Anyone familiar with folklore has heard that elephants are supposed to be afraid of mice. But what about bees?

Well, believe it or not, findings in Africa seem to indicate they are – and this is good news to farmers who have had their crops ravaged by the big beasts.

So just why are elephants afraid of bees? Conservationists think it is because bees tend to sting elephants “around the eyes, behind the ears, in the mouth and even inside the trunk.” If true, this would understandably make them a bit wary of getting near any beehives.

As for farmers, the elephants’ aversion to getting stung is a plus because it presents an opportunity to keep the animals at bay without having to confront them.

As reported in Scientific American:

An elephant can eat a farm’s entire harvest in one day, seriously threatening a family’s income and food security…and although elephants are typically peaceful, they can endanger humans if in the search for food the animals end up raiding sheds or trampling homes. To protect their livelihoods, some farmers have taken to shooting elephants…

[But] in an attempt at a nonlethal solution, nearly 10,000 beehive fences…are now built into sites in 20 African and Asian countries. STE team members [the group involved in placing beehives] focus on providing bee-fence kits to farmers in the epicenter of the human-elephant conflicts in Africa, often near game reserves. Each kit includes 12 beehives and 12 dummy hives. The latter double the number of objects that resemble hives to elephants, eventually stretching out the effect without the added expense and upkeep. Hives are suspended from wires hanging between wooden posts. If an elephant tries to enter a farm, it walks into the wires, shaking the hives and triggering a swarm. STE covers the cost of the kits—around $1,200 per acre of crops. King expects each kit to last 10 years.”

So how effective are bee fences? One study in 2017 found that when they were installed at 10 farms near a national park in Kenya, they were able to ward off elephants a hefty 80 percent of the time!

For more information, you can read the entire story in Scientific American here.


  • Craig Rucker

    Craig Rucker is a co-founder of CFACT and currently serves as its president.