Recently, an old friend had come to visit me, and just like a little kid, I was so excited to show this person all of the animals on the farm.
We walked around the area where the ducks are kept, went down to visit and experience the wrath of Terry and his hens, visited Gertie and her flock in the bigger coop and even peeked in at the small chickens that have been confined to the inside of their coop while I’ve waited for warmer weather to finish the covered run so the resident hawk isn’t able to sneak another snack.
The temperature that day was bitterly cold, but my visitor was a good sport. She recently had moved back to Seymour after living in Texas for many years, and I could tell she was freezing; however, because I was so excited to show her all of the things she had only seen through social media, I suggested we walk to the back of the property so I could show her the beehives and give her a quick glimpse with little worry they would sting or even fly because it was so cold.
We walked the 100 or so feet to the hives, and I gleefully popped the lid off of my first hive, talking excitedly about how the bees cluster in the winter to keep their queen warm and that since my hives are not full established, they needed supplemental food provided in the form of a compacted sugar frame called a candy board.
I also mentioned that bees will fly on warmer days in the winter so they can use the bathroom because they don’t go in the hive. I didn’t look at my visitor, but I’m sure her lips were turning blue at this point from the cold as I rambled on.
I really thought it would be a quick peek and we would return to the house, but what I saw made me pause when I removed the candy board and peered inside the hive.
A compact mass of grass, seeds and straw between two frames greeted me, and I suddenly knew I had something that needed to be taken care of and quickly. A mouse had sought the coziness of the hive and was enjoying free honey and warmth.
I attempted to pull as much of the bedding out as I could, but I knew the mouse would not leave the confines of such a hospitable place in the bitter cold. More invasive action would need to be taken, and I needed to find out exactly how to evict this squatter.
Feeling quite chilly myself at this point, I suggested we go back to the house so my visitor could pick up what she came for — eggs — and head on her way home.
Later that evening, I posted my dilemma on one of the social media sites for beekeepers and scoured through YouTube videos, weighing the pros and cons of removing the mouse nest and just letting it be.
The results came back the same. It was far better to risk chilling the hive and removing the nest, and thus the mouse, than leaving it be until the food stores were depleted, the colony would die and the mouse would head to other accommodations.
The eviction happened on a sunny day a couple of days later, and I moved as quickly as I could. Prying the bottom hive box from the base and lifting the box, I found my beehive freeloader, a little gray field mouse staring at me nervously with eyes wide and nose twitching. “Get out of here” I said to the little rodent, which needed no more coaxing and disappeared quickly into the surrounding brush.
Relieved, I quickly removed the remnants of the nest from the bottom and placed the hive box back on the base. Then to ensure I would not have a return visit, I secured hardware cloth to the entrance of both hives, and my task was completed. The bees would have a fighting chance for the rest of the winter.
I’m still counting down the days, though, until the first flowers bloom. Looks like there are about 12 weeks to go.
Until next time…
Stephanie Strothmann owns Purple Shamrock Farm LLC in rural Seymour. Read her blog at whattheclucker.blogspot.com. Send comments to [email protected]