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View Full Version : Do Honeybees and Horses Mix?



Melissa.Van Doren
Apr. 18, 2011, 10:09 PM
Does anyone keep bees AND horses at home? We have 8 acres... hilly, partially wooded, lots of great flowers. My SO is very excited to get started (on a small scale) with beekeeping and I'm a little nervous... I was enjoying all the information in a catalog until I came across a couple pages filled with contraptions designed to help you retrieve an errant swarm!

Any reassurance will be appreciated!

AppJumpr08
Apr. 18, 2011, 10:37 PM
My stepfather has several hives on their farm, and I never had a problem when my horses and I went to visit when I was younger. In fact, the hives are near the wood shed right now, and we walk right past them all the time in the summer (within 6'). I can't imagine you'd have a problem with 8 acres of land as long as the hives aren't against the barn wall or something like that.

AppJumpr08
Apr. 18, 2011, 10:40 PM
Wanted to add: my understanding is that bees only swarm when they have a good reason: hive too small, etc. It's a lot of work for them to swarm, so they don't take it lightly (but I'm also not a beekeeper myself, so perhaps I've misunderstood)
My stepfather has added to his apiary by gathering swarms from various locations over the years.

Janet
Apr. 18, 2011, 11:10 PM
When I was a kid, we lived on 4 acres. We had 4 horses,and my father kept bees. There was never any interaction between the bees and the horses. The only thing that was difficult was mowing the part of the lawn next to the hive.

I am not sure why you are concerned about swarms. Bees swarm when they need to move , and they fill their honey sack up to have food in the new place. As a result (unless you actively attack them), swarms are very sluggish, and do not cause a danger to the horses.

Lieselotte
Apr. 18, 2011, 11:50 PM
Well... My mare and I had a very bad encounter with some extremely angry honey bees at the end of last summer... We had been riding by their hives all summer long (they were rentals to pollinate the orchards as well as water melon fields) without any issues. However, some ignorant person removed the hives during the day (instead of at night when they're all "at home" with their queen) and left a whole bunch of homeless bees behind... And they were mad! As we approached they started swarming us and landed on us and my horse being a horse didn't keep calm but started throwing her head, then shaking her whole body so I jumped off. I should have ran like hell but she was already thrashing around... Once the first bee stings it's over... they all start stinging, apparently the first one releases a hormone - screaming "attack!" and they all do.

I cried when I pulled all the stingers from her head, her poll, her ears... Her head got very swollen and the vet came out to give her anti-histamines and steroids. It was scary... and supposedly she would fare worse next time it happens. For no apparent reason (other than that I wasn't throwing my head) i did not get stung at all, just my poor horse.

So long story short, know what you're doing and all will be well. Again, we had no problems with the bees all spring and summer until someone made a mistake...

SonnysMom
Apr. 19, 2011, 07:57 AM
I kept my first horse in a field that had 4 hives, 4 horses and 3 steers. Never had a problem with them. The hives were way out in the field away from the run-in/hay storage area.

JSwan
Apr. 19, 2011, 08:03 AM
There was a hive in a tree on this place for years. I almost ran into a swarm when I was cutting the grass, but even then they didn't bother me.

The ground bees, on the other hand....

Leather
Apr. 19, 2011, 11:07 AM
My friend's husband has his hives in her horse's 2 acre pasture (sectioned off by hot wire) and they haven't had any issues.

And as Janet mentioned swarms aren't a danger, they're more of a PITA to whomever gets to try to contain them. My friend has had to do that when there was a swarm while her husband was out of town.

Hillside H Ranch
Apr. 19, 2011, 11:18 AM
We have hives on our property, and one of them is only about 150 yards from the barn (it sits in the orchard). They aren't ours; someone else does the maintenance/bee care, but we haven't had any problems with them. I am very cautious when mowing near their area, and I only do that when it is almost dark, but so far, so good!

carolprudm
Apr. 19, 2011, 11:24 AM
Well... My mare and I had a very bad encounter with some extremely angry honey bees at the end of last summer... We had been riding by their hives all summer long (they were rentals to pollinate the orchards as well as water melon fields) without any issues. However, some ignorant person removed the hives during the day (instead of at night when they're all "at home" with their queen) and left a whole bunch of homeless bees behind... And they were mad! As we approached they started swarming us and landed on us and my horse being a horse didn't keep calm but started throwing her head, then shaking her whole body so I jumped off. I should have ran like hell but she was already thrashing around... Once the first bee stings it's over... they all start stinging, apparently the first one releases a hormone - screaming "attack!" and they all do.

I cried when I pulled all the stingers from her head, her poll, her ears... Her head got very swollen and the vet came out to give her anti-histamines and steroids. It was scary... and supposedly she would fare worse next time it happens. For no apparent reason (other than that I wasn't throwing my head) i did not get stung at all, just my poor horse.

So long story short, know what you're doing and all will be well. Again, we had no problems with the bees all spring and summer until someone made a mistake...
My dad used to keep bees right outside the pasture. We never had a problem. 'Course he never moved their hive.
I wonder if your bees were Africanized. They tend to be more reactive and nastier than European bees. My dad believed that bee venom helped his bursitis and would sometimes TRY to get stung. It takes a LOT to annoy a European bee.

My dad's doctor was not impressed with dad's home remedies

AnotherRound
Apr. 19, 2011, 11:52 AM
No reason to think they were africanized. Any honey bee will act the same if you move their hive during the day. It was the management mistake. She was describing a typical response to abusing a hive.

Besides, from what I understand, most bees these days have been africanized somewhat - I should say, in the US, anyway, though I can be corrected if I am wrong about that. I think most swarms have had that diluted over the past 10 years and its not much of a problem today as it was in the 90's. If they survived the recent blight.

Hey, did anyone ever hear what it was that happened to the bees here in the US? We lost something like 70% of our swarms and they never knew if it was a bee virus, a fungus, or what?

Many of the beekeepers in my area lost their swarms and went out of business. One apparently had 6 hives he kept on my rental property, and only one is there today. He hasn't visited it in at least three years and I heard he was out of business, so no one is tending this colony. I was sooo tempted to look inside this winter. I took the top section off the hive, and bees started to gather at the front door, at the bottome, so I put it back and left them alone. I just bet there's a ton of honey in there, though. I figure later in the summer, after there's been some great flowers around, I'll talk to someone about how to collect it. Yum.

Leather
Apr. 19, 2011, 12:11 PM
Hey, did anyone ever hear what it was that happened to the bees here in the US? We lost something like 70% of our swarms and they never knew if it was a bee virus, a fungus, or what?

AFAIK there still isn't an assignable cause to CCD (colony collapse disorder): http://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=15572

goodhors
Apr. 19, 2011, 02:41 PM
Husband might want to check into the mite problem, which is what I have read is the cause of CCD. The mites are TINY, end up choking the individual bees and bees die. I think there have been recent developments in helping, "vaccinating" the hives successfully against the mites. Could be they are a bit labor intensive, so work if you are on-site. Rather than the rental hives placed in spring, removed in fall, no people touching them all season.

A local man keeps mint plants planted around his hives, so all the incoming bees land on the mint, walk into the hive. He says the mint on bee, bee disturbing the mint leaves and breathing in the fragrances, seems to prevent the mites, has not lost any hives. Totally hearsay, but an idea for your husband.

I would see no problem with having bees on a farm, just don't let the equines rub or touch the hives.

Husband might like to check locally, do some work with another beekeeper to learn the work. With practice, he could see if he really enjoys it. Having bees on the place will be helpful to your plants, crops, and any neighbors around you. Bees can travel quite far.

Funny how no one is very excited at the thought of losing bees to the CCD. Bees are ESSENTIAL in so many areas of food development, crop growth. But because folks don't see them working, they don't have a clue how much work bees actually do.

I believe you can purchase queens and workers that are not Africanized. Beekeepers do keep their breeding separated, especially if they are selling honeybees. Wild colonies of bees might have African in them, but wild colonies are greatly reduced from the past years with the CCD.

Go for it, bees are benefical to everyone.

bird4416
Apr. 19, 2011, 04:01 PM
We had bee hives when I was a kid. Honey bees are not overly aggressive if you leave the hives alone. I used to sit on the hives for a quarter and amaze my friends. This didn't go well one day after my brother had bumped the hive with the lawn mower. They were a bit peeved about that for a couple of days and then settled back down.

As long as the hives are out of reach of the horses, you should be fine.

Benson
Apr. 19, 2011, 04:30 PM
We have kept bees for about 5 years and never had a problem. One hive was on the edge of our hack path and others are about 100' from the pasture edge. We have all coexisted nicely.

Good luck and enjoy the honey!

Melissa.Van Doren
Apr. 19, 2011, 04:44 PM
Thanks, everyone! Feeling better about welcoming bees to the farm. :)

Alagirl
Apr. 19, 2011, 05:28 PM
No personal bee keeping experience, but some literature suggests to put the hives behind a high hedge/fence, so the bees fly over your head.

PNW AMTS Dealer
Apr. 20, 2011, 12:02 AM
I have a wild honey bee colony that made their home in my barn. They found an opening in the tin siding and made their way between the ceiling and floor of the two story biulding. Their entrance hole is about 10 feet off the ground and they come and go constantly. They have outgrown thier nest twice in the last few years and swarmed. It is quite an impressive sight and sound. I do have occasional drowning victims in the water tanks, but they have never bothered the horses. The only bummer part is the honey that is going to waste as we would have to tear apart my hay room ceiling to get to them.

Watermark Farm
Nov. 16, 2011, 02:52 PM
I thought I'd revive this thread. I'm really interested in beekeeping and after a lot of thought and research, have found a beekeeping service that will install a hive and bees at my farm and provide regular maintenance and lessons for me and also do all the harvesting of honey. Also guarantee me 15-20 lbs of honey yearly. This seems like a sensible way to get my feet wet and see if beekeeping is for me.

I am doing this mainly because I want to help promote honeybees. My only minor concern is the proximity to horses. The site that will work is located 300 feet from our pasture but 200 feet from our arena and it's out of the way so horses are never going to go much closer than that.

I am going to do some landscaping in the bee hive area --- I'm told that lavender is a good plant to put in. Is there any variety of lavender that's best? I was thinking I'd put in French lavender.

To those of you who keep bees and horses, does this seem like feasible distance to keep bees from sweating horses who are working in the arena? The beekeeper said it is more than enough. He suggested erecting a fence around the hive so that in case a horse gets loose, it can't get anywhere near the hive and trigger defensive bees.

Thanks. By the way here's the website of the bee service (http://www.getbees.net/index.html) here in the SF Bay Area.

goodhors
Nov. 16, 2011, 04:56 PM
We have a couple local Gardeners who have planted mint at the entrance of the hive. Sorry, can't remember if Spearmint or Peppermint. Anyway the bees land on the mint plant, walk into the hive. They think the bee problem virus?, doesn't tolerate the mint and dies. For them, they have had no Colony Colapse problems with multiple hives. Just an idea that is cheap and easy, mint is fun to use, for around the hives. You may want to pot the mint if soil is good, it tends to run a bit. Needs to be damp, so mulching is advised in drier locations.

Locally all the types of Salvia, Hyssop, are quite popular with the bees and Hummingbirds. Annual Salvias will give more flowers, steady production over the season. Hyssops are a perennial here, so can be seasonal flowering. Have to check your own area for best choice of plants with flowers. Many herbs are popular with bees and other insects, plus you can eat them too.

Flowering bushes around or on one side of the hive are supposed to be helpful. Branching and leaves will stop the wind so bees can land easily, along with easy flowers to reach.

Sorry I don't have any actual hive experience in my garden or by the horses. I have plenty of bees, not sure where they come from. Could be wild ones. Our problem insects are flies and ground wasps.

ReSomething
Nov. 16, 2011, 05:44 PM
If you put a solid fence around their area it makes them lift as they leave the hives. You can also face the hive entrance away from any traffic areas. They do fly in a bee line, straight from the hive to their food and water sources. If you ride in the bee line, it's like getting pelted with gravel on a busy day. And sooner or later one of them will check you out, which is a little scary.
You'll need to provide a water source to keep them out of your water troughs, where they will drown, your pool, ditto, and wet ground where they might be in a trafficked area and annoying. DH used to provide them their own water dishes with floating tanbark so they had a drinking spot, and in nature they love wet sand at creek edges.
We keep a couple of hives but not very successfully, there's a bee tree and a guy a mile away with hives so we have pretty good pollination for our vegetables.

SanJacMonument
Nov. 16, 2011, 06:41 PM
I've been a part of two horse barns in my life that had beehives. Both were in a cluster of trees, one in the middle of a 40 acre horse pasture, the other in the back of the property but not far from horse paddocks.

Bees are in decline in most industrialized countries. In parts of China, people are paid to hand pollinate fruit trees with feathers at the end of long sticks.

Bee keeping in the US is a growing business for bee pollinated agriculture.

There are variety of reasons for the decline: virus, mosquito fogging trucks, Agriculture pesticides and fungacides, lack of a variety of pollen (in large crop areas). The bees are losing their ability to find their home and when they do they are unable to share location information with other bees. PBS (Nature maybe?) did a long story on the bee decline about a year ago.

There is an increase of fly and wind pollenated plants because of the lack of bees. Unlucky for us - more goldenrod and ragweed!

stolen virtue
Nov. 16, 2011, 07:12 PM
I also had an experience with a bee swarm. I was riding in the arena-near the organic farming-and I saw a black cloud. It was traveling at a fairly good clip and I could not out ride it. I put my head down on my horses neck and the swarm flew over us, they flew very close and left us alone. I guess if bees do not have a hive to defend they are not agressive.

Unfortunately, the local yellow jackets we have come into contact with are extremely agressive. I have seen swarms while riding but I had never been in their direct path.