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Africa’s Honey Fences – Using Beehives to Keep Elephants at Bay

Thanks to zoologist Dr Lucy King, farmers in rural Africa no longer need to worry about elephants wrecking their fields. Through ‘The Elephants and Bees Project’, she introduced the concept of honey fences – a low cost, organic solution that employs beehives suspended several meters apart to keep pachyderms away. The fences are essentially gifts that keep on giving, because the farmers are also able to make an additional income from the honey.

King first hit upon the idea after she read that elephants actually avoid acacia trees – their favorite food – if they spot a beehive in the branches. She then spent several years conducting behavioral experiments, like filming elephants reacting to the sound of bees buzzing played through a loudspeaker. Using the data she gathered, she began to develop the honey fence system – she suspended a series of hives at ten-meter intervals from a single wire, threaded around wooden fence posts. To get into the field an elephant would have to touch either the wire or the hive, disturbing the bees and causing them to swarm out in buzzing cloud.

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