Bee Friendly Gardens

Conserve, Save, Grow, Earn

Honeybees, Elephants and Humans: Coexisting

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Story ran in Huffington Post, Oct. 22, 2016

The only way 7.5 billion procreating humans and the Animal Kingdom can survive in the 21st century is by coexisting.

One excellent example of coexisting comes from a respectful relationship with irascible African honeybees and giant elephants.

Elephants, like so many other creatures, dislike getting stung, especially near their eyes, ears and trunks. Repeated bee stings can kill calves. So elephants avoid confrontations with honeybees.

Elephants communicate with astounding frequencies ranging over 10 octaves. Human speech, on the other hand, only spans two octaves. Elephants use very low frequencies, undetectable to the human ear. Elephants convey important information using infrasonic frequencies, which travel over six miles and are received by vibrational sensors on their feet and trunks.

Honeybees produce low frequency hums, easily discernible by elephants. Since elephants are intelligent, sentient animals they keep away from aggressive African honeybees.

Each year in Kenya prior to coexisting with elephants, farmers retaliated by killing as many as 120 elephants for raiding their crop fields.

In 2002, workers at Save the Elephants noticed that elephants steered clear of their important food source, acacia trees, containing bee colonies.

This observation sparked the curiosity of Oxford University zoologist Lucy King. She conceived the idea of creating a honeybee fence, protecting both elephants and crops within small family plots.

King’s original honeybee fence consisted of log beehives suspended on poles beneath a shade-conferring thatched roof with a wire connected to each hive, spaced every 30 feet or so. Elephants hear the hives and keep away from them. If they attempt to push through the connecting wire, hives swing erratically and angry guard bees attack the elephants. Since elephants are intelligent, they learn quickly from these hostile encounters.

Honeybee fences have reduced invasions on crop fields by over 80 percent, and elephant fatalities by farmers have plummeted.

Family farms using honeybee fences also receive extra revenue from selling honey, which is collected at might when the African bees are more docile. Anecdotally, crop yields are up because not only are the honeybees protecting the fields, but also pollinating them.

The bees and humans need elephants since they create water holes for all life. Elephants also make trails, which act as fire blocks protecting both honeybee hives, homes and villages from destruction.

The illicit multi-billion dollar global ivory trade has annihilated African elephants, once 20 million strong now less than 353,000.

It is long overdue that humans respect nature’s flawless blueprint and work with her to coexist on planet Earth – our only home. That means we all need to take less and give more because globally nature is under siege by the human-driven Sixth Great Extinction. We need nature in order to survive. Nature does not need us.

Earth Doctor Reese Halter’s upcoming book is “Save Nature Now.”

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