Bears and Bees
Hi, great info. I want to start raising bees this spring, and live in Northern Wisconsin with black bears visiting my yard all summer long. I am concerned they will destroy my hives for the honey. Any suggestions as to location, protection, etc. Thank you for your time.
I'm afraid (well, not afraid - glad!) that I don't have any experience in dealing with bears. I've never kept bees anyplace where bears were a problem.
From what I've heard and read, though, you're right to be concerned. I've heard of entire apiaries being destroyed by a single marauding bear. And it's my understanding that bears actually like the brood as much as the honey. Don't guess it really matters, though, what the bear was after once it's destroyed your hive!
If bears are visiting your yard frequently, I would think it would be a virtual certainty that they would damage your hive at some point. The hive would be a tempting target. I think you would probably need to have in place some means of protecting the hive from the bears before you start the hive.
I know that some beekeepers use electric fencing around their hives like these at Amazon.com. I've also heard of placing a hive on an elevated platform - but it seems that would create about as many difficulties for the beekeeper as for the bears!
Here's a link that contains more detailed info about protecting hives from bears. And here's one specific to Wisconsin that goes into some great detail about constructing electric fences.
Perhaps someone who's had experience in dealing with bears will visit this page and be able to offer some additional suggestions.
I hope you're able to work it out so that you can start keeping bees. Let us know how it goes!
I recently read an article (by Melanie Kirby in Bee Culture magazine) that offers a seemingly feasible alternative to electric fences.
The author built a chain link cage around her colonies. Apparently if a bear tries to grab or climb the fence, the chain link pinches around its claws, which the bear dislikes enough to abandon the attempt to get at the bees.
The chain link enclosure was built using 4 x 4 x 8 foot cedar posts, placed as vertical supports every 8 feet along the wall, and also as ceiling rafters every 2 ½ feet. The ceiling rafters allow hives to also be placed on top of the enclosure. 1 ½ inch staple nails are used to attach the fencing to the posts.
This set-up has apparently been successful for the author. Hives within the enclosure have not been disturbed, while hives outside of the enclosure were destroyed.
This ‘bear solution’ would obviously entail some upfront work and expense, but then there’d be no continuous, nagging concerns about maintaining a flimsy electrical fence and electrical outages.
If I lived in bear country (and I’m not particularly disappointed that I don’t!), I think I’d give this idea a try.
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