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More and more people are becoming interested in keeping their own bees, which can have countless benefits – from extra-pollinated gardens to an extra boost for the endangered insect populations around us.
However, if you already keep other animals in your yard, you might be a bit wary about introducing bees into your garden at the same time. For example, can bees be kept near horses?
Yes, bees can indeed be kept near horses – but it’s not ideal to have a bee colony in the same area as horse stables or where horses are running free. Ultimately, both could cause harm to each other without there being any aggressive intention.
Whether you’re keeping your own hive or are just introducing a few waves of insects into your yard, here’s some food for thought.
What types of bees are you introducing?
Honey bees, on the whole, are docile. That being said, there are, of course, some species that can be highly dangerous – such as those referred to as Africanized bees. These bees attack in groups and are known to do so without provocation. However, these species of bee are considered uncommon in North America. There’s been some concern that they are ‘sweeping across the nation’, but it’s unfounded that you’ll see them in your backyard (period).
However, just because these insects aren’t native to the US doesn’t mean you can’t be on your guard. It’s worth considering how close you’re keeping your horses to any potential bee colonies – such as near any flowers that attract bees (bees love star jasmine, for example).
Can you keep the bees on the same land as the horses?
There’s nothing to say you can’t keep horses and bees on the same land – bees are generally very docile creatures. They do not go looking to sting things (we’re not talking about mosquitos, here!). However, bees can become violent and even sting if they feel threatened to protect their hives, themselves, and their queens. That is why it is vital to know where to keep your bees compared to where your horses are.
Generally speaking, both bees and horses keep to themselves, unlikely to cause any problems unless negatively provoked. That being said, ideally, you should not keep your bees on the same patch of land as the horses. That is to say that while horses and bees can live happily in the same area as one another, it is best not to keep any beehives or large colonies of bee-attracting flowers in the same paddocks as your horses.
The problem isn’t that they will attack each other, but accidents do happen. A horse in a fury (i.e. out of fear) could run too close to a beehive and easily cause an accident. Even out of pure curiosity, they could accidentally threaten a colony – if that is the case, then the bees will have no choice but to attack to protect themselves.
Therefore, the best way of keeping the peace is through careful separation. Even keeping the horses in one paddock and the bees just outside of it so that the horses cannot reach them may be enough. You’ll also need to consider various factors in your yard that can attract bees, too – bees are attracted to vibrations, for example, not just flowers.
If you are very concerned about them being too close, then, of course, you can always separate them further by placing hedges between them, or setting up walls or fencing.
That said, even with the best protections in place, bees can still find their way towards your horses – and accidents can occur. It’s prudent to know how to help your horse(s) should they get stung. What’s more, you’re going to need to protect your bees as much as possible, too – they’re at risk of all kinds of threats. For example, did you know that bees can drown in honey?
How do bee stings affect horses?
Bee stings affect horses in a similar way to how they affect us. Chances are, your horses may get a slight bump or two where the bee has stung them.
That said, as is the case with some people, some horses and breeds can have allergic reactions to bee stings. Stings affect them in a variety of ways, including causing breathing problems, onset of fever, excessive sweating, severe swelling, and more. The different symptoms displayed naturally depend on the horse, but you will have to call the emergency veterinarian as soon as possible if you do notice any signs of illness.
Don’t worry – it will take a lot of bee stings to cause a fatality in horses. That doesn’t mean they won’t feel discomfort, however, and it’s therefore worth being vigilant all the same.
It can also be difficult to determine whether or not your horse is allergic to bee stings before introducing bees to your backyard or near your stables. However, if you are concerned about their allergies, you can inquire about certain treatments for your horses to help desensitize them to the venom of bees. Before welcoming bees to your yard, this may be a worthwhile route to take.
Of course, it is essential to remember that not all horses have bee allergies and that in most cases, horses and bees live together freely perfectly fine. While it would not be wise to endanger either of them by forcing them to live together in close areas, they can be on the same land and co-exist peacefully.
Crucially, it is all down to you – if you’re not comfortable with bringing bees close to your horses, then there’s no reason why you should. Advice from experts and from anecdotes is that you should keep them apart where possible – and be prepared if there’s a sting or two over the warmer months.
Bee stings are never pleasant to have to handle – annoyingly, they can even sting through your clothes – but when you’re setting up a wild yard, they are common risks you have to prepare for!