Bees keep elephants from stealing crops

In Kenya increasing elephant populations have been widely praised as a conservation success story. But this success represents a problem too. Elephants raid crops. Thorny fences represent little obstacle to these large marauders, but they don’t want to mess with an angry bee…

Dr Lucy King and her group from the University of Oxford used a novel beehive fence deployed in 62 communally run farms in Kenya. Beehive  fences semi-surrounded the outer boundaries of seventeen farms. They compared elephant farm invasion events with these and to seventeen neighbouring farms whose boundaries were ‘protected’ only by thorn bush barriers. Their results demonstrate that beehive fences are more effective than thorn bush barriers at deterring elephants. The bees may have a role to play in alleviating farmer–elephant conflict. The bees also provide pollination and produce honey.

A Sagalla beehive fence. Photo from http://www.elephantsandbees.com/

The elephants even have a alarm call specific to these bees!

The Elephants and Bees Research Project is one of Save the Elephants’ innovative programs designed to explore the natural world for solutions to human-elephant conflict.  More information on Dr King’s project can be found here, including publications and more pictures.

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