Building a Beehive Fence – Sagalla Hill

Report by International Intern, Jackie Delie

Undertaking the building or completion of a beehive fence takes a village.  As Elephants and Bees project interns, we began the process of preparing and completing the build of Nzumu’s fence, an employee of Elephants and Bees Project and a farmer in the Mwakoma village, Kenya.  Nzumu first installed his beehive fence in 2012 with 12 hives covering 75% of the land he plants crops on.  However, after five years of elephant monitoring research a total of 16 crop raids were recorded, with more raids undocumented.  It was found from recorded data that crop-raiding elephants kept entering his farm through the open area where there were no beehives.  To close off this area from future crop-raiding elephants, three new beehives needed to be installed.

Nzumu attaching the wire to the hive – this is done in a specific way to ensure that if an elephant approaches the fence all the hives will shake and release bees (each hive is connected to the next hive not just the posts in-between)

Preparation for closing Nzumu’s fence entailed building and painting three langstroth hives and three “dummy hives”, building and painting three shade roofs, measuring the fence, digging 1-2 meter deep holes for the 12 posts, and Nzumu sourcing the re-growth posts (Commiphora) and putting them up.  After preparation, six of us headed-off to complete the fence.

Edwin attaching wire to hives.

Together, we worked to install the hives and dummies.  Every other post a hive was installed, along with a shade roof, followed by a “dummy hive”.  Only the hives have a shade roof to protect the beehive from the hot sun.  We had to ensure the hives were well secured with wire and high enough on the post to prevent from honey badgers (Mellivora capensis) from taking the honey.  Also, when installing the beehive fence a wire had to be loosely attached from one post to another so when elephants try to enter they shake the fence and the hives release the bees and do not break the fence.  After the were hives installed, mabati (Swahili for iron sheet) was wrapped around each post a hive was located on.  Again, this protective measure is to prevent from honey badger attacks.  Our hope is the number of crop-raids will reduce on Nzumu’s farm and that he can successfully grow his maize and cowpeas next crop season.

Emmanuel has just attached the mabati to the spots – we use these as honey badger deterrents.


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