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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Ask A Bear: Stay Away From My Honey!

Our resident bruin expert answers all your questions in our weekly feature, 'Ask A Bear.'

by: BEAR

Q: I am not a backpacker—but I am a beekeeper. I don't really want to electrify my bee yard, but I do want you to stay away. Do you think I would scare you away if I had an elaborate fence with pretty loud cow bells that would ring at the first touch of your nose? —Beekeep, via email

A: I hate to be such a cliché, but Winnie the Pooh was no anomaly: I loooove me some honey. More specifically, I'm interested in the fat and protein-rich bee larvae (though I will eat plenty of honey). In fact, I'm preternaturally gifted at getting the sweet stuff. My long claws enable me to both climb high trees and tear apart the honey combs, and my thick fur and general toughness wards off thousands of stinging insects.

Most professional beekeepers employ a painful electric fence, which I personally applaud you for avoiding—even though it's quite effective. But keeping me away from your honey won't be easy. A system of loud cowbells might startle me momentarily, but if it yields no real threat, I'll probably press on, goaded by the scent of tasty grubs and honey.

But a few techniques might work. First, you might consider putting your hives on your roof, especially if you have an unclimbable brick or sheer-walled house. The second method: Place your beehives on elevated platforms atop metal poles, which I can't climb. A ladder will allow you to access your hives as usual. This requires more time, building savvy, and investment, but it might be your best bet.


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Stuart from Oregon
Mar 21, 2011

We tried beekeeping two years in a row. The first year we had a solar charged electric fence around the hive. A bear went through the fence and destroyed the hive and the bees disappeared. The second year, we moved our new hive closer to our house, wired in a 110 charger, put alarm bells on the wires, and adopted a 130 pound mastiff / shepherd mix dog. The first night the bear took the top off the hive before the dog scared it off. The second night the bear overturned the hive and destroyed a portion of our field fence before the dog scared it off. The electric fence was no deterrent. It might have been under-powered for a hungry mother bear trying to feed it's cubs in the fall. We put the hive back together and saved the bees, (twenty five stings through the pockets and under the face screen of the bee suit) then gave them away to a friend who is not in bear country.


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