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Do mice eat bees?

Not often. Mice frequently move into a hive because it is warm and because there is a lot of food inside. But the food the mice are looking for is the honey and pollen, not the bees. Mice are certainly capable of ruining the comb, eating the honey, and causing the colony to starve, but they are not pernicious meat-eaters. Yes, they will eat invertebrates on occasion, but a colony of bees is not their first choice.

Sometimes the bees will do in the mice. I took the following photo several years ago in my top-bar hive. Nothing is left but the skeleton of the mouse, but bees are vegetarians too. They probably stung the mouse to death and then removed all the parts they could and dumped them outside. Occasionally, honey bees will enshrine a dead mouse in propolis instead of carting it away. The propolis covering prevents bacteria from spreading throughout the hive.

Mouse in a top-bar hive.

Comments

Bill Castro
Reply

Wow, that is a crazy picture. I have had mice camping out and raising yong in the gable tops. They probably stayed warm from the heat of the colony below acting like a heat pad under their mattress.

Thanks so much for the visual…

Wayne Davidson
Reply

My experience with mice is they do eat bugs. If you have ever found moth wings (from miller moths) that’s mice. They don’t eat the wings. They will also eat grass hoppers. So I would guess mice would eat bees too. And how convenient they are in a nice bunch in the winter.

Rusty
Reply

Wayne,

Which is why I said mice are “pretty much” vegetarians—there are exceptions to everything. Still, I’ve seen many dead mice in hives. I believe if a mouse began eating live bees, the colony would emit alarm pheromone and that mouse would be good as dead, unless the colony was too small and/or too weak to defend itself. If the mice were just eating dead bees off the bottom board, that might pass.

In your experience, were the mice eating live moths and grasshoppers or dead ones?

Jim Brewster
Reply

I had pet rats (I know not the same, but similar) that were raised pretty much vegetarian, but when I put the occasional live crickets in their cage, they knew just what to do. So the killer instinct seems to be there.

I imagine they wouldn’t hesitate to eat brood given the opportunity, and I could imagine in an overwintering colony they could pick off some of the cold bees on the outside of the cluster and avoid getting stung. But the idea of them wiping out a whole healthy colony this way seems a bit far-fetched.

Blythe
Reply

I had what I thought was a strong hive just a couple of months ago, but that dwindled down to nothing. I opened it up and found four (4!) mice inside! Alive! I couldn’t believe they could get in there, but they did. And yes, I think they ate the bees. Only a few bees were left in a moldy cluster that wasn’t large enough to stay warm. The mice ate very little of the honey. I got over a gallon out of the comb.

I feel just terrible about this. From now on, I am going to put some kind of screen or hardware cloth over the doorways in the fall. I still have two strong hives that appear to be large enough to ward off any mice.

If anyone has any advice or experience in dealing with mice, I could sure use it. Thank you.

Rusty
Reply

Blythe,

From your description it sounds like your bees died of Varroa mites. As you say, a healthy colony can ward off the mice, or at least control them. In any case, a mouse guard only costs a couple of dollars from most bee supply houses. Or you can use a piece of #4 hardware cloth stapled over the entrance. Be sure to put it on early in the fall before the mice move in.

Blythe
Reply

Thanks for your quick reply, Rusty. I hadn’t even considered Varroa; I hadn’t seen any signs, but I am thinking now I should do some more checking. And I admit, I have not treated my bees for them. I definitely will be putting up mouse guards in the fall from now on!

Rachael
Reply

We just found mouse poop on our bottom board in our Styrofoam Hive — actually we found it a few weeks ago but didn’t know what it was until today 🙁 – there is comb damage and no honey at all in the bottom box but the rest of the hive looks fine- except there is less brood and bees than there should be – Styro hives don;t have traditional mouse guards so we’ll have to work that out — Question is- there is damage to comb on 5 or 6 frames on bottom box and we did not see a nest or the critter himself.. since it is spring should we assume that the mouse will move out? or do we have an issue now because he knows its there??

Rusty
Reply

Rachael,

Just make sure the mice are gone. The bees will repair the comb damage.

Becky Norton Clinton
Reply

We extracted 70 pounds of honey and when leaning the extractor over my husband saw something at the bottom. He pulled the screen out an tucked up underneath was about a handful of dry insulation. I believe mice were making a nest. I don’t know how they climbed up and in the extractor, but they did. We had strained it as it came out with nothing abnormal yet I believe we should not use the honey. Do you agree?

Rusty
Reply

Becky,

I would eat the honey. First off, you found a wad of insulation, not a dead mouse. If you ever purchased food from anywhere, you’ve eaten worse. I like to send people to the FDA website where you can see how many rodent hairs are allowed in your peanut butter and how many maggots are allowed in a can a mushrooms. It is an eye opener.

Take wheat for example. It is okay until it reaches an average of 9 mg or more rodent excreta pellets and/or pellet fragments per kilogram. Yum. See FDA Defect Levels Handbook.

Secondly, the properties of honey make it extremely antibacterial. In fact, that is why it is used on burn victims: virtually nothing can live in it. That is why honey thousands of years old remains edible. It is essentially a germ-free environment. So even if microbes landed in it, they cannot survive.

I wouldn’t hesitate for one second to use the honey. But if you just can’t bear it, save it for bee feed.

Becky Clinton
Reply

Rusty,
Thanks for your info with the Defect Levels Handbook. I contacted the FDA and posed my question to them, Their reply was to contact my local extension office, which I thought was a way to take the blame off of them should there be any repercussions. But, I do take your advice and we have decided to use the honey.

Becky Clinton
Reply

My girlfriend said pretty much the same thing. And also considering years ago people would’t throw away their flour if mice got in the bin. I just think about selling this honey knowing what was in the extractor. And the fact my brother-in-law saw it. lol

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