Real Estate Agent with Tennessee Recreational Properties

Fall is a favorite time of year for trail riding and nowhere more so than here in Jamestown, Tennessee, in Big South Fork National Park. With daytime temperatures in the 70's, riders enjoy those mellow fall days when the woods are a medley of reds and golds.

Vicious yellow jackets can deliver a very painful stingsBut riders are the only ones who get out there in the fall; riders must always be alert for ground nests of yellow jackets which commonly build nests below ground in old rodent burrows or other cavities such as rotten tree stumps or fallen logs, fence post bases or river banks and the edges of forested land. They are common in banks of dirt along the edges of the trail. The problem with ground nests is that you don't know they're there until you're on top of them and by then, it's too late! During "bee season" riders can minimize the risk of disturbing a ground nest by staying in the middle of the trail.

These so-called "ground bees" are not bees at all but a type of highly aggressive wasp in the hornet family, although they look a lot like bees with their black and yellow striped bodies. They are particularly dangerous in the fall, when the population of the nest is at its peak. Yellow jackets are highly defensive and will become very antagonistic when their nest is approached. Any vibration or loud noise can provoke this swarming behavior so trail riders must be particularly mindful. As the horse's hooves hit the ground, the vibrations can be felt in the ground nests, getting the yellow jackets stirred up. Usually one or two horses will pass without incident and then the riders and horses behind may suddenly be surrounded by stinging yellow jackets. Wasp venom contains a chemical "alarm pheromone," released into the air, signaling guard wasps to come and sting whomever and whatever gets in their way. You may have noticed that beekeepers always wear white suits; yellow jackets are repelled by light colors and attracted by dark colors so black and bay horses are more likely to be stung than white or light-colored horses. They also gravitate to dark holes like eyes, nostrils, mouth and ears. 

Horses that are stung will react violently to the sudden pain, usually by bucking. You will hear your riding companions yelling, "GO! GO! GO! BEES! GO!" and you must be ready to move quickly. Wasps and bees can fly about six to seven miles per hour so humans and horses can outrun them but they will follow relentlessly for quite a distance. Yellow jackets will sting more readily then most and have the capability to sting repeatedly.

They become particularly aggressive in the fall when their natural food supply, nectar and fruit pulp, is becoming scarce. Needing carbohydrates and certain proteins, they are attracted to human food such as sodas, juice, beer, sweets, hotdogs etc. When you're eating lunch on the trail, examine cans and other containers before drinking from them to check for stinging insects that may have flown inside.

This product would work for any outdoor activitiesAnyone with a known allergy or hypersensitivity should never ride alone since help may be needed to start prompt emergency treatment measures if stung. It is wise to carry or have an identification bracelet or necklace, such as "Medic Alert," to alert others when sudden shock-like (anaphylactic) symptoms or unconsciousness (fainting) occurs after one or more stings.

In any case, riders will want to put something like an "Afterbite" stick or cortisone cream to relieve a painful sting and some Benedryl tablets in their saddle bags. I also spray a product called "Bee Safe" on myself and my horse before a ride during late August and in September and October. It is natural, not chemical; the main ingredient is peppermint, which disrupts the insect's respiratory system. Instinctively, the insect senses danger and flies away. Since bees, wasps and yellow jackets are social insects, they have a unique communication system and they communicate the danger to others.

For information about Big South Fork real estate or horse properties in Jamestown, Tennessee, go to

There's also a lot of information about the area on Tennessee Recreational Properties' website.


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Lee & Carol Barbour, REALTORS
Murphy and Hayesville, NC; Hiawassee, Blairsville, Blue Ridge GA and Copperhill TN - Murphy, NC
Mountain Living Team in Murphy NC and North GA

Good tip on checking the soda can before gulping down one and the Bee Safe sounds like a good product since it doesn't have the chemicals. I bet it's a sight to see horse and riders out running the hornets. As always you're the trail expert, Leslie.

Sep 29, 2010 11:04 AM #1
Sue Neff
Tennessee Real Properties - Jamestown, TN
Principal Broker, Jamestown, TN

Great post.  May times riders are so thankful for a break in the weather, the cooler days with less humidity, that they don't think of the bees.  At East Fork Stables the staff collects info from riders and marks known bee nests on their trail map hanging in the lobby as a warning.  They also put small signs out on the trail. Riding in large groups exacerbates the likelyhood of getting stung. 

Sep 29, 2010 11:26 AM #2
Leslie Helm
Tennessee Recreational Properties - Jamestown, TN
Real Estate For Trail Riders

Hi, Lee and Carol. I found "Bee Safe" at the Boston Flower Show whe I lived in Vermont.  Just yesterday, there were five of us riding and we had one instance of yelling, "GO! GO! GO! BEES! GO!" although we got by quickly and no one was stung.

We passed a spot that had been signposted by the Park Service with a detour around a nest but I think they must have eradicated the nest by the time we got here.

Sep 30, 2010 09:03 AM #3
Leslie Helm
Tennessee Recreational Properties - Jamestown, TN
Real Estate For Trail Riders

Hi, Sue. Word passes quickly amoung riders about where nests are, that's for sure!

Sep 30, 2010 09:04 AM #4
Sharon Tara
Sharon Tara Transformations - Portsmouth, NH
New Hampshire Home Stager

I feel like I just saw a horror movie...great warning, but very frightening to a scaredy cat like me.  Never mind the warning...I'll just stay out of the woods!

Sep 30, 2010 10:44 AM #5
Leslie Helm
Tennessee Recreational Properties - Jamestown, TN
Real Estate For Trail Riders

Hi, Sharon. When I lived in Maine, I used to go to "The Common Ground Fair" every year; I remember avoiding the swarms of bees around the trash containers. It's different on horseback because there are Thousands of bees in the ground nests by fall, and horses are "flight" animals by nature so there's a bad combination.

We just rode the same trail twice this week because it's beautiful...and, the second time,  we knew it would be bee-less! My plan is to BEE where they aren't!

Oct 02, 2010 08:57 AM #6
Jim Frimmer
HomeSmart Realty West - San Diego, CA
Realtor & CDPE, Mission Valley specialist

I don't like anything that stings, which makes you wonder why I life in San Diego since the bees and wasps are out year-round. Must have something to do with the weather, for me and them.

Oct 09, 2010 03:01 PM #7

I'm looking for a bee hive,. I had a bee hive, but someone has stolen it. I'm arthritis problems, so I need hives products. If you don't want or you can't keep your hive, I'll be glad to help you!

Apr 15, 2013 08:29 PM #8
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Leslie Helm

Real Estate For Trail Riders

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