Dr. Deb Eldredge wants to know if you know why horses who eat apples with bees on them never seem to get stung. An award-winning writer and veterinarian, Dr. Eldredge is one of Horse Journal’s Contributing Veterinary Editors and an experienced horsewoman. Read on for her entertaining thoughts about bees, horses, dogs and the fall weather.
This time of year many dogs get bee stings. This often happens as your dog goes to playfully grab that apple fallen from the tree – only to find a bee had the same thought. With winter approaching, bees are searching for sweet food to tide them over in a big way. Honeybees are suffering from some ailments that are probably pesticide related and we need to save all the bees we can. They are important for pollinating many crops – including our horses’ grain and hay.
Back to the horse angle here – we have some ancient apple trees along one side of our big field. They drop small, fairly bland apples in large numbers each year. My horses tend to hang by those trees in the fall and mix their grazing with a few apple treats.
I know there are bees on those fallen apples too. I see them when I hike in the field (and have to keep my dogs close so they don’t get stung). Here is the interesting part – I rarely ever see or have heard of a horse getting stung with the exception of irritating a yellow jacket nest. Those are very aggressive, often ground dwelling insects that will actually pursue you if you disturb them. I say that from experience as every now and then they set up housekeeping in the pipes that hold my laundry lines. Feel free to spray yellow jackets!
Horses who stumble onto yellow jacket territory will have stings with hives and soreness all over their bodies. I have yet to come across a horse with an obvious bee sting around the mouth though. So, do horses sort of blow out as they go for the apples and blow the bees off? Do bees leave when they sense the large horse body coming at them?
Dogs will get stung inside the mouth and have some swelling and soreness. I have never noticed anything like that when putting the bit in my horses’ mouths. They never miss a meal here either!
Client horses have accidentally messed with yellow jackets but no bee stings around their mouths either.
Have any of you noticed bee stings on your horses from eating the fallen apples?