Elephants and humans often do not coexist peacefully.
In both Africa and Asia, hungry elephants can quickly lay waste to local farmers’ crops — and retaliation by villagers can be fatal to elephants and humans alike.
Now one of the few things elephants are afraid of — honeybee swarms — are being used to create “beehive fences” that can help prevent these deadly conflicts.
The idea is to hang beehives along fences that elephants have to breach to get to crops or into villages.
Even the sound of angry bees roused by the invasive elephants should be enough to send the pachyderms packing.
As additional benefits, villagers in some cases have been able to market “elephant friendly” honey, and aid bee pollination of crops.
The success of a given beehive fence project depends on local people’s prior experience with beekeeping, because the most effective bees are the most aggressive ones — posing serious dangers to people who are not properly trained and prepared.
Another wrinkle is that while African bee-fence projects seem to have met with success, it doesn’t seem to work as well with Asian elephants — perhaps because Asian honeybees are apparently not as fearsome.