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Can bees deter elephants from raiding crops? An experiment in the communal lands of Zimbabwe

, : Can bees deter elephants from raiding crops? An experiment in the communal lands of Zimbabwe. Pachyderm. July-December; 39: 26-32

Mitigating human-elephant conflict has arguably taken centre stage in elephant conservation concerns across the range states of Africa and Asia. Farmers in settlements that abut elephant range need sustainable ways of keeping elephants and other crop pests out of their fields. Here we examine the use of the African honeybee (Apis mellifera scutellata) as a possible means to deter the African elephant (Loxodonta africana) from raiding crops. We tested whether mounting beehives strategically around crop fields would deter elephants from crop raiding. No deterrent effect was detected, but the tests were small in scale, and further tests are needed to better assess the hypothesis that bees can be used to discourage elephants from raiding crops. Although not tested here, beehives might prove a useful livelihood addition if honey can be successfully harvested and marketed. We suggest that bees alone will not stop elephants from raiding crops, but if combined with a suite of 'low tech' methods and practically linked with the economic potential of honey production, bees can be another tool for rural farmers to use to improve their livelihoods and aid in conserving elephants.

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