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Bees Could Save Elephants and Protect Crops

Bees Could Save Elephants and Protect Crops

Researcher Lucy King is exploring the possibility that live bees could be used in African croplands to protect crops from elephants. A single elephant can do major damage to a farmer’s crops, and those crops may be the only food available for the farmer and his family.

Lucy and her colleagues have published several research studies about the response elephants in Africa have to hearing the sounds of African bees. In a recent paper, they stated:

“The sound of disturbed African honeybees Apis meliffera scutellata causes African elephants Loxodonta africana to retreat and produce warning vocalizations that lead other elephants to join the flight.”

Elephants in Africa have few predators. One animal they fear and retreat from sometimes is lions. It has also been observed that they avoid trees containing wild bee nests. An experiment was conducted in which audio of disturbed bees was played in the presence of elephants, and they began to rumble and move away. The rumbling noises they make are important because they are alarm signals which elephants further away can still hear. In addition to retreating, elephants also do headshaking, and dusting when they hear bee sounds, probably to reduce the number of stings they could receive. The researchers also recorded the elephants rumbles in response to hearing the bee buzzing. They played audio of the elephant rumbles to live elephants to observe their responses.

The hope is live, wild bees placed strategically within croplands could effectively deter elephants from damaging crops. Also, the conflict between humans and elephants has left members of both species injured, traumatized, or dead in some cases. A deterrent that has been tried with limited success is electric fences. If the bee fence idea works, it could be very beneficial to everyone.

“In Kenya, for example, 130 elephants were killed in human’s elephant conflict situations between 1990 and 1993 whereas elephants killed 108 people during the same period (Kiiru 1995).”

In addition, elephants are very valuable to the Kenyan economy because of the steady influx of tourists who visit specifically to see large wild animals like the elephants. So maintaining a healthy elephant population is of the utmost importance to preserve nature, and to protect the flow of income from tourism.

“A living elephant in Kenya is worth $14,375 in income from tourists for every year of its life, and elephant-related tourism brings about $200 million each year.”

Image Credit: Jason Mason

Read more: Community Service, Nature & Wildlife, Pets, ,

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1:35PM PDT on Sep 17, 2012

I heard that this has already been tested and it works great. This is a win-win for all concerned! This would help save our elephants and the people could make money selling their honey.

8:32AM PST on Feb 21, 2012

good idea

10:09PM PST on Feb 20, 2012

Agree with the previous comment, thank you.

11:41PM PDT on Oct 20, 2011

sounds like a win-win situation, if handled properly. go elephants! go bees!

2:33PM PDT on Oct 19, 2011

This would be fantastic if it works out!

7:29PM PDT on Aug 29, 2011

just love the idea... wonderful!

4:36AM PDT on Aug 29, 2011

Lets hope it works, a gentle solution is a better one

7:15AM PDT on Aug 28, 2011

great article, thanks!

9:02AM PDT on Jun 1, 2011

Love Bees. I have two hives of my own here on my property.

7:59AM PDT on May 29, 2011

Fence the farm land and add the bees!!...everyone wins!!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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