bee stories

Revenge of the cattle dog

Last summer my husband and I were invited to a neighbor’s house-warming party. That by itself is unremarkable, except that we came home with a puppy. Not an ordinary puppy, mind you, but an Australian cattle dog, the brother of my neighbor’s pup.

I won’t hold you in suspense, but tell you right up front that cattle dogs are bred to herd. They have two speeds, fast and stop, and nothing—absolutely nothing—in between. They run for the pure pleasure of it. This dog circles the house so fast, his feet are out to the side and his rib cage grazes the grass. There is so much lateral force on the lawn it has bunched up in places like a loose carpet.

Now having a dog was my husband’s idea, but having this particular dog was my idea. I like high-spirited creatures, and this dog leaves no doubt. He’s over-the-top excited about all aspects of life . . . all day . . . every day . . . except for one, which I’ll get to in a moment.

I’m a cat person, but the idea of having a companion while I was out beekeeping was appealing to me. I do all my beekeeping alone, so it seemed like a good idea—I would have something to talk to other than bees that never pay attention. And cats? They’re useless.

A few days later, Q2 and I went up to inspect the hives. He kept poking his nose in the hive entrances. I warned him several times that it wasn’t a good idea, especially not on a hot July afternoon, especially not with dog breath. But I didn’t worry. I figured he would get stung a time or two, after which he would know everything he needed to know about bees.

Sure enough, after about six minutes in the apiary, the howling and thrashing began. I didn’t see him flee, but I could see the undergrowth parting in a wave, then the leaves shuttering back into place. In a few more minutes, I trailed after him.

Down at the house I found him chasing his rear in a tight little circle like a cyclone. Round and round he went until he toppled over from dizziness, then he reached around to lick, lick, lick. This went on and on. When I finally wrestled him into choke hold I saw the problem. Right on the side of his penis was a nasty red welt.

With apologies to half the world, I have to say this cracked me up. I tried to remove the stinger, but he wouldn’t let me near. He circled and licked for the better part of two hours. I had to admire the little lady that got him: if you’ve got only one life to give for your colony, you may as well make it count.

Q2 recovered from his misfortune, but a beekeeper’s dog he is not. All I have to do is touch my bee suit on the peg where it hangs, and he slinks away, tail between his legs. So I’m still beekeeping alone while down at the house my dog is snapping at bees in mid-air. He is a gentle creature, but when the bees are about I can hear his jaws clamping down on nothing, trying again and again to teach those fiends a lesson. Still, though, he won’t go near a hive.

He continues to chase individual bees, sometimes launching himself completely off the ground in pursuit or biting aggressively at the clover. Someday he’ll catch one. Then what? Will we finally be done with this nonsense, or will Q2 hatch a new plan for revenge?


Q2 on bee alert.


  • Rusty . . . Australian heelers are wonderful dogs. Your description fits them to a T. My Australian heeler would spend hours jumping up in the air to catch raindrops dropping off the roof of the barn. If it was a sunny day he would spend hours jumping up into the air to try to catch carpenter bees. Never saw him catch one, but the carpenter bees loved to tease him into jumping. They would dart down and up just to make him jump and snap at them. He loved to ride on the tractor when I planted corn. He was a beautiful light gray with silver tips on his coat.

  • Hi Rusty,
    Handsome red heeler. I have two female blue heelers and man thanks for the atv. As soon as the atv starts they circle it and off we go to check on the hives. They stay about 80 feet from the hives so I never worry about them.
    They love to chase anything that flies. Those dogs keep me happy and laughing and always waiting for me on the porch.

  • Our blue heeler mix chases crows that are a good 50′ overhead. When he gets really mad, he just spins and spins. The crows seem to like this as they’ll circle back around again and again.

  • Man, I cringed when I read this. Give the pup a dog biscuit for me, for I know his plight. Except she got me 15 minutes after I’d com in from the hives, and was standing in the kitchen. What’s that tickle in my shorts? Hmm, nevermind. No, wait, there’s something in there…couldn’t be….[start to furiously disrobe]….Holy ^&(#)*&E)(*!!!!!) First thing I did was drain my bladder, because I knew things were going to swell up within seconds. Then the self pity set in.

    Oof. I’d forgotten that until now.

    • I used to ride my recumbent bicycle wearing long loose-legged cotton shorts, with no fairing on my bike, until a flying swarm of bees went up my pants leg in a head-on collision with me. Now my clothes are tight and my fairing is huge.

  • “With apologies to half the world…” this story had me weeping I was laughing so hard. Now that I’ve recovered somewhat, I’m ashamed of myself. I am so, very, deeply sorry, Mark (but still giggling).

    The tale reminds me of a particular goat matriarch we had when I was a child, who taught a similar lesson to our family mutt. The dog was over 140 pounds, quick on his feet, and terminally curious. But, after precisely one, speeding, “head-on” confrontation with April (the goat), he was abruptly cured. That was scary, too… for a few moments after she put him down, we thought she’d killed him. And, ever after, just like Q2, if he saw so much as a goat’s shadow, he’d tuck his tail and slink far, far away.

    Thanks for the giggles – and the memory.

  • I feel so bad for your dog. I’ve had both a red and a blue ACD. They are smart enough to dodge a cow’s hoof, but bees are something to snap at. Right now I have a beagle and a border collie who care nothing for beekeeping. It’s my chickens who follow me to the hive now.

  • Oh what a laugh, poor dog. My two cattle dogs (both blue heelers) are avid yellow jacket and bee catchers and connoisseurs but with a stern word and look near my hives they nearly always leave the bees there alone. They have both been stung many times in their pursuit of all that buzzes but faithfully accompany me on every trip to the hives just as they do on every trip to the bathroom and everywhere else I go.

    • Jillian,

      They are great dogs, but I actually wouldn’t want to know how many bees mine has eaten. The number must be staggering. I try to keep him away from bumble bee queens in spring, but other than that, he feasts. I keep thinking he will get tired of being stung, but no sign of it.

  • Neither of my red heelers have been stung, yet…they both peruse the watering “pond” where the bees go for a social drink. Oddly, they seem a bit curious of each other, a few sniffs, but then leave well enough, alone! I really enjoy your blog, thank you for sharing your expertise and humor.

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