The guy at the hardware desk was smiling when he said "maybe you need another cat."
I was asking for his help to make "mouse guards," which are special screens to protect the entrance to my honeybee hives.
Last year, my one weak hive Gertrude pulled through winter hosting a family of mice that moved into the bottom floor, destroying 2/3rds of the frames with wax where bees raise their young in spring.
The destruction of basically the hive nursery meant the colony would have to spend a year re-building.
I wasn't going to let that happen again but I wasn't exactly spurred into action with the extended warm weather we were having.
When the forecast started to hint at snow, I decided I didn't want to find any more uninvited winter tenants and headed for a hardware store.
Honeybees don't hibernate; they munch on stored honey while they rotate literally "shivering" to keep warm. Their biggest challenge is moisture.
Besides not being able to fly in rain, if hives get water inside, it will condense on wings and kill bees.
To help bees keep the hive warm, beekeepers add what are called "entrance reducers," which limit traffic in and out of the hive.
I use one by two-inch inch boards that are supposed to only allow the width of 2 honeybees to pass through.
Because our weather is so mercurial, mine are a little wider to minimize traffic jams at hive entrances. With more like two-inch wide openings, the hive has more than enough room for a field mouse, or two, to get in.
To keep mice out, beekeepers also add "mouse guards," which purchased from bee supply companies can be adjustable, slide-ruler like meshes big enough to allow only bees in.
Or you can do what I did, and get 1/2-inch wire cut into 4x14 inch rectangles that fit over hive entrances, allowing bees to move around but keeping riffraff out.
I was able to fit the wire mesh under two entrance reducers, and attached the wire over the temporarily smaller entrance on the other four hives. Guess I should have first checked if anyone had already moved in…..
Charlotte Ekker Wiggins shares her gardening tips at http://www.homesweetbees.com. Copyright 2013 used with permission by Rolla Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Contact Charlotte at email@example.com.