African elephants buzz off when bees are in the area. And once stung, precautious pachyderms never forget to behave around the bee hive.

Biologist Lucy King put elephants' fear of bees to use guarding farmers' crops in Kenya. Not only do the bees protect the fields, their honey provides a secondary income for the farmers.

King's two-year pilot project surrounded 17 farms with bee hive fences in three districts amongst three Kenyan tribes. The hives were set 10 meters apart and connected by wires. When an elephant tried to raid the farm, it would bump into the wires, shaking the hives and stirring up a swarm of angry bees.

The Rube-Goldberg-on-safari elephant fences kept the elephants out 93 percent of the time. The pachyderms pushed through only six times out of 90 attempts.

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Farms in Tanzania and Uganda are now replicating the pachyderm-punishing project.

The project was inspired by a 2002 study that found elephants wouldn't feed on acacia trees that hosted bee hives. And if a bee did sting an elephant, the giant beast would always remember to avoid the tiny insect's home.

Elephants fear bees so much that even a recording of buzzing bees was enough to drive them away. And while running, the escaping elephants would transmit a specific low-frequency rumble to warn other elephants.

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The U.N. Environment Program's Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals recently gave King the Thesis Award for her work.

"By reducing conflicts between people and elephants, Dr. Lucy King has designed a constructive solution that considers the needs of migratory animals but also the economic benefits to the local communities linked to species conservation," said Conservation of Migratory Species Executive Secretary Elizabeth Maruma Mrema in a press release.



An African elephant. (Gary M. Stolz, Wikimedia Commons).

An African elephant. (Justin, Wikimedia Commons).

Africanized honeybees in the United States. (USDA, Wikimedia Commons).