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Wouldn't it be great if this picture depicted reality.  Unfortunately, it does not.  Bears do love their honey, as popularly claimed, especially in the spring and fall (post and pre hibernation).  Since bears almost always attack hives at night, the bees by themselves are no deterrent.  And the result is often not pretty - smashed hives dotting the landscape, sometimes for miles around as bears will drag part of their stash with them as they go.

That's why bee keepers resort to other measures - fencing being the main and most logical recourse.  And the consensus is that the only type of fencing that is effective is electric fencing (net or a minimum of three strands recommended).  The fence should not be more than half a foot off the ground (bears are quite comfortable moving around on all fours) but should be at least four feet tall (they're fairly agile on two paws, too).  Hives should be placed a few feet inside the fence so that bears aren't able to reach them with a swipe.  And keeping the whole apiary a distance from tree lines is recommended to curtail quick escapes.   The electric current (whether provided by solar, battery or direct electricity) should be strong enough to penetrate the bear's thick skin!  Otherwise, he or she will peel the wires out of the way as if they were sewing thread. 

Unfortunately, bears aren't the only wildlife threat to bee colonies.  Ants can make a nuisance of themselves by occupying hives.  Luckily they are not nearly as harmful as bears.  They are difficult to control, though, because the pesticides used to kill them also kill bees!  Some recommend using oil or petroleum jelly on the legs of the stands (or in containers under the legs) to prevent ants from climbing up and down.  Racoons enjoy honey, too, and we all know how clever these scavengers are with their hands.  Opening up the hive to scoop out the treat is easy for these resourceful bandits.  A heavy rock on top of the hive's lid will discourage all but the most persistent.  Raccoons have also been known to tear hives apart in order to use the materials to build their own nests - talk about recycling!  Insect-eating birds (such as swallows and sparrows) can devour a large number of bees in a short period of time.  Solution:  There isn't one.  However, skunks, also insect-eaters who enjoy a meal of bees after scratching the bottoms of the hives to coax the bees out, can be more easily thwarted by raising up the stands 15 inches or more.  Live-catch traps, chicken wire around the hives may also help.  Rodents such as mice and rats find the hives a warm and inviting winter home but unfortunately can severely damage the combs and other internal components and leave a mess of pellets.  Specially designed rodent-control products such as metal guards that narrow the opening of the hives help keep these unwanted guests out.

If worse comes to worse, and a keeper's bees and hives are damaged by wildlife, compensation for losses may be forthcoming from local government agencies.  This will vary depending on location.       

 

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