September 11, 2012

Ground Bees!

I have lived in the Midwest my entire life, running around barefoot (literally, five mile runs barefoot, spending my childhood on the farm barefoot, that level of barefoot) and until today, I never knew that there was such a thing as ground bees.  I mean, it makes sense, bees do tend to make their homes in really ridiculous places, but I had never considered the ground as a nesting place before.

For the past month or so, we've been putting three of the horses in an empty pasture owned by a relative of the BO, adjacent to the pasture they're in all the time.  The gate is a PITA, so I always carefully craft the order in which I bring the horses in/out of it (this guy hates being alone, this guy crowds the gate, this guy is attached at the hip to this guy, etc).

Today, I'd already brought the barn's other pony through the gate and turned him out, and was bringing the big grey Andalusian through the gate when he suddenly started getting fussy and tossing his head.  I didn't think a whole lot of it since he has a bromance going on with the pony, but then I felt a sharp pain in my arm.  It took a second to register, until I looked at the horse frantically stomping as bees flew around him, stinging him, and instincts took over as I dragged him back out of the pasture and shut the PITA gate as quickly as I could.

After the adrenaline rush was over, I googled "ground bees" on my smartphone, and learned that they make a nest that looks like an ants' nest, only with a bigger opening.  Exhibit A:

I also learned that where there's one nest, there are probably more in the area, because each separate nest contains a queen, and males fly back and forth between them.  Exhibit B:

You wouldn't look twice at this in the pasture, would you?
Armed with this knowledge, I went back out to find out where the nest was.  Turns out, there was a hole just like the one in the first picture to the right of the gate, just where we step when we are undoing the PITA latch.  The difference today was that we've gotten 7 inches of rain since August, and the ground is soft for the first time since we've started using that pasture.  When I led the horse through, his hoof slid straight through the soft earth and into the bees' nest, enraging the normally docile bees and causing them to sting in defense.  The horse really behaved quite well given the fact that he was being stung by angry bees while still haltered and being led, only throwing his head and rolling his eyes and scrambling backwards a bit without losing his mind.

So I guess this is one part story and one part PSA: watch out for ground bees in your pastures!


  1. I remember when we were at the Military stables, they had issues with ground bees out on the trails. The poor horses got twitchy going certain places after getting stung so many times. I cannot stand anything that buzzes, so I would be horrible if I ran into those.

  2. I learned about ground bees when I was about 10 years old out riding my horse in the pasture. We were riding along minding our own business when we were suddenly completely covered in pissed off bee's. I jumped off and ran into the house as quickly as I could, where my mom stripped me down. The bee's were in my clothes and were stinging me multiple times. It was awful and traumatizing. Haha that is how I found out about ground bee's, they are stelth little buggers.