Download the September 2011 Kent Beekeepers Association Newsletter.
The tragedy of the horses
One day last month when I returned home I listened to a phone message left by a journalist. He was asking if I knew anything about the four horses that had died following being ‗attacked‘ by bees. I was alarmed, I also knew nothing. Some of you will have seen the email I sent appealing for information. The appeal was very revealing and I would like to express gratitude to everyone who helped. The journalist discovered, after speaking to the policeman in attendance at the incident, that Weald beekeepers had come and sorted out the bees.
I have found that Sussex has a group called High Weald and it was they who had attended the incident, which was at Nutley. The owner of the three bee hives in question was also the owner of the four horses. She is a beginner and a member of the High Weald group.
Apparently, one of horses jumped into the bee enclosure, got upset by stinging bees and managed to knock over all of the hives. The other horses came to see what was happening. The result was that all the horses got stung repeatedly by many bees. Two were found dead in a pond, another found after a search was also dead. The fourth horse died the next day. All had died of heart failure.
A public bridleway, which runs past the apiary, was closed by the police until High Weald members had moved the colonies. The unfortunate beekeeper, who was interviewed on local radio, was keen to emphasise that it was an ‗absolutely freak event that was a one off‘‘ but wanted to point out that bees should be sited some distance from horse enclosures. It is a heart rending story and sympathy is felt for this poor owner and the innocent victims.
My experience is that every biting or stinging insect goes for horses in preference to other animals. Although horses generally learn not to come close to apiaries it would be wise to have some distance between bees and horses.