Beehives were introduced to protect Marula trees
Jejane, one of the regions in Balule, in conjunction with Elephants Alive at the end of 2015 undertook a project whereby beehives were introduced to protect Marula trees.
The theory is that elephants do not like bees and will avoid trees where there is bee activity. This may be important as it could be used to reduce the damage caused by elephants stripping the trees’ bark. Managers and researchers alike are concerned about a lack of recruitment of young Marula trees in the APNR (Association of Private Nature Reserves) bordering Kruger National Park.
150 Marula trees were identified in the research plot. 50 were left as control trees, another 50 were protected using wire mesh and the other 50 had 2 beehives (one active beehive and one dummy beehive) hanging from their branches.
The drought conditions, lack of nectar and pests like ants reduced the active hives to 20. After a decision was taken to begin supplementing their nutritional requirements by supplying them with pollen, nectar and sugar water all the hives stabilised and one of the hives actually split to bring the number up to 21.
The preliminary results show that the trees in the control group received 50% elephant impact (includes all forms of impact e.g. strip barking, primary branches broken, secondary branches broken, main stem broken, toppling, etc.). The trees which were wire netted received 24% impact, while the bee trees only had 2% impact (broken secondary branches).
The original beehives are made from wood but an improvement using aluminium and fiberglass is now recommended and used as it makes it easier to keep the hive disease free and has less of a carbon footprint.
Thank you to Glen Thomson and Robin Cook for giving information. Additional information was obtained from https://mikekendrick.exposure.co/bees-trees-and-elephants
Thanks to Noel Deacon, Noel the bee man for the article.