Farmers in some African countries are moving into new territories located on the elephant's natural migration routes, causing friction between man and beast -- sometimes with deadly consequences.
Exploring solutions, environmental researcher Lucy King has implemented her doctoral research, using bees as a deterrent to elephants who have in the past destroyed crops and agricultural equipment.
King's solution, the beehive fence, combines real and dummy beehives full of African honey bees. Triggered by a simple wire fence the hives are disturbed, swinging and releasing irate bees upon elephants.
Twelve to 15 hives can protect an area between 1.5 and 2 acres -- the size of the sustenance farms King is targeting.
An elephant attempts to negotiate a beehive fence wire at night. Bees are known to sting elephants in the trunk, around the eyes and mouth.
King's research showed 94% of the elephants she studied moved away from the source of bee sounds within 80 seconds and "will avoid live beehives at all costs."
"Elephants can identify bees by sound alone, indicating that they may associate the sound with a negative historic event," says King. "Once they learn that there is an active beehive in a tree or on some posts around a farm, we suspect that they remember that local threat and will avoid it in the future."
There's plenty of secondary benefits to bees too. King says there's some evidence a healthy bee population in proximity to a farm can increase crop production by 15-30%.
Rural Kenyans are no strangers to beekeeping, and honey, wax, royal jelly, propolis and pollen are all harvested, boosting the income of farmers by as much as 50%. In 2015 500 jars of honey were made from King's study site in Tsavo East National Park, and 2016's yield could be even higher.