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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Elephants AFRAID of Bees??

Whoever thought that such a goliath mammal would be afraid of tiny little bees? Researchers have discovered that these giants FLEE at the buzz of a swarm of bees.

This statement is backed up by observers in Kenya who notice that elephants damaged acacia trees with empty or occupied beehives significantly less than trees without hives. Moreover, in Zimbabwe, elephants forged new trails in order to avoid beehives.

Well, to note why the elephants are afraid, honeybees native to eastern and southern Africa (Apis mellifera scutellata) are notoriously aggressive, especially near their hives. It has been known that swarms are able to kill an African buffalo.

To confirm whether bees could really drive away elephant herds, zoologist Lucy King at the University of Oxford and her colleagues carried out an experiment (as seen on video below).

Firstly, the team had to digitally record the buzz of agitated African bees from a wild hive, found inside a tree trunk along the Ewaso Ng’iro River in Samburu. Their initial attempt was to hold a microphone in front of the hive and drop a stone into the core of the tree trunk.

So, it was that easy?


The bees were so aggressive that even with their bee suits on, they got swarmed with bees and could not hold the microphone very straight for very long!

In their second attempt, King rigged up a platform in front of the hive where they strapped on the directional microphone and mini-disc recorder so that they could evacuate the area while recording.

“I dropped a stone into the hive to trigger the attack, and then we ran like hell back to my Land Rover and sealed ourselves inside for a good 15 minutes while the bees did our recording for us. It was actually a fun day despite one or two stings getting through our suits!” King said.

So, the Experiment Procedure:

  1. Place wireless speakers hidden inside fake plastic tree trunks under trees in Kenya (where the elephant families happily having their midday picnic under the blazing hot sun)
  2. Played back four-minute clips of the recorded buzzing of bees.


Complete SUCCESS!!

16 out of 17 families tested fled within 80 seconds of hearing the bee sound, and half responded within just 10 seconds.

The one family that did not respond to the buzzing was young and perhaps had not experienced bee attacks before.
(OR they ate up the ‘sappy’ plastic tree trunks~)

With these new findings, the researchers hope to use beehives to deter elephant herds from human farmland and enhance local income through sale of honey, as well as contribute to a safer future for both elephants and the people who have to live with them.

Enjoy the video~


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