Monday, August 19, 2013

If it's not one wasp, it's another

The friend whose motorcycle picture I posted yesterday (who I shall call Forest Guy), showed up unexpectedly for a visit this afternoon and we decided to take my herd out for a ride/walk.  We had just gotten a little ways into the woods (on a trail that I both rode and walked on yesterday,) FG was on Tessa, I was leading Emma and Ramsey was loose.  He was on the trail about 30 feet behind Tessa and just in front of Emma and I.  He stopped to nibble a beech leaf directly above a seething mass of furious wasps whose nest Tessa had just unknowingly stepped on.  The air was suddenly filled with a boiling mass of psychotically angry wasps, panicking donkeys, flying hooves and me screaming run, run, RUN! 

We made it several hundred feet up the trail and thought we were safe, but soon there was again a cloud of wasps chasing Ramsey, the dark (bear-colored) shape that they had already scent marked with their stingers to attack again.  Ramsey took off back down the trail, veered off just before he hit the nest again and headed for home.  At the same time, I lost my grip on Emma's lead and she also  took off to escape the wasps, save her baby and get back to safety.  Tessa was getting a bit excited by now because her donkeys were completely freaking out, but was still clueless about why they were freaking out.  Good thing too as a completely freaked horse going bonkers and pitching FG into a tree would have been just a bit more chaos then is really warranted at any one time.

I tell FG to ride on fast, make sure the donkeys made it across the road and home safe and to get Tessa out of there ASAP.  I make my slow, ponderous way back to the barn and find everybody there.  Tessa, still looking a bit confused, but happy at all the fun.  Emma, clearly favoring her left hind and both donkeys looking a little shell-shocked.  Ramsey had been stung at least 6 times, Emma 2 or 3 and me 5 times. 

I reassure myself that Emma is favoring her leg because it got stung and not because she broke it in her mad-dash gallop.  Everyone looks OK and I set about offering comfort, reassurance and painkillers - those suckers hurt.  All seems fine for several minutes and then the fun really starts.

Both Ramsey and Emma start looking a bit off.  Ramsey in particular, is breathing funny, acting wobbly kneed and lethargic. The dopey donkey look...

Several of Ramsey's stings are in his neck, just over the jugular groove  I get ice packs and start thinking about where I might be able to find epinephrine in a hurry and knowing that every vet is at least an hour away even if they can come out.  I get the ice going and within minutes Ramsey snaps back and quickly is acting completely normal.  He is breathing right, bright-eyed and is his own self.  Emma also wakes up and seems fine.  I start relaxing just a bit and thinking that their reactions were more from pain and shock and not an allergic reaction.  But, I am not 100% sure. 

Another 20 minutes and both donkeys are acting fine, but irritated at the stings.  I start thinking that everything is OK and I really don't want to end our walk on such a bad note and it would be good for both donkeys if they were to move around.  It helps take the swelling down and alleviate pain.  We decide to just go out a little and see what happens.  Both donkeys perk up immedialty and are happy to be out.  we get across the road, they are a little nervous so I let them munch on their favorite beech leaves for a bit.  They relax and become happy and eager to move again, so we did.
We ended up having a great walk/ride, it wound up being Ramsey's longest walk yet.  His foot is doing well.

Unfortunately, we aren't quite done yet.  We were returning home (down the same path that Emma and Ramsey had used to escape the wasps earlier with Tessa and me following.  We all used the same path again on our way back out), everyone was happy and relaxed.  Tessa was again in the lead with Ramsey just behind her, Emma and I about 100 feet back.  We walk over a small log and Emma gets attacked by MORE wasps.

She didn't mess around this time, just took off, grabbed Ramsey on her way by and headed back home.   She got stung on her face and twenty minutes later, she was acting lethargic and breathing oddly.  She would breath very hard for a short time and then not breath at all for 40-50 seconds.  I called the vet. 

Of course, the long distance line to my main vet wouldn't work for some reason and I got an answering service at the other and had to wait for a call back.  Just minutes before the phone fianlly rang, Emma snapped back.  She shook her head, took a deep breath and moved into the barn for a drink and started nibbling hay.  She and Ramsey have been fine ever since.

I am really at a loss about this.  If it wasn't for the scary breathing thing, I would be inclined to think this is donkey reaction to extremely painful stings.  The vet I spoke with does not know me or my animals and he was very vague in that I-don't-want-to-get-sued way that vets so often use these days.  I will speak with my regular vets in the morning. 

Meanwhile, a question for all donkey owners out there, have you ever seen reactions like this to bee/hornet/wasp stings?  Is this a donkey thing or should I be freaking out about sting allergies?


  1. Ouch!! Interesting, albeit scary, reaction to the wasp stings. Hope you aren't too sore from the stings yourself?!

  2. Sorry, I can't help you with your questions - I hope you reach your regular vets easily. I'm just grateful the "kids" are OK. I've never thought about the reactions animals might have to those buggers, but I do react, especially to wasps and hornets. I know how much the stings hurt, and I get localized swelling (enormous!), redness and heat.

    Nancy in Iowa

  3. First off, we had our own encounter with wasps this summer, my condolences. Those stings HURT and six weeks after mine, I still have a little knob of skin to remind me. I'm so very glad the donks are okay... what a scare you had!

  4. My donkeys have never had this experience (yet) (knock on wood).
    Miniature donkeys hail from small islands in the Mediterranean sea - Corsica and Sardinia I think. I think I will research if there are wasps, or any other stinging insects, native to that area.
    From your description of Emma it sounds like she dealt with the venom in an internal, Zen way and then revived?
    I'm glad you all didn't get stung any more than you did.

  5. Holy moly. That was scary. The pics of Ramsey hanging his sad head say a lot. Glad they're ok.

  6. Oh you poor, poor things, I'm so glad that everyone is ok! Our cat was stung really badly today too, I just detest wasps. The heavy breathing thing sounds like a delayed stress reaction, my mini mule does this when he had a real fright or found something very stressful, I think it is the 'come down' from too much adrenalin, takes them a while to recover but walking, eating and cooling if over heated are all good things.

  7. This year I've been stung by under-ground Yellow Jackets (a type of wasp) and one bumble bee just this past friday. His sting was no where near as bad as the !$#@ yellow jackets. They are aggressive and will chase you down. The description of Tessa stepping on the nest, and then the chase sounds just like their behavior. At this time of year they are a very nasty varmint and will literally take no prisoners.

    In NC where I live, people will often be mowing the grass and get attacked. They have been mowing over/around the nest all spring and early summer without even knowing it is in the yard.

    Since your problems are out in the woods, it is probably best to avoid them and let them do their own thing. However, if you find a nest in your yard/pasture/barn area it would be best to keep your herd and other domestic critters away from them until you can 'treat' the nest.

    1) Do not use gasoline. Seems all the guys love a good fire, especially after a few stings ... but it is a pretty stupid idea.

    My weapons of choice:
    1) a small screen from a double hung window
    2) a bucket, some insecticide (harmful to bees !), some dishwashing detergent (also harmful to insects) and water to dilute the poisons
    3) a broom or tool with a long handle

    Wait until dark. Let all the wasps/yellow jackets return to the nest. After they have all returned to the hole in the ground, cover with the screen. You might need to put a brick or a rock on it to weight it down. The screen keeps them confined while you pour 1/3 to 1/2 of the bucket of diluted insecticide & soap (I mix up about 2 gallons of pretty strong solution). I use the broom to carefully tip the bucket. I don't want to be standing over the hole even with a screen. Let it soak in - depends upon how well your soil takes up the solution. Tip the bucket again and soak the nest with the rest of the solution.

    If you think you need a second bucket, you can just use a strong solution of soapy water to rinse out the insecticide. Leave the screen covering the nest overnight. The next day, after sunrise, watch the nest and see if there is any activity before removing the screen.

    I have dug nests out of flowerbeds before and from under small shrubs that the yellow jackets have killed with their excavation. They make a condo unit of nest layers that look like pancakes all stacked up. Larger nests make have different configurations.

    They can be pretty dangerous. If you can take antihistimines, it might be a good idea to have some on hand for yourself. 5 stings are a pretty good hit! The AntiHistines will help with the itch. I used white vinegar to help with the itching. I wonder what the donkeys would think about a vinegar rub-down?

    M in NC

  8. Blimey! People go on about Australia having lots of dangerous animals but I often wonder why when you guys seem to have a lot more nasties to deal with than we do!

  9. Oh How awful! Just catching up on this now. I have been super vigilant in our new bush paddock - so far haven't encountered any nests but there are lots of wasps around. I keep Apis on hand for stings - it's a homeopathic remedy that works really really well for people AND animals!

    Hope everybody is doing well ...

  10. Oh, so sorry for you and the critter kids. How scary to have to wait and watch for a bad reaction to the stings. I've been advised to give my dog a Benadryl for a bee sting prior to getting him to a vet. Don't know if that would work for Emma and Ramsey. Damn those wily wasps! Hope all of you are okay now.

  11. I have antihistamine granules exactly for this. But we do have ground wasp issues about this time of year all over.
    Donkeys when injured will act as though the world has ended. One small ouie and they really act as if they are at the end.

    Walk your trails by yourself quietly. You keep your ears wide open and you can find the ground bees and avoid them. They are usually only around for a few weeks and they ARE very angry.

    In the yard we wait until they are in for the night then use a spray to poison the entrance and tunnel. When they climb in and out it effects them.
    There nests go deep.

    We have a rule here. First one steps on the nest, second stirs them up, third one gets stung.

  12. I am glad you said this. Everyone says that donkeys are so very stoic and I guess they are about many things, but they can be SUCH prima donas as well. Maybe it only shows when they feel safe enough. This was a very scary, painful and traumatic event, but the donkeys were pretty dramatic about it.