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Butterfly Pavilion's Pollinator Place is now closed. The space will reopen on Friday, May 3rd as our new Origins: Building Life exhibit!

Bee Fencing Project

Butterfly Pavilion supports the spread of beehive fencing to new communities in Africa and Asia to mitigate human-elephant conflict.

As rural communities grow in Africa and Asia, they are increasingly developing homesteads and croplands in areas that were previously open habitat that wildlife, such as elephants, migrated through. Especially in movement areas around national parks, this has led to increased interactions between humans and wildlife, often leading to conflict. As elephants move through these transition zones, they often enter rural communities to raid crop fields and water stores. This threatens human lives and livelihoods, leads to physical conflicts, and increases negative community sentiments towards elephants and elephant conservation.  

Elephant deterrent methods such as electrical fences, thorn barriers, loud noises, fire, and gunshots have been used in an attempt to mitigate human-elephant conflict. However, these methods are often difficult to sustain in the long-term and elephants quickly find ways around them. One human elephant conflict mitigation tool that has been proven to be successful and sustainable is beehive fencing. Beehive fencing (developed by Dr. Lucy King of Save the Elephants) uses hanging beehives connected around crops and homes to deter elephants from entering areas by using their natural fear of African honey bees.  

You might be thinking: “elephants are so large and their skin is supposedly so thick! How can these tiny invertebrates protect against huge elephants?” The answer is that African honey bees may look like our honey bees in the U.S., however they are much more defensive of their colonies! When an elephant tries to move through the fence to access crops, it pushes the wire and shakes the connected hives. The hive disturbance alerts guard bees which then defend their hives by stinging the elephant around its sensitive ears, eyes, and trunk. African honey bees will readily send thousands of worker bees out to sting intruders. Over time, elephants learn to avoid these bee-fenced areas. 

Besides defending against elephants, beehive fences have the benefits of being easily managed by farmer groups, involving locally available materials, providing pollination to crops, and providing a supplemental income to farmers through the sale of wax and honey. Maintaining hives thus represents an opportunity for local livelihood enhancement. 

Butterfly Pavilion saw the great potential of beehive fencing to not only protect elephants, but also promote the conservation of native honey bee species and pollinator habitat in Africa and Asia. In 2018, Butterfly Pavilion launched the Bee Fencing Project in collaboration with the Katie Adamson Conservation Fund (KACF), Denver Zoo, and the Health and Environmental Management Society (HEMS) in Nepal. Butterfly Pavilion traveled to a community just outside of Nepalgunj, Nepal, adjacent to Bardia National Park to establish beehives. Butterfly Pavilion experts trained community members in beekeeping techniques. 

 In 2019, Butterfly Pavilion expanded our Bee Fencing Project to Tanzania. Butterfly Pavilion experts traveled to Lamadi, Tanzania, near Serengeti National Park, to donate beekeeping equipment, build hives, and train community members in beekeeping.  

In 2021, we began planning with the Tanzanian Elephant Foundation to expand our Bees for Elephants Program to communities outside of Nyerere National Park in southern Tanzania and Mkomazi National Park in northern Tanzania. In 2022, we built a 0.55 kilometer beehive fence in Kisiwani, Tanzania to protect crop fields from elephants entering the community from Mkomazi National Park. The fence was immediately occupied by wild honey bee colonies! We also added new hives to a beehive fence in Kisemo and pulled honey frames from a beehive fence in Kisaki. We supported beekeeping trainings in these three communities and donated beekeeping equipment to Kisiwani so that they can safely manage their fence and hives. We look forward to expanding the fence in Kisiwani so that it will eventually be a 4 kilometer barrier to elephants trying to enter the community.  


To support human-elephant co-existence through beehive fencing, donate here

 Read about our latest trip to Tanzania!