Mice don't actually scare elephants, but there is one tiny animal that the pachyderms definitely steer clear of: bees. It's a fear conservationists have begun to harness to keep elephants out of crops in Africa—a point of conflict that leaves hundreds of humans and elephants dead every year.
The Elephants and Bees Project, run by the nonprofit Save the Elephants, seeks to keep elephants from trampling and eating crops by building bee fences: wire fences strung with hives. The experimental project first began in Kenya in 2008 and has since expanded to six African countries. According to an upcoming paper in Conservation Biology, the buzzing fences have kept out 80 percent of the elephants that have approached them. These special barriers also provide locals with revenue from honey, says project leader Lucy King.
Air Shepherd, a program of the Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation, is simulating the threat of bee stings to minimize conflict. Last summer researchers brought drones to Malawi to search for poachers—and found that the noise of the quadcopters could spook elephants. “They sound like bees,” explains Otto Werdmuller Von Elgg, the program's head of drone operations. In addition to its antipoaching efforts, Air Shepherd now also spends nearly every night flying the buzzing quadcopters along crop fences and around Liwonde National Park as an elephant deterrent. Drones are not yet legal in every African country, but Von Elgg thinks the idea will eventually fly in more locations. “One drone is enough to move a herd of 100 elephants,” he says.