If the queen has been laying well for the last 4-6 weeks or so, the population should be building up now. As it gets warmer, more bees will be leaving the cluster and patrolling the hive to repel intruders.
I use the guards with the 4-5 inch slot, not the one with holes. My bees always use the upper entrance in early spring. I remove the mouse guards when it's warm enough to completly get into the hive and clean the bottom boards; during the last week of March or first week of April. Fortunately, most of the mice are off on their own finding natural dens, and not particularly looking for a warm place to spend the night,.or winter, like a beehive.
I use a small piece of lath for ea. hive. The bees actually tell me when to take them off. How? They start gnawing on the ends and where the slot has been sawed and screened. Their gnawing produces a yellow secretion (to soften the wood?) which is highly visible. At that point they are taken off, usually early April but they will indicate to me the proper time. Of course, if you use metal it will probably be different. OMTCW
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