If you are struggling with bees bothering your horses this spring like I am, I feel your frustration! Nothing has bloomed yet, we are having loads of warm days in between the snowstorms, and the bees are HUNGRY AND CONFUSED! My issues with the bees started extra early this year, in late February.
Not to mention the fact beekeeping has become really trendy, but unfortunately, a lot of these beeks (bee geeks, yes it’s a term LOL) are not putting out adequate food on these weird in-between storm warm days. Not to mention the fact that, in my experience, many of these beeks are quick to tear you apart without offering any help, and without bothering to read your plight for help in saying you are trying to SAVE the bees. NOT harm them.
I happen to live on the border of a neighborhood with hundreds of homes. And in those hundreds of homes, there are a LOAD of beeks (30+ hives nearby that I know of). Which in turn means there are THOUSANDS of bees that are hungry and confused coming to my place. Why, you ask? I put out hay for the horses. You know, because horses eat hay.
Normally hay is NOT a food for bees (it is typically pollinated by wind). But since it is the only green thing around, smells lovely, and has pollen: it is like crack for these poor bees. In turn, this means the hay is being swarmed and my horses cannot eat for a good portion of the day once it gets above 45° and is daylight. To say I am upset is a HUGE UNDERSTATEMENT, especially considering I have late-term pregnancy mares on our place.
I understand the benefit of bees to our planet. I understand the plight bees face. But my horses also deserve to eat. And if this were any other manner of livestock, animal control wouldn’t tolerate the animals wandering due to the owners not putting out food.
So with all that being said, I have tried a LOT of ways to draw the bees away from the hay/horses without killing them. I will touch on them all below so you can hopefully avoid wasting money on ineffective methods. These tips have come from beeks, google searches, the Colorado State Beeker Association, and other various resources.
1 part granulated sugar, 1 part water. Placed in a shallow dish with little rocks or sticks in it so the bees won’t drown.
This is what all the local beeks that I know (and online) recommended to me. I have had maybe one singular bee partake in my sugar water. I think this is because most of the beeks around me do put this out regularly for their bees and this is NOT what they are interested in coming to my place for.
Literally just water. Placed in a shallow dish with little rocks or sticks in it so the bees won’t drown.
I had zero faith this would work since there were no bees going to my water tanks. But I tried it. As expected it did not work.
Brown Sugar Water
1 part brown sugar, 1 part water. Placed in a shallow dish with little rocks or sticks in it so the bees won’t drown.
No one recommended this. It was an attempt to grasp at straws thinking maybe this is something new they normally do not get. So they might actually find it interesting. They did not.
It is a sticky playdough-y patty of pollen (REALLY sticky). Can be ordered on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3D10yxQ
I gave this a try because I had the same issue last year, albeit not as bad. And it didn’t start until April last year. Last year this worked beautifully. I threw 1/2 of it at one corner of the property and the other half at the other corner (bees only venture to me from one side). Never had another bee bother the horses.
This year it did not work as well. The bees decimated it within a couple of hours, and it wasn’t easy enough for mass quantities of bees to get. So the hay was still an interest.
Loose Pollen/Protein Powder
It is a loose powder/small granule bee feed that you sprinkle in an area you want the bees to feed from. It works best if it is sprinkled over a bit of hay or something the bees can crawl around on and coat themselves without getting stuck. Can be ordered on Amazon: https://amzn.to/37S1Nnw
As soon as I opened the container I was swarmed. It was pretty insane. This is by far the most effective of things I have tried so far. See my GIF below (and the video above).
Things to note: it drew even MORE bees over to my place than were coming there for just the hay. I assume the scout bees were like *jackpot* and brought all their friends. It did significantly reduce the bees on the horse’s hay, although it didn’t completely remedy the issue (probably reduced by 50%).
I have an email in to the Douglas County Extension to see if they have any more insight beyond what I have tried. I also have a few more recommendations to try, but since the weather isn’t the greatest right now, there are no bees here. Once I can test them out I will update this post!
Remember the bees are out on days when it is above 45° and during daylight hours. So plan ahead and have your bee feeding stations out before that happens, so that they find the bee feed instead of your horses/hay.