Bees Attacking Horses


My horse has been attacked by a swarm of bees 3 times over the past 5 weeks. At first I thought the bees were reacting to his fly spray, so I stopped spraying him. This made no difference as they assaulted him again. There are 6 horses in 6 parrallell paddocks , all with different fly sprays on, and no matter where I place him they still attack him. He ends up with anything from 10 - 20 bee stings! After the first attack he developed a mild colic, from the stress i believe. He reacts much like a human with swellings at the site of the stings but does not seem to find them irritating as he shows no signs of wanting to scratch. My question is can these repeated doses of bee venom not eventually build up to an allergic reaction? And any suggestions on how to bee proof him? We have our stables situated in blue gum forest areas where bee hives are numerous, so we cant control that part of the environment.


Bees can be a great problem around horses and there have been documented accounts of horses being killed when attacked by a swarm of bees. At the moment bees seem to be a big problem and I believe that the Metro has lost two horses just recently due to bee stings. The best way to control bees is in fact to locate the hive and have it professionally removed. There are a number of pest control companies that will offer this service and any responsible yard owner would make use of this service to prevent dangerous injury or even death to horses and riders alike. Because you are in an area where bees are feeding it does complicate matters, however finding the nest is imperative.

Pheremones contained in horse sweat are known triggers of an attack, and your horse must have a more noticeable pheromone or be more naturally inquisitive which is why he is being stung more. If he is dark in colour it may also play a role. Bees tend to stay away from light colours so as a VERY LAST option you might consider rugging him with a light weight white cotton sheet in the day. It probably won’t protect him from a huge swarm but it may repel the odd bee. You can also spray the sheet with a large amount of insect repellent to try and keep bees away. (being careful that it is not a citrus smelling repelant) Normal fly sprays probably won’t act as a repellent, especially if the bees are numerous or in a swarm. Some people burn damp pine needles in drums continuously to discourage bees and miges from the area (ie – something with a strong smoke), which may be worth trying, however I have not found any documentation substantiating this claim. I am sure it is not healthy for your horse to be standing in a smoky area breathing it in all day long!

As a general rule, the following tips are handy for animals and humans when it comes to bees (great source of information – go to :

· Wear light-colored clothing. Bees tend to attack dark things (dark hair, dark clothing).· Avoid wearing floral or citrus perfumes, lotions or aftershaves. Bees are sensitive to odors, both pleasant and unpleasant. If riding, avoid using fly control products on your horse with a "lemony" or citrus odor. Such odors are known to provoke or attract honey bees.
· Check your house and yard at least once a month to see if there are any signs of bees taking up residence. If you do find a swarm or colony, keep people and pets away. Find a pest control company or local beekeeper to remove it.
· Fill all cracks and crevices in walls with steel wool and caulk to help prevent bees from building a colony in your house or yard. Fill holes in the ground, and remove piles of refuse; bees can nest in an old cans or an overturned flower pot or hollow fence posts.
· Be alert for bees that are acting strangely. Bees often will display some preliminary defensive behavior before going into a full-fledged attack.
· When you are outdoors, in a rural area, a park or wilderness reserve, be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye out for bees the way you would watch out for snakes and other natural dangers.
· Don’t panic at the sight of a few bees foraging in the flowers. Bees are generally very docile as they go about their normal activities.
· Don’t keep animals near bee hives; they will have nowhere to go if attacked.
· Do not swat at bees; swatting causes the release of an alarm signal and stimulates other bees to attack.
· Don’t provoke bees by spraying the hive with a garden hose.
· DO NOT JUMP IN WATER!! Bees will wait for you to come up for air.

I also made contact with a company called Miracle Medical who sell a product that is proving to be great as a protective measure for both humans and animals. The BeeAlert Bee Control System is unfortunately not a deterrant, however can be used when attacked by bees as a life saving device! It sells for R150 per can and may be worth investing in. I obtained the following information about the product:

“The BeeAlert Bee Control System (patent pending) distributes a non-toxic, environmentally safe spray formula that kills attacking bees and wasps on contact. The BeeAlert life saving defense system was developed in cooperation with EMS first responders, ranchers, tractor operators, and others whose work or recreation put them at risk of stinging insect attacks. The BeeAlert Bee Control System is the best answer for swarming attacks by stinging insects.
The formula attacks the breathing systems of the insects effectively drowning them on contact. Firefighter’s foam and other chemicals used in the past are dangerous to both victims and the environment. The BeeAlert formula is safe. The BeeAlert Bee Control System is available in three highly effective spray devices. A Portable Unit, a Tractor Mounted System and an Aerosol Spray. All three applications are specifically designed to repel dangerous insects, allowing victims the opportunity for defense against attacks. Because BeeAlert is an emergency use product only the finest materials are used in its manufacture.
The Tractor Mount Unit is a sturdy 15-gallon plastic tank mounted behind the operator's seat on a dozer or farm tractor. In the event of an attack the driver hits a panic button and is immediately soaked with the nontoxic BeeAlert formula delivered from spray nozzles mounted on the tank. The spray also creates a protective halo that the insects are unable to penetrate allowing the potential victim to safely remain seated and drive out of the hot zone.
The EMS Mobil Unit is the tractor tank mounted on wheels with an ergonomic handle. When responding to a 911 Emergency Bee Attack call, EMS personnel unplug the unit from a trickle charger and place it in their rescue vehicle. At the scene, the Mobil unit is activated and the BeeAlert formula is sprayed from a powerful wand knocking the dangerous insects from the victim and creating the safety halo that protects rescuer and patient until they reach the safety of the vehicle.
The Aerosol Spray is an 18 oz. Portable can of the BeeAlert formula. The spray is delivered through a specially designed nozzle that emits a powerful stream and creates the protective halo. Perfect for use by hikers, horse riders, survey crews or anyone who works or plays in a potential stinging insect hot zone. Because BeeAlert is an emergency use product only the finest materials are used in its manufacture."
+27 (0) 11 485 4408
+27 (0) 11 485 2817

Regarding your question about the allergic reaction of your horse, the reaction you describe is a normal one to bee stings. The site will swell, be painful and the horse may even become delirious with pain, should he be attacked by numerous bees and suffer many stings which can make treating them difficult. The colic reaction is a typical pain response to the stings. Horses stung around the head may swell up to the extent that they are unable to breathe or eat/drink properly. This situation should be treated as an emergency and a Vet should be called at once. What can also be recommended is to ask the Vet to supply you with one dose of emergency antihistamine / corticosteroids so that should the horse be severely stung, you can inject the dose at once while you wait for the vet. It may save an animal’s life! I also have always kept an emergency dose of Kortico Tabs from my vet to use as treatment should a horse be bitten or stung and have a severe reaction. Spiders and Wasps can also be a big problem around stables, and I have had a client with a horse that had severe reactions to wasp stings. We always had a emergency treatment in stock for him in case he needed it quickly as his face would swell to the extent that his eyes were shut and his face and his tongue would swell in his mouth until he could barely breathe or eat. To leave him for an hour until the vet arrives would almost certainly kill him.

Human bee-keepers report that they tend to allow themselves to be stung every week, which improves their bodies’ reactions to bee stings, so it seems that the more one gets stung, the less reaction is expected. They become less reactive if they regularly get stung. Horses will show different responses to bites and stings, and they may become more or less allergic depending on the body’s response to the toxin.

Some natural options to try are:
Arnica 30x – Use for any type of trauma, bruising, strains, sprains or muscle over-exertion. Helps relieve inflammation, ease of stiffness in a horse that’s been worked hard. Good to use before and after surgery, and foaling.Dose for trauma and muscular strain: 1 dose once an hour for 4 doses. Then 1 dose 3 or 4 times a day until improvement is seen.
Ledum 6x – For puncture wounds, insect bites and reactions to vaccinations or anaphylactic reactions. Hypericum and Ledum should be given together for any injury likely to lead to Tetanus.Dose: 4 doses, 2 hours apart

I hope this information has been useful and that you are able to find a way of protecting your horse!

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