Bees and Horses
I am a new bee keeper in Cheshire but I think I may have an answer to a problem which has been reported in Horse and Hound (see article copied below). Horses have died following multiple bee stings.
As a keeper of horse and bees I believe that the bees have been using water sources such as ponds which they don't normally visit, due to the very dry conditions which we had here in Cheshire earlier in the year and still have in the south east particularly.
I can understand how an established bee keeper may not have realised that the bees were no longer able to get water from their normal source and had started looking elsewhere - the horses' drinking ponds perhaps.
I am inclined to write to H&H and suggest horse keepers might try fencing off ponds and suchlike and provide alternative water sources as long as drought conditions prevail..
Horse and Hound Article 23rd June 2011
Four horses have died in East Sussex after a freak incident involving bees. The horses aged between two and 20 died after being attacked by a swarm in Nutley on 9 June.
"It is heartbreaking," said owner Ann Gerrard, who kept nine hives near her paddocks. "We can only guess at what has happened. Something disturbed the bees perhaps one horse jumped out and knocked a hive. We've never had any problems before the hives were in a well-fenced field, it was totally unprecedented."
One of the horses was found dead on the afternoon of the attack, while another died the following day. Both were assumed to have suffered anaphylactic shock [intense allergic reaction] and heart failure. The other two drowned in a pond, presumably fleeing the bees.
"I've since been told by the Beekeepers Society that bees don't like the smell of horses," added Ms Gerrard. "That's not to say that a bee is going to attack a horse, but hives should be kept at least a field away."
"I would like to stress that this was a freak accident," added Sgt Michael Keeler from East Sussex Police.
Last month, Karen Thursfield from Cheshire wrote to H&H (letters, 19 May) after her horse died from suspected bee stings. He had been kept in a field next to hives for 10 years, but on 10 May she found him "out of control". The next morning he was found dead of a suspected heart attack.
H&H vet consultant Karen Coumbe urges keeping hives and horses totally separate. "An incident like this is incredibly rare. I've never encountered anything like it, despite being a beekeeper myself," she said. "Readers should not be alarmed as individual stings are unlikely to cause major problems. In this case, the huge numbers of angry bees would have triggered a 'fight or flight' reaction."..
My thinking about this was initially prompted by my sister's experience in her London garden. During the dry weather in May she found that bees were becoming a problem drinking at her small water feature and at the saucers in which pots were standinganywhere they could access water in fact. She has lived there for many years and can see the hives in a neighbouring garden from an upstairs window but has never had this problem before. It seemed likely to me that the bees normal water source had dried up and they had found her water instead. As she was opening her garden under the Yellow Book scheme she was rather concerned!
The spring drought has been an unusual phenomenon and I could imagine that a horse lowering its head to drink, splashing and treading on the bees at the edge of a pond would find itself surrounded by angry bees getting caught in its mane as it shook itself. Horses can be panicked by buzzing noises close to their heads. Obviously I don't know any more than what has been reported but I understood that 2 horses were found dead in the pond, so there was a pond in the field.
In any event it seemed a good idea to remind beekeepers to check the water supply available to their bees so that good relations with neighbours could be maintained.
I certainly don't wish to be 'teaching grandmothers to suck eggs' but as a new beekeeper I have been taught about the need to create a water supply to avoid my bees being unwanted guests at neighbours ponds etc. My bees have their own large pond within their space which is fenced from the ponies which are on the other side, just yards away, safely I hope.
Let's hope there are no more such incidents.
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