The african Elephant is the largest land mammal.


Buzz Off!

Photo © Jon Mountjoy CC BY 2.0In parts of Africa elephants and people have not been getting on.  The elephants trample and eat farmers' food and people kill and hunt elephants to keep them away from their land, but for many farms there is now a solution - bees.

How can one of the largest land mammals on earth be afraid of tiny bees?  Well, have you ever been stung by a wasp or a bee?  It hurts!  And elephants, who are famous for their good memory, never forget.  This discovery came after researchers in Africa noticed that elephants did not feed from trees that had bee hives in them.  Armed with this new knowledge a British biologist named Lucy King carried out tests to understand and document the elephants behaviour and reactions to the buzzing bees.

'Once stung, twice shy' is true for elephants too as they avoid bees, beehives and behave very well around them in order not to stir them up.  A solution to keep elephants away from farms became clear - the researchers attached beehives to fences that were usually bulldozed to the floor by hungry elephants.  Now, when elephants disturb the fence and try to push their way through they stir up hoards of angry bees and scarper quickly!

During a test this technique reduced the number elephant break-ins by a whopping 93% leaving both farmers and the elephants happier.  In the past, elephants and people have been fighting for space, with both struggling to find or grow food.  Farms are spreading and the elephants' habitat is getting smaller.  Some african elephant species are endangered as the illegal trade in ivory (elephant tusks) and poaching continues, but this solution to the problem of sharing land will hopefully help improve elephant populations and get their relationships with humans buzzing.

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