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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.


Bill Castro

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

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.



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

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.


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.



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.


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!

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