Elephants and agriculture don't mix. Thanks to an international ban on ivory trade, elephant numbers are on the rise. But the migratory routes of these elephants often cross new housing developments and farmland. Elephants are herbivores and are much more interested in eating those crops than they are a man. They often crop-raid during the dark hours, leaving the farmer with no choice but to throw stones, shoot bullets and to try to scare the elephants away from his valuable produce. The elephants feel threatened and sometimes charge, leading to both human and elephant deaths. Electrical fences as a means to keep man and elephant separated are not always feasible or affordable in many parts of Africa.
So now you're probably asking yourself what this has to do with bees. The idea is actually quite simple and very clever. The Elephants and Bees Project at Save the Elephants together with Oxford University and Disney's Animal Kingdom have been researching using bees as a natural deterrent to the elephants to keep them out of crops. Beehives are hung at intervals of 10 meters and linked together with wire to form a "fence" around the vegetable field. If an elephant tries to enter, the hives begin to swing causing the bees to leave the hive. Instinctively, elephants do not like the buzzing sound of bees. The elephant then continues on his migration route but avoids entering the "fenced-in" area of farmland.
This of course is a win-win situation for both the elephant, the farmer and the bees. The elephant no longer risks his life by unknowingly entering an agricultural area. The bees have ample nectar sources. And the farmer is rewarded with increased crop production due to reduced damage and perhaps also due to increased pollination. Of course, the farmer also benefits from his additional "crop" of honey which he can sell as "Elephant Friendly Honey".
Want to know more? The Beehive Fence Construction Manual can be downloaded here.
Charitable donations to the project can be made through Save the Elephants. 100% of funds will go towards project running expenses.