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Protecting crops from raiding elephants is not an easy task for Africans farmers where wild elephants often roam free, until a group of British researchers working in Kenya made a remarkable discovery —elephants are naturally scared of honey bees. Zoologists found that elephants would quickly move away if they heard so much as the sound of a buzzing hive. These elephants have even adopted a special call used to warn the rest of the herd when they are in the vicinity of bees.

So Oxford zoologist Lucy King and his colleagues took the idea to its logical conclusion —the creation of a fence containing beehives. This so called ‘beehive fence’ was first deployed as a test in Kenyan farms by a charity organization called “Save the Elephants”. Farms were fenced off by nine beehives hung under small thatched roofs. Each beehive was placed ten meters apart and were linked together by wire. Researchers found that farms protected by beehives had far less human-elephant conflict than unprotected farms.

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Photo credit: Lucy King

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