Friday, September 27, 2013

LESSON 140: Protect Your Hives From Mice & Combine Hives If Necessary


Mice seem so innocent and so small. What could they possibly do to hurt your bee hive during the winter? Now is the time to take precautions to keep mice out of your hives. Hi, we are David and Sheri Burns from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms located in central Illinois. Thank you for following our beekeeping lessons online.

Now that it is fall, I’d like to share several fall management tips for your hive to have a better chance at surviving our upcoming winter. Yes, I know. No one wants to think about winter yet, but you have to so that you can make sure your colony is strong and healthy.

Before we begin our lesson, I want to share some things going on around Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. I had a great time speaking in Chicago at the Lake County Beekeepers Club. Ann Miller Did a great job hosting the meeting. I spoke on how to raise queens and I did it in 45 minutes!

Homeschoolers We’ve also been hosting groups at the honey bee farm. This week we had a group of homeschoolers who came out to learn more about honey bees. They asked some good questions. I think a few families are going to start keeping bees next spring.

FFA Then we had all the local FFA chapters from surrounding schools visit our place. They were fascinated by our large bee tree and how we make queens and woodenware. But I think what really got their attention is when I opened a hive and found the queen on a full frame of bees. I carried it around so that each one could see the queen. The future of honey bees can be greatly increased as the importance of the honey bee is impressed upon these Future Farmers of America!

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JD1 As many of you know Long Lane Honey Bee Farms is a family business and our family is doing great. We have three sons and three daughters between the ages of 31 and 6 years old. And we have seven grandchildren and another one on the way. Many of you have talked to Karee or Jesse on the phone or in person here. They recently had a baby, Jesse David. He is our newest grandson and he was born premature, spending 103 days in the NICU. The good news is he finally came home on Wednesday! Thank you for your prayers.

HiveTalk New to the beekeeping community is our new beekeeping internet and radio program called Hive Talk. My good friend and bee expert Jon Zawislak and I will be hosting this weekly call in beekeeping radio program. Our debut will be this Tuesday night, October 1st at 7pm central time. The success of this program depends largely upon you, callers who will call in and ask beekeeping questions. If you don’t call in with questions, Jon and I will be left to ramble on and make a miserable attempt to be entertaining. Here’s what you do. Around 6:50 p.m. central time on Tuesday, Dial 1-724-7444. A voice recording will ask you to enter you “CALL ID” for our show which is: 129777, then press the # sign. When asked to enter your pin, enter 1 followed by the # sign.  At that point our engineer will chat with you and get you ready to ask us a question. We recommend that you log in to our show 10 minutes prior to 7:00 p.m. central time. Signing in again is simple:

  1. Dial: (724) 444-7444
  2. Enter: 129777 # (Call ID)
  3. Enter: 1 # or your PIN

If you want to just listen from your computer, go to:


We are heavy into production of our Winter-Bee-Kinds! Years ago, Zach Watts worked for our family mowing and keeping our place cleaned up when he was younger. Over they years, we keep moving him up and now he’s one of our best shop guys. He’s the main builder of our Winter-Bee-Kinds. He’s working for us while going to college. He’s a huge blessing to our business. You should start seeing your Winter-Bee-Kind arrive in a few weeks. If don’t know about our Winter-Bee-Kinds, check out our website at:

Finally before our lesson today, here are three of our featured products:

Hive2 Our traditional Langstroth Hive (Above). Completely assembled and painted with frames. Click here for more information.


Our new Langstroth Hive made from Cedar! (Above)  Spruce up your garden or yard with this majestic hive! Click here for more information.


Our popular Winter-Bee-Kind winter feed, ventilation and upper exit candy board. Click here for more information.

When you order from us, we are able to make a living doing what we love. Thank you!

LESSON 140: Protect Your Hives Against Mice & Should You Combine Your Hives For Winter

Mouse2 Mice seem so innocent and so small. Who would think they could be such a pest to the bee hive? In my early days as a new beekeeper I really didn't do much to prevent mice from entering my hives during the fall and winter. I just assumed the mice would stay out. I thought if they did make it in, they would be well behaved on the bottom board and not bother my bees. Nothing could be further from the truth! Mice will destroy a hive during the winter. When the weather turns cooler mice leave the outdoors and find your hive the perfect place for warmth and yes, food---your bees.

Mouse3 It seems like the colony would kill the mice, but during the winter the colony is clustered to stay warm. In the spring and summer the bees are able to move about the hive and chase out or kill mice. But in the winter the mice have free reign since the bees are clustered to stay warm. This is a great place for mice to raise their young. In the spring you can find a whole nest of pink baby mice and a few adults on your bottom board. When you see that, you’ll probably notice your hive is dead. The mice have slowly eaten away at bees and comb for food.

Mouse1 Do something now! First, understand that mice can fit through a hole the size of a ballpoint pen, or about 1/4 inch. So the challenge is to leave an opening large enough for bees but small enough so that mice cannot fit through. Not to mention mice can enter through a damaged corner or ventilation holes in hives. While it is nearly impossible to find the perfect sized mouse guard, most entrance reducers and mouse guards discourage mice from entering. A wide open bottom board is like hanging out a vacancy sign.We sell different types of mouse guards but an entrance reduce is our suggested defense.

This spring I conducted a study on mice and bees. I was startled at the results of my experiment. In 12 colonies I placed a component which had mouse urine, droppings or nest debris on it. I then installed packages into those 12 colonies on drawn comb. All 12 packages absconded within 7 days. I’ve been studying what makes packages abscond. I found that bees installed from packages can still abscond in new hives on new foundation, but the chances are less likely in new equipment. Drawn comb can help reduce absconding but the older the drawn comb is the more likely bees are to abscond. But any sign of mice urine, droppings or debris can cause a new package to abscond. The best thing is to destroy boxes, bottom board and frames that are soiled from mice droppings.


There is an old beekeeping saying that we should take our winter losses in the fall. This means that small and weak colonies, which will not survive the winter, should be combined with a larger colony that has higher populations and more food in the hive. The most common way to combine hives is to destroy the queen in the weaker colony and wait a few days. Then place newspapers on top of the top deep box in the strong colony. Then, move all the frames in the weak colony into one deep and place it above the newspaper on the strong hive. Cut a few slits in the newspaper so the bees can begin to destroy the newspaper. The theory is that by the time the newspaper is cleaned out, both colonies will be friends and become one.

Another option is to use a double screen board and place the weak colony on top of the strong colony. Both colonies have queens and the double screen keeps the bees and queens from fighting. The heat from the larger hive drifts up through the screen and keeps the smaller colony warmer on top. Keep in mind that cold is not the colony’s worst enemy. The number one concern is the varroa mite. If the colony has a severe infestation of varroa, they are unlikely to survive the winter. Other concerns are viruses and diseases which can cause the hive to die in the winter.

So you may want to take your winter losses now and combine some hives. If the combined hives overwinters well, you can split it in the spring and you’re back to two.

That’s all for now and thank you for joining us for another beekeeping lesson! Please let others know about these lessons and our business. We appreciate you spreading the word! TipJarYour donations help us continue our work and research on the honey bee, such as our recent development of our Winter-Bee-Kind. These lessons are free and will provide you with as much if not more information than you would find in a $30 book. So consider making a $30 donation so that we might continue these lessons, CLICK HERE TO DONATE $30 or go to:

Thank you in advance.
David and Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
217-427-2678 Website: facebooktwitter iconYoutube

Thanks for joining us for another beekeeping lesson!