Honey Badger Guard Workshop
Field Report from Research Assistant, Granton Tumaini
Honey Badger incidents have been so frustrating to the beehive fence farmers both in Mwambiti and Mwakoma villages. Our MSc student from Hunter College, Abi Johnson, published her results showing that cages when placed over a beehive can reduce the hive being attacked by a honey badger.
This study by Abi helped the Elephants and Bees Project to secure a grant through the kind people at the The Karis Foundation for implementing a honey badger guard project. The farmers were overwhelmed with joy after breaking this great news to them. Honey derived from the bees is one of the main economic gain from the project and therefore, it has been very annoying to see hives destroyed by honey badgers for it.
A wire-mesh sheet measures 8 x 4 feet and a whole sheet easily can be cut in half to produce 2 cages. In January the project purchased 100 sheets for 200 cages. The procedure for constructing the cages is pretty simple. A sheet is cut into 2 equal pieces measuring 4 x 4 feet. One piece is then placed on a flat ground and a lid of a hive is placed at the centre. The 4 corners are marked using a mark pen and cut off. While stepping on the lid, all the sides are bent upwards to form a cuboid which creates the honey badger cage. Small pieces of binding wire of about 3 inches are then curled using a pliers on all the outer sides to form spikes that theoretically, make the honey badger feel uncomfortable while on top of the hive. This design leaves the honey badger unsuccessful to its mission to rip open the hives and thereby, reducing the incidents.
Photo: Wire-mesh sheets before cut
The project kicked off on the 26thof January, 2019 at the Elephants and Bees Research Centre. Our initial plan according to the budget, was to cover at least all of the occupied hives on the project (each farm has 15 beehives) and for at least 8 cages to be made per beehive fence ready for more occupations during the next rainy season (March-April). If a hive gets occupied and it is not caged, the farmer can move a cage from an unoccupied to the occupied one. Currently, we have a total of 26 farmers both in the two focal villages. Out of these, 25 farmers have langstroth hives which we are prioritizing.
Photo: Making honey badger guard cages to slot over the beehives
Photo: (L) a demonstration of a complete honey badger cage on a beehive at the Elephants and Bees research centre. (R) Tabitha working on making her guards.
So far, 19 out of the 25 farmers have completed their 8 cages and we have already delivered them to their farms for putting over the hives as we are expecting rains from March next month. Some of the farmers that are yet to finish, have been very busy with harvesting but promised to turn up to finish their cage construction before the rains begin. We hope that this project will protect the bees and honey in the beehive fences, and stop any problems of farmers wanting to kill the honey badgers.
Photo: Granton helping our Farmers during cages construction at the Elephants and Bees research centre