Mouse Mummy | Vol. 3, No. 7
Your Extension Experts
June 4, 2015
May 19, 2015
May 15, 2015
Ok, this is definitely not an insect; it’s not even an invertebrate. However, this mouse was mummified by insects. Mice often enter honey bee hives in winter in search of a warm home. Honey bees would not tolerate such an invasion during the summer, but during the winter, they are clustered around the brood in the center of the hive and the corners of the hive interior go undefended, especially during colder weather. Sometimes the invading mice die a natural death, or perhaps the bees attack and kill them on a warm day in early spring (Should have left earlier!). In either case, the honey bees now have a dilemma because a mouse corpse is too big for them to carry out of the hive as they do with the bodies of dead bees and other debris. Their solution is to cover the cadaver with propolis, which effectively seals the dead mouse off from the rest of the hive. Notice they did remove the hair first.
Honey bees make propolis by gathering sap and other exudates from trees and mixing it with beeswax and saliva. The result is a glue-like substance that they use to seal small cracks, glue things in place, and help maintain sanitary conditions. Propolis is sticky and pliable at normal summer temperatures but becomes hard and brittle when cold. Propolis has antifungal and antibacterial properties. Through human history and into the current day propolis has been used by humans for various purposes, including medicinal uses, waxes, and glue. The ancient Egyptians took guidance from honey bees and used it in their embalming process.
Blake Layton, Extension Entomology Specialist, Mississippi State University Extension Service.
The information given here is for educational purposes only. Always read and follow current label directions. Specific commercial products are mentioned as examples only and reference to specific products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended to other products that may also be suitable and appropriately labeled.
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