apiary creatures honey bee behavior

Bees vs. mouse: a skeleton tells the story

I love these photos. Yesterday my top-bar hive was bursting at the seams. My husband kept urging me to check it for swarm cells and I kept putting it off. But finally, I dug through an egregious number of bees only to find a skeleton!

It is so cool. It was lying on the screened bottom, covered in bees. I gently lifted it out and laid it on the top bars so I could see it better. It was perfectly intact and most of the bones were clean.

I had always heard that bees will coat dead things with propolis to control the spread of bacteria, but this little guy had been neatly parted and carried away. I speculated that during the winter the bees may be more apt to coat something, but in flying weather they may prefer to remove it. I don’t know . . . but it sure was fascinating to see.


The open area is where I found the mouse.

The skeleton was lying on the screened bottom.

I moved it to the top bars for a closer look.

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  • WOW! Those are some hygienic bees you’ve got there! I guess the bones were just a bit too well stuck together and a bit too big to get out of the hive, otherwise you’d never even have known there was a mouse in there.

    And? Any swarm cells? Looks like a whole lotta bees!

  • That is gross. I hate meeces to pieces! That’s why I only use top entrances. If I found that in one of my hives, I could not eat the honey, nor could I let someone else. That’s how much mice gross me out!

    By the way, I’ve had mice that couldn’t get in the top entrances, built nests on the handles, on the sides of some of my boxes, in between the boxes. I wrap with tar paper, so they had a nice warm place for the winter. I’m ok with that. They deserve to make a living just like anyone else, but not inside my hives!

    That was GROSS!!!!!!!

    • You guys are squeamish. My husband practically ran to the next county when I put that skeleton on the arm of his lawn chair. I just thought it was soooo interesting!

  • Rusty – glad I found this. Removing the white boards when it warmed up the last time, there were mouse droppings among the cluster debris. This despite the fancy stainless-steel multi-hole mouse guards my beekeeping overseer insisted on. (I made entrance reducer out of tobacco sticks and mouse guards out of mesh for my own hive). The hive seems to be OK when I’ve peeked in. Should I try to get the mouse out, and how? Or will the bees kill it? That is too cool. Love the picture!

    • Nancy,

      Mice sometimes get away with spending the winter because the bees remain in their cluster. Once the weather warms and bees become active, a strong hive will take care of the mice. A weak hive, on the other hand, might get robbed blind by a mouse family. A mouse guard can be a two-edged sword because, once inside, perhaps they can’t get out again.

      If your hive is strong, just remove the guards on a warm day and hope the bees drive them out. Going in and trying to chase them out might be too risky for the bees, especially if the temperature is fluctuating a lot.

      If anyone knows a reliable way to chase mice out of a hive, I’m listening.