17 Jul 2011

Beehive fences protect crops

11:08 am on 17 July 2011

Beehive fences have successfully protected crops from elephants in Kenya.

Scientists found the hives to be a very effective barrier; elephants turned away from them in 97% of their attempted raids.

Honey from the hives also produced additional profits for farmers.

Elephant numbers in Kenya have grown to around 7500 over the past 20 years. However, the BBC reports they frequently ''raid'' farms in search of food such as ripe tomatoes, potatoes and maize.

Previous research into natural deterrents showed that elephants avoided African honey bees.

In 2009, the University of Oxford and the Save the Elephants charity set up a project to test this.

Beehives were suspended on wires between posts with a flat thatched roof above to protect them from the sun.

The BBC reports boundaries were created for 17 farms, using 170 beehives along 1.7km of fencing.

After two years of observations, the full results of the trial have now been published in the African Journal of Ecology.

Biologist Lucy King of Oxford University said that in 32 attempted raids over three crop seasons, only one bull elephant had managed to penetrate the defences.

''It was very exciting to see that our theoretical work has been converted into a practical application,'' said Dr King.