Friday, March 13, 2015

The Shrew is small but can take you down a peg

I remember this incident very well because I saw it happen in my own bee yard.  Then months later I read an article written about shrews in the Ontario Bee Journal.

I became familiar with shrews at home.  I have all flower gardens and I had seen both shrews, voles and moles in the garden.  They move about under the wood chips or in tunnels that they've built.

The shrews are easy to spot because they are not quiet.  The cats would cat them too and they would shriek something awful if the cat paws them--enough to stop the cat.  I believe the shrews are not good to eat and I recall reading somewhere they are poisonous--but not deadly--to eat.

When two shrews meet there's a lot of screaming that goes on as they battle--probably over both territory and a succulent bug.

[Photo from the internet]

When it comes to succulent bugs that's where the bees come into the story.

In late spring I had caught a small swarm from one of my own hives and had scrambled to put some equipment together to house them.  I had a spare wooden pallet that I sat directly on the ground, I had no board to set on top and no bricks to raise the pallet off the ground  The bees had been there for a month or so and were building up their numbers.
Most beekeepers raise their hives off the ground to avoid skunks.  Skunks can eat a lot of bees.  If they can reach the front of the hive at night they will scratch to get the bees attention and when they come out they'll grab the bees and eat them.

I was sitting for a moment after a days work in the bee yard.  It was nearly dark and most of the bees were inside the hive.  There were only a few guard bees standing on the porch,
While I was sitting there I saw something run very quickly across the grass, onto the platform and to the front of the hive.  A half second later it ran off in the direction it came in.

What was that I thought?  And what did it do?  As I continued to sit there it happened again but this time I was expecting it.  The shrew was unbelievably fast as it ran to the hive entrance, snatched a guard bee in its mouth and then ran off.

The article in the OBJ and the website link above mention that the shrew has an extremely high metabolism and must therefore eat a lot.

It may not seem like much for a shrew to run up and grab a couple of bees but if she's doing it all night long it could significantly reduce the hive population, especially a new swarm that is still establishing itself.

The solution is simple and the same one used to keep skunks at bay - put a couple of bricks under the pallets to raise them about 8 to 10" off the ground.

Problem solved.


PhilipH said...

Hello again, after a long absence. Congratulations on a most interesting article. The tiny shrew, a speedy creature and a shrewd one by the sound of it.

Moles I know a lot more about having had cause to trap these busy little blighters in the past but I've never met a shrew before!

Hope your bees have done well in the winter and that the nasty bug that was decimating them some time ago is now under control.

Regards, Phil

Barbara Lindberg said...

Phil, how nice to hear from you! Yes I have been away from blogging for a bit. I've struggled the last 2 years to keep up with my full time job, home and the bees. But I still love working with them. I hope you and yours are in good health. I will come to visit your blog to catch up on you're doing.