Winter Bees

The bees enjoying a sunny winter day, stretching their wings, legs and taking bathroom break.

The bees enjoying a sunny winter day, stretching their wings, legs and taking bathroom break.

Checking On The Bees

Today was close to 50 degrees and sunny so the wife was hell-bent on checking her bees to see if they made it through the coldest winter we’ve had in a couple of decades. Around lunch time we walked out, across the still snow-covered ground. My long strides carried me out ahead of her and our boys. With glee I saw bees flying. Christine was so happy. With a quick hug of celebration we walked the rest of the way to the hive.

They made it!

Honestly none of us held out much hope but sure enough as we got to the hive we could see a dozen or so bees entering and leaving the hive. Bees don’t go to the bathroom all winter so at the sign of the first nice day they high tail it out of the hive and relieve themselves. I could see little orangish-brown stains in the snow. Everything around the hive looked good.  We headed back to the house.

I had a quick project to work on back in the studio so I couldn’t join Christine and our oldest headed back out to take the insulation and cover off the hive. The primary purpose of taking the cover off is so that they can feed the bees a pollen substitute / supplement. This pollen patty, which had been sitting in our freezer all winter, will give the bees food until the snow melts and flowers start emerging.

I was busy scanning a drawing for work when I heard them come back into my studio downstairs.

“We need reinforcements” I heard her calling up to me.

“Ugh I don’t have time for this” I thought to myself and walked downstairs.

She explained to me that we had a friend inside the hive.

“I opened it up and there was a mouse looking back at me. Twitching its nose like this.” She twitched her nose at me. With that all three of us donned our bee keeping suits and headed out into the sun drenched snow.

Mouse Nest

I stood there, camera in hand, as she removed the cover. Sure enough there was a mouse nest on top of the hive. What was more incredible were the amount of bees that were flying around the hive now. Not only did the hive make it, it was flourishing. But more importantly, back to the mouse. Sure enough there was a deer mouse inside a fluffy nest.

Bees were all over the place.

To say he was a little freaked out would be an understatement.

A mouse looks back at us. To say they were freaked out was an understatement.

A mouse looks back at us. To say they were freaked out was an understatement.

He stared at us. We stared back. He wiggled his nose. I for one refrained from nose wiggling. I snapped a photo. In a panic he just sat there shifting back and forth. Normally a mouse would run, but here were two humans and an entire hive of groggy bees.

I looked closer and saw more movement.

There were three mice in the nest. All brown soft and furry. All freaking out, trying not to move for fear of god knows what happening.

Today may as well have been their day of reckoning. Having slept in the eternal darkness of the hive during winter.

There were three mice living in this nest on top of the inner cover.

There were three mice living in this nest on top of the inner cover.

Not knowing my plan I reached out with my gloves. I guess I was going to lift the nest and pray to god that a mouse didn’t crawl up my sleeve. Were that to happen, I most certainly be the one freaking out – the likes of which no five year old ever needs to see his dad demonstrate.

The wife chimed in with yet another good idea. Just lift the inner cover off and dispose of the mice that way.

“Good idea!” when it comes to mice I take any and all suggestions that mean I don’t have to physically touch the mice.

I picked up the inner cover and all three mice looked at me.

A cloud of bees engulfed me. The air was thick with them. Their buzzing droned in my ears. All the humans present were covered in small black and yellow fuzzy, winged bodies.

The mice didn’t know what to make of it. One minute they’re chilling in their nest.  Next the roof is off and the floor is moving towards a buzzing cloud.

In slow motion my mouth dropped.

The mouse in the back lost its nerve.

It made a run for it.

Down into the hive.

The other two watched their buddy do the unthinkable and froze inside the nest.

I deftly took the cover, spun, took two steps and dropped the nest in the snow next to a patch of goldenrod. The fluff hit the snow and two mice kept into the underbrush.

Turning back to the hive I took a step and dropped the cover in the snow. But before I could assess how to extract our witless fuzzy friend his furry little ass high tailed it out from under the hive and made a beeline to where his comrades escaped into the goldenrod.

What is it about mice and us this winter.

I’m going to ask for owl box donations this year so we can keep the mice under control.

Bee Hive

That was it for the drama. The little guy and wife deposited the pollen substitute onto the top of the frames and replaced the covers. I’m not sure what ramifications the mice wintering in the hive has. Suffice to say we’re not touching any of the honey any time soon. Even if there is any left, which I doubt because hopefully the bees ate it all, I don’t know if the mice crapped all over the place or what. The did a number on the inner cover, so I think I’ll burn that and get a new one. I think they got in because I left the outer cover up at an angle which created a cavity for them to make the nest. I can see where they gnawed  the inner cover to gain access.

The bees were happy to get out. They were flying everywhere during the ordeal, and clung to our suits. When we got back inside we could see that the bees had relieved themselves all over the place. Little orangish spots all over our suits means they get to go in the laundry.

It was yet another incredible, magically fun day out here. I’m so glad winter is almost over. I’m ready to get outside and work the bees and yard. It truly is heaven on earth here for us and the other animals. Even if humans mess up your warm nest every once in a while.

Are you ready for spring? Have you started doing anything to prepare?

Do you raise bees? Have you checked on your hive(s) yet?

Share your stories in the comments below.

Nine Apple Trees covers green living, philosophy, humor and occasionally how to do something productive. We’re on six acres of paradise in the Cuyahoga River valley in northeast Ohio.

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