Time for another animal story. Edie Freedman has a surprising one about elephants, African farmers, and bees at a new-to-me website called O’Reilly.
“Although elephant populations have increased since the 1970s, the human population has grown even more quickly,” she writes “cutting the elephants’ habitat up into farms and roads. The elephants’ key migratory routes have been cut off in many places. As result, they regularly break through fences, where they eat and destroy crops. When the farmers confront elephants on their property, things don’t generally end well for either party.
“Lucy King, a researcher working with Save the Elephants, has spent many years investigating the problems involved in crop protection. Her goal is to find long-term solutions that reduce the frequency of human-elephant conflicts—and that can be financed and managed by local farmers.
“As Ms. King looked into the elephants’ habits for any clues to keeping them out of fields planted with crops, she noticed that they tended to avoid acacia trees with active nests of African bees. Elephants, it so happens, are afraid of the bees, and will move away from an area and warn other elephants if they hear bees buzzing nearby.
“And so the beehive fence was invented. The fences are simple, inexpensive, and easy for the farmers to build and maintain. … The hives are hung at chest height, which makes it easy for the farmer to harvest the honey, while also making them highly visible to the elephants.
“The hives, connected by wires, are hung every 10 meters around the perimeter of a field. The farmers leave wide pathways between their crops so elephants can move past the fences along their migratory routes. If an elephant makes contact with one of the hives or the connecting wires, the beehives all along the fence will swing and release the bees.”
What a terrific solution! Where there’s a will, there’s a way.