bee stories

A bull in the beeyard

I wanted to get some serious work done this morning, so I put my dog in the spare chicken yard—Hennery Eight, we call it—so he wouldn’t bother the hens, the cats, or the neighbor’s cattle while I was concentrating.

After an hour or so, the dog began to bark. I yelled for him to be quiet, which usually works, but today he just kept barking. Deciding I better go see, I took a short cut through the garage, which I usually leave open to the outside on summer days. As I stepped from kitchen to garage, I stopped short and inhaled sharply.

There, standing in the middle of my two-car garage with contempt, was my neighbor’s bull. I nearly choked. I muttered several incantations of the s-word, followed by “Shoo! Shoo! Go away!” which was equally ineffective. Briefly, I thought of pushing on him. But his testicles, looking like a pair of hanging planters, changed my mind.

I eased back into the kitchen, secured the door, and then hurried out the back to get my Australian Cattle Dog from the hennery. Surely he would know what to do—after all, “cattle” was his middle name.

Q2, the dog, nipped the bull in the ankles a few times until the over-sized beast sullenly turned around and walked out of the garage, across the driveway, and stopped within a heartbeat of my top-bar hive. I always think of that hive as massive, but next to the bull it looked as fragile as a Chinese takeout carton. If the bull so much as took a deep breath, he would knock the whole thing over. Cautiously, I called off the dog. It was time to phone the neighbor. Quick.

I don’t know why my neighbor’s phone is not programmed into my cell, but it’s not. With a not-so-hasty flip through the phone book—I had to recite the middle part of the alphabet to find the name—I found the number, memorized it, and dialed. I got the Fellowship Christian Church. Those lucky folks found themselves a sinner. I mumbled something clearly sacrilegious before I apologized profusely and dialed again.

By the time the neighbor appeared the bull was gone. My so-called cattle dog was manically snapping at bees and providing no help whatsoever. After a brief consultation, the neighbor and I split off in different directions. It didn’t take me long to discover where the bull had been, I just had to follow the path of pureed foliage. He had plowed through the electric fence—a mere annoyance, apparently—and then walked up the hill to my first hive stand. He had cruised within an inch of my triple-deep hives, left sinkholes in my woodland path, and sauntered across the wooden bridge. At the end of the bridge he snapped the 2 x 6 lumber like so many toothpicks and gifted a steaming pie the size of a wading pool.

The fact that the bull toppled no hives amazes me. Perhaps it was related to my inadvertent call to the church? Maybe a donation is in order?

My neighbor finally found the bull fraternizing with the cows down the road. He offered to fix the bridge but I declined. When you are the one with the bees it is prudent to remember you are the one with the bees—you never know when you may require a little neighborly forbearance yourself. I think I will give him some honey.


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  • Rusty,

    I disagree… I think the bull owner owes you a electric fence and a wooden gate. Honey bees are your herd of choice… tho small but mighty. The bull is lucky he didn’t get his arse stung. The honey as a gift is not needed for this transgression, but normal neighborhood maybe to help keeping the peace… do you get steaks for the cattle farmer when he butchers?

  • It always amazes me just how delicate a bull can be if left alone. An electric fence is not an issue to them and you would think this would carry over into other parts of their lives. However, if left alone they tend to move through an obstacle course with ease and generally no, or at least minimal, damage as you found out.

  • There’s a great episode of Mythbusters about “Bulls in China Shops” that showed that cattle can be extremely careful about not knocking things over, and can navigate an obstacle course with remarkable precision.

    • I’ve learned so much about cattle since I wrote that post! I will be sure to watch that episode of Mythbusters. Thanks so much for letting me know about it.

  • Rusty,

    What race of bees do you use? Besides a mention of German blacks, I can’t find any other mention of the different bees you use or your opinion on the different types of bees. Russian or Carniolan appear to be better bee on paper then Italian for the northwest (Boise). New bee that likes your dogma on beekeeping and would value your opinion.

    • Dave,

      In the past I’ve had Italian, Buckfast, and Russian bees. But nothing—absolutely nothing—compares to the Carniolan for this climate. Since going to New World Carniolans, I have never looked back. They don’t produce as much honey, but they overwinter like champs.

  • Good to know about the NWC! I was considering one colony of Russians and one of NWC, but haven’t found a source for the Russians. Feel better now about 2 colonies of NWC.

  • Wow… I don’t know how long it’s been since I laughed that hard. Truly great writing. It reminds me of Dave Berry, who writes a syndicated humor column. My favorite parts were the “middle name” reference and the wading-pool sized gift.

    Keep up the great work!

  • I am a new (2nd yr) beek and new to rural life too. We live on a heavily treed property but in a farming area. Our immediate neighbors raise cattle…twice now I have seen escaped, roaming cows right outside my gate…and I had no idea they were so large, they are as big as pick-up trucks… they pass right through and among my raised garden beds and beehives without knocking anything over. You’re right about a solid beehive looking fragile next to a bovine. Thanks for your blog, I’m learning a lot about beekeeping from you and your commenters!

  • I had to laugh – for the past several days, our neighbors bull, a huge red bull with a white face, has been regularly breaching his fence. And enjoying our lawn filled with dutch white clover for my bees. Aside from the craters where he has stepped, there is no damage. And he has wandered through my vegetable garden, my backyard, next to the swimming pool, in a flower border. I cannot believe how he managed to NOT crush at least a few plants!

  • Not only do I love your site, but I applaud your choice of canine: I too have an under-employed Aussie cattle dog (Angus). Good to know that if I ever encounter a stray cow, goat or sheep, it’s sorted! He learned pretty quickly that herding bees is not possible, but he’s still working on rounding up koi & goldfish in a client’s pond!