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In Kenya, beehive fences keep elephants off crops

Science & Environment

The Beehive Fence, made from beehives and dummy hives, is nature's answer to an electric wire fence.

It turns out elephants are no fonder of bees than many humans, and will actively avoid the creatures in order to protect themselves from painful stings on their delicate areas, such as the inside of their trunk and the area around their eyes. Now, rural African farmers are using this to their advantage, by putting up Beehive Fences around their fields to discourage elephants from trampling on crops.

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The Beehive Fence was created by the Elephants and Bees project and has been field tested in three rural Kenyan farming communities with an 80 percent success rate. The fence consists of beehives and dummy hives, hung every 10 meters in a linked formation around the crops. If an elephant touches one of the hives or the wire linking them, it causes the whole contraption to swing, releasing bees to deter the elephant. The system has the added bonus of producing honey yields for the farmers.

The fences are affordable to produce — between USD 150 and USD 500 per 100m, depending on the type of beehives used — and built from locally-sourced materials. Could nature be used as an alternative to man-made fencing in any other scenarios?

Email: lucy@savetheelephants.org

Website: www.elephantsandbees.com/beehive-fence/

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