India Beehive Fences
Inspired by Dr. Lucy King’s experiment, pre-recorded bee (Apis mellifera) sounds were broad casted during crop raiding events and showed an instant withdrawal of elephants from the crop fields. Due to success, low cost beehives in clay pots, bamboo and loghives are being constructed to deter the elephants and provide economic benefits to the farmers. The farmers and forest department staff have found the suggested measures to be effective for preventing crop damage by elephants.
“We are heaving a sigh of relief, as farmers themselves have taken up the responsibility of driving away elephants,” said forester Ashok Srigavi. A study in the project area demonstrates that 70% of the farmers have benefited from using these methods.
K.M Sankarankutty, a field worker from the office of the Khadi and Village Industries Board and experienced beekeeper installed a beehive fence in association with the Tribal Resettlement Development Mission using our Beehive Fence Construction Manual and with online technical guidance from Dr King. The fence was constructed in Amba, a village encircled by the forest at Sugandhagiri, where elephants from the South Wayanad Forest Division were crop raiding and causing havoc to farmers and devastating their crops.
The beehive fence used 15 hives colonized with the Indian bee (Apis cerana indica) at 10 meter intervals and were hung 5 meters off the ground. Sankarankutty believes honey bees have three different types of buzz, with the most aggressive buzz occurring when the bees are aggravated. Therefore the success of the project occurs when the elephants hit the wire attaching the beehives, and the bees are released which is enough to deter the elephants.
A report from a local farmer explains how elephants touched the fence, the reaction of the bees was enough to scare the elephants away and they have not returned since. According to K. Gopalakrisna Bhatt “the beehive fencing has proved to be an effective method to tackle the increasing man-animal conflict, as the raids by the pachyderms have been controlled effectively”. The Agricultural Technology Management Agency (ATMA), inspired by the success of Sankarankutty’s study built a 700m long bee fence in Mathamangalam in Poothadi Grama Panchayat using live bees as a method to prevent the on-going concern of marauding elephants. The success of the model and the financial backing from the Forest Department and NABARD has provided motivation to expand the project to a second phase in Mathamangalam and Orkadavu villages involving 500 beehives. ATMA is planning to sell the honey under the “Elephant friendly” brand name, and supplying additional revenue to the farmers.