Whilst doing winter rounds I spot this on the flight board of one of the hives. I know what it means. It can go one of two ways 
Its not unusual to find the bees have been doing some housekeeping and throwing detritus outside. When the weather is warm the bees fly it away from the hive. This picture was taken January 13th 2022 although sunny the air temperature was only 5C. Its was not warm enough for them to fly and as I found out there was a great deal of rubbish to clear out. The bees had done there best given the circumstances.  
As soon as spotted the rubbish I knew what was going on inside the hive. This rubbish is typical of what happens when you have a mouse move in to the hive. Field mice often take up residence in a bee hive for the winter. It nice and secure, warm, there is food laid on and the neighbours are quiet. A splendid spot to set up a new home.  
Mice taking up residence can go one of two ways: 
A. The mice evict the bees by simply eating all the food (honey, Pollen and wax). The bees die of starvation since it is too cold in the winter for the bees to even move let alone deal with these house invaders.  
B. The bees evict the mice  
In the picture you can see the bees are clustering in the top left and the mice have set up home on the bottom right. The mice have chosen the side of the hive that gets the afternoon sun. The bees and the mice co-habitate in an uneasy truce. As soon as the weather warms up, and supposing the bees have not perished over the winter, the colony begins to become more active and the space is contested. It is usually quite one sided. There are more bees than mice and bees sting. 
In most case the mice decide retreat is the better part of valour and leave. Occasionally you find a mouse has not left in time and has been overcome by the bees. The bees cannot haul the mouse carcass outside so they cover it in propolis. The propolis is normally used in the hive to weatherproof the hive from the inside and it has antibacterial properties. Entombing the mouse in propolis protects the colony from the decomposition of the mouse. I understand propolis was used in the ancient Eygptian's embalming process.  
These are the two end frame from the picture above. The wood frames are usually filled with honeycomb which, in turn is filled with honey and/or pollen. You can see large parts of the honeycomb is missing. The mice ate it or chewed it up to make way for their nest of grass and leaves. This was not a very big mouse nest so I think they were recent invaders. Unfortunately they picked the wrong hive at the wrong time of year to try and move in. 
The rubbish we saw on the flight board in the first picture was the bees tidying up after the absconding squatters. The colony is none the worse for the mouse incursion. I will replace these damaged frames with some fresh ones in a few weeks time. The bees will be able to rebuild the comb and by the summer and we will not know the mice were ever there.  
Tagged as: Case study, Misc
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