Buzzing Bees Drive Off Mighty Elephants

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Elephants trample crops in Kenya, destroying the livelihood of many farmers. Now research says bees may be able to scare the pachyderms away.

Oxford University zoologist Lucky King says researchers discovered a few years ago that elephants avoided trees with bee hives.

To test whether this is true, researchers recently hid speakers inside a hollow tree and played bee sounds. King says the recording caused the elephants to run off.

It turns out that although bees cannot penetrate the elephant's thick skin, the insects are attracted to their eyes. And when elephants accidentally break a hive open while feeding on a tree branch, the agitated bees have been known to fly up pachyderms' trunks. All this has taught elephants to steer clear of bees, King says.

With their new finding, researchers are trying to figure out how to use the bee sounds to help Kenyan farmers ward off the crop-trampling elephants.

King talks to Alex Chadwick about the novel solution she's working on — creating a sound-barrier of bees.



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