mountain. It’s called Over Wintering Bees and Beekeeping Discussion Panel. It’s a downloadable Windows Media Video file, and here’s a screen shot from the 16-minute mark where Michael Palmer talks about what’s needed to wrap a hive:

Michael Palmer doesn’t staple the screen on like I did. He bends it like this:

And then shoves in under the entrance like this:

The springiness of the mesh holds it in place. I don’t have a good pair of wire cutters and bending the mesh only added to my difficulties, so I just stapled it on. Bending it in, if you can do it, is probably a better way to go about it. But anyway, it looks like a half-inch mesh is fine for keeping the mice out.

I’ll update this post in the spring of 2012 and let you know how it worked out.

P.S., Michael Palmer’s portion of the video seems applicable to Langstroth hives in Newfoundland. He wraps his hives with type 15 asphalt felt and puts a piece of hard insulation over the inner cover — exactly like we did last winter (and our bees got through the winter a.o.k.). East coast Newfoundland winters are probably wetter than his northern Vermont winters, but it’s close enough.

Oct. 01/13: I’ve had no problems mouse-proofing my hives by stapling on the half-inch mesh. As far as I can tell so far, it works.

Jan. 15/14: Make sure to get the mesh on early. See my Mice in a Hive post to see what mouse damage looks like.

Jan. 31/15: I’ve found tiny shrews in a few of my hives over the past two winters since I moved my hives to a new rural location — and subsequently lost the colonies. I may switch to a quarter-inch mesh next winter as described by Michael Bush, or I might block up the bottom entrances and use only top entrances in the winter for now on. I’m thinking it over.

13 thoughts on “Winter Mouse-Proof Mesh

  1. I heard a rule of thumb that if you can get a ballpoint pen (about 6-7mm, or a quarter-inch) into a crack under a door, a mouse can get through there. The rule of thumb isn’t more specific than that though – whether they can squeeze through a hole that’s a quarter-inch in diameter. Come to that, it’s not even clear what type of mouse is meant by the rule. I may have caused more problems than I solved. Anyway just thought I’d share!

  2. after seeing this I tried the mesh as well but unfortunely the bees didn’t like that I recycled the mesh from a rabbits cage. they got aggressive and hunted me down all day, even so much as hang out by the windows waiting for me to tell me off. the next day they were fine (once everything was taken away the night before) it happened once before when we tried feeding them at the enterance and the hornets made their life miserable.
    besides needing new mesh I think requeening in the spring with some more gentle girls are in order.
    has you bees every came and told you they didn’t like something?

  3. My bees have come after me a couple times. The last time was when I took a few frames of honey from the honey super without using the smoker to drive the bees down first. A day or two later, though, and they were fine.

    I used to stay away from the smoker if I could, but now I see it as a necessary tool whenever I do anything that could cause the bees to release lots of alarm pheromone and become extra defensive.

    When the bees associate the bad breath of humans with anything that causes alarm, humans can become a target. The smoke diminishes that target potential.

  4. The smoke confuses them but it also disrupts the honey and pollen collection for the day, throwing them off. That one day of distrubed production could be 1 – 2 lbs of honey lst every time you smoke them. When you consider the short summers and how half of these days may be rain so time for collecting honey is that much shorter.

    That is why I try to advoid teh smoker as much as possible. I may light it up but int most cases if they are not aggressivly dive bombing me I don;t smoke them.

    I also chew mint gum everytime I inspect to take the edge off my breath. Don’t know if it works but that is what I do.

  5. The key to using the smoker is to use it sparingly. Just a small puff or two here or there doesn’t hurt if done properly. When I first used the smoker, I practically drowned the bees in smoke. Then I stopped using it together. Then I found the middle ground by just watching how the bees reacted to the smoke. A couple small puffs on top of the frames don’t hurt to shoo away defensive bees. But once the smoke gets into the hive, either trapped under the inner cover or blown through the front entrance, the sound of the hive changes to a louder rumble. That’s when I know the bees aren’t happy. They may be easier to handle because they’re gorging on honey, but they’re not happy. I think using the smoker is one of those things, like many things in beekeeping, that takes practice.

    I keep forgetting about chewing mint flavoured gum. That’s a good one.

  6. I may switch to quarter-inch mesh for my mouse guards next year. It looks like tiny shrews can fit through the half-inch mesh. I had no problem with mice or shrews until I moved my hives to a new location two summers ago.

  7. I just posted this to Facebook…

    One of my 8 colonies ran out of honey and died last week. This is what bees that have starved to death look like.

    They still had pollen and some honey left on the frames along with several kilograms of dry sugar to keep them alive. Sugar isn’t as good as honey, but I’ve had winter colonies live entirely off dry sugar for months. So why didn’t these bees eat the sugar? I discovered the answer during the hive postmortem. A shrew (click through the photo album to see more):

    http://goo.gl/ZgWjy6

    The musk sent of the shrew (or a mouse) has a spooking effect on the bees and instead of stinging the shrew to death, the bees get stressed, the queen gets stressed and sometimes dies, and once she’s dead, the rest of the bees pretty much lose their minds, all their survival instincts disappear and before you know it, they’re doing strange things like pooping inside the hive and ignoring all the food that could keep them alive. It’s bad news.

    I don’t know how the damn shrew got in there, or maybe I do. I’ve used half-inch mesh as mouse guards on my hives since 2011…

    http://mudsongs.org/winter-mouse-proof-mesh/

    …and it worked fine until last winter when a shrew got into one of my hives and, again, the colony died. I thought I was simply too late installing the mesh last year, so I made sure to install it early this year. But now I’m beginning to think the shrews can squeeze through the half-inch mesh. I plan to switch to a quarter-inch mesh for next year or perhaps block off the bottom entrances and use only top entrances instead.

    And so it goes.

    UPDATE: I should add that I knew something unusual was happening with this colony a few weeks ago…

    https://flic.kr/p/qpEpAG

    All of my other colonies were huddled inside their hives on a cold day that I checked on them — except for this colony which was very active with bees flying around everywhere. I didn’t know what was going on but I knew it was strange. It’s possible that’s the day the shrew got inside the hive.

    Feb. 08/15: More possible signs of a shrew inside of my my hives:

    https://flic.kr/p/qPnuY2

    I’m switching to quarter-inch mesh for now on. Half-inch keeps the mice out, but not the pygmy shrews.

  8. I’m 95% certain that I have bee-eating shrews in some of my hives, slowly killing off the weaker colonies. There’s not much I can do about it now while the temperatures are freezing. But I plan to use 1/4-inch mesh to keep them out of my hives next year. I’ll eventually write up a detailed post about this topic, because it’s a big one. Until then, here are some basic facts about the pygmy shrew that all new beekeepers should be aware of:

    http://goo.gl/U9DZuP

    The above info seems copied-and-pasted from a PDF file listed here:
    http://goo.gl/2J9Xab

    http://www.mammal.org.uk/pygmyshrew

  9. I lost two more colonies due to shrew predation. I’m adding smaller mesh to the remaining 5 hives as soon as possible. Even if it traps the shrews inside, I have to risk it. If this keeps up, I could lose all my colonies this winter.

  10. My brother-in-law has his hive on our land. No mesh on hive entrance and we learned the hard way how much mice like honey! Went to check hive a couple days ago and found quite a number of dead bees outside in the snow. Decided we had a bad problem and lifted the top cover off to take a peek and could see mice inside. Grabbed a stick a began taking the hive apart. Killed around a dozen mice! They had completely consumed all the honey. No bees left at all and hive was completely filled with shredded leaves and other nesting materials! Will have to start from scratch in spring and will definitely be meshing the entrance to the hive. Thanks for the helpful information. I have noticed that one statement says that 1/4″ mesh will strip off pollen from the bees and 1/2″ mesh can allow smaller rodents like the pygmy shrew, inside the hive. Thinking 3/8″ may be the best choice.

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