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Mice don’t scare elephants, but there’s another tiny animal that definitely does

Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann
Size doesn’t matter.
  • Corinne Purtill
By Corinne Purtill


Published This article is more than 2 years old.

Humans and elephants are a danger to each other. Poachers and habitat loss have reduced African elephants’ numbers by 30% in the last decade. Meanwhile, elephants sometimes raid human farms, trampling crops and destroying community livelihood, and even in some cases killing people.

Finding a fence design strong enough to keep the animals out and affordable enough for rural sub-Saharan African communities has been a serious challenge. But a low-cost solution is saving elephant and human lives by playing on one of the giant animal’s natural weaknesses:

Elephants hate bees.

Their alleged fear of mice is just a rumor (albeit a very, very old one, dating from 77 AD). But elephants do in fact retreat from the sound of angry bees and emit a low-frequency noise that alerts other pachyderms to stay away too. The non-profit Elephant and Bees Project, run by the environmental group Save the Elephants, found that stringing beehives at 10-meter intervals along a wire fence deterred up to 80% of approaching elephants in the trial locations in Kenya. The program has since expanded to nine more countries in Africa, and to Thailand, Sri Lanka, and India as well.

Plus, farmers get to sell the honey from their beehives. Win-win.

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