Gabon Bees & Trees Study
The beehive deterrent concept has been experimented with in Gabon, to see if the honey bee species that is native to Central Africa Apis mellifera adansonii, will deter forest elephants (Loxodonta Africana cyclotis) from feeding on fruit trees. The study by Steeve Ngama and his team took place in the Gamba Complex of Protected Areas in southwest Gabon, where there are issues of HEC due to high density of elephants in the biodiverse ecosystem.
To test whether beehives can deter forest elephants, elephant behaviour was recorded near trees where beehives had been hung, and on control trees without beehives. The chosen trees produced fruits that were commonly enjoyed by elephants and comprised of 6 Irvingia gabonensis and 4 Sacoglottis gabonensis. Elephant’s behaviour around the trees was recorded by camera traps and was monitored weekly over a 70 week period.
Steeve and his team found beehives to be a successful deterrent to forest elephants in Gabon. Elephants visited the trees predominately at night (due to less threat from bees and humans during this time). The presence of beehives, whether active or inactive, reduced the amount of time the elephants spent by the trees. However when compared to occupied hives, hives without bees were more likely to have elephant visits. Frequency of elephant visits were considerably higher at low bee activity sites and where bees were absent from the hives. It was also discovered that elephants disturbances to the hives had no impact to honey production, 4.1kg was obtained from active hives during the study which was similar to the harvests in Kenya of 4.6kg/hive. Using beehives has multiple benefits to people and their crops as well as preventing elephants from causing damage to crops and trees.
Special thanks to Steeve’s sponsors: the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Gabon Biodiversity Program, Shell Gabon and Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech, University of Liège (Belgium).