Pest Proofing

“I wasn’t going to eat it. I was just going to taste it.” –Winnie the Pooh, Fictional Bear & Honey Connoisseur


 

Winnie the Pooh was a childhood favorite of mine. A cute, chubby, happy bear that was content with a pot of honey. What’s not to like? I still enjoy Winnie the Pooh, especially when I get to share his stories with my nieces and nephews. Now as I delve deeper into my adventure in beekeeping, though, I realize some precautions need to be taken against the Winnies of the world. 

Protect your hives or they’ll turn into bear snackies!

I don’t want to come off as a hater of the local bear population. They are truly beautiful creatures with whom we are privileged to share habitat. That being said, I just want both my bees and the local bear population to coexist together peacefully. As bears can destroy hives in a matter of minutes, I believe the smartest thing to do would be to set up a protective space for my bees to prevent any bear/bee clashes in the first place.

 Bee Yard Plan – Activate!

After discussing this with several beekeepers I decided that a 16’ x 16’ bee yard would suit my needs. This bee yard would not only provide protection from bears but also skunks and raccoons who are in search of goodies, too. The yard fencing consists of 4 ft. mesh chicken wire and 4 strands of electric wire fencing, one strand of which was put above the chicken wire to provide more height to the fence. In total, my fence is about 5 ft. high and electrified by a Parmak Magnum 12 electric fencer. An old gate from my Grandma’s property serves as the final item. It seemed fitting as she was a friend to all animals and would have been fascinated with the ‘little beasties’ that would have helped her in the garden. 

Works like a charm.

Set-up went pretty quickly (it helps to have your dad, cousin, nephew and, yes, a faithful canine companion.) Now it was time to place my hives. I located spots at least 3 ft. away from the edge of the fence so nothing would be able to swat them. I then made a level platform off the ground using concrete blocks and made sure that my hive entrances would get a lovely southeasterly view (the morning sun will be my bees’ alarm clock.) Now let’s get that electric hooked up!

 

Just add bees…

The fence, finally being completed, was a big weight off my chest. I’ve heard horror stories of people being left with completely destroyed bee yards due to bears so I really did not want to risk it. I also did not want to discount the power of a single raccoon or skunk amongst my bees. Overall, I’m very pleased. Now I just need the final element… bees!

 

My completed bee yard… just waiting for its residents.

13 thoughts on “Pest Proofing

  1. Debbie Telford

    Very good idea. Thanks

  2. Catherine Wissner

    The other pests to deal with; weeds and grass inside your apiary. My humble suggestion is to place weed barrier fabric under the hives so you don’t need to mow.
    A skunk can squeeze itself through a 2 inch opening. Perhaps 1 inch chicken wire around the base of the fencing to keep them out.
    If they are a problem in your area; a couple yellow-jacket traps hanging on the side of the fence. Best time to put them up is in the very early spring to catch the yellow-jacket queen. European yellow-jackets are a different pest to deal with and standard traps don’t work.
    With the post as tall as they are some flags attached at the top that flap to keep unwanted birds from making snacks of the bees.
    The lengths we go to for our bees.

    1. Krista

      Hi Catherine,
      Thanks for the response! You have some awesome tips and valid points. I really like the idea of the weed barrier fabric as I’ve been trying to think on the best way of maintaining my bee yard. Also, great point on making sure to provide some protection from birds. BRB, I’m off to purchase some yellow jacket traps!

  3. Rick

    I just built a similar fence. Here in western CO, the DOW office can contribute supplies to your fence needs, and have a great PDF for construction and for electrifying the strand wire and the panel wire using PVC pipe as an insulator over Tposts. Im not a huge fan of Tposts but it was supplied and I electrified the top strand wire as well. A solar/battery fencer works great, of course I had to test it.

    https://cpw.state.co.us/Documents/Education/LivingWithWildlife/SecureBeehiveEnclosure.pdf

    Might be worth a look into your county or state DOW, I submitted a quick application and got the supplies.

    1. Krista

      Wow, Rick! This is an awesome resource! Both the pdf and the contribution by the Department of Wildlife in Colorado. Thank you for sharing, I certainly will be looking into this some more. Best of luck in all your beekeeping endeavors!

  4. Greg Smart

    Hi Krista,
    Thank you for your blog. Always great to learn of others endeavors with bees.
    I am wondering looking at your “completed bee yard” photo of the battery & fence electrical shocker device. They all look like they are on the outside of the fence ? Could that be a problem with the battery or fencer being disconnected ? Looks like the usual red + & black – battery clamps connecting the fencer to the battery ? Which could easily be removed by any critter walking by that has a taste for Honey !
    I have skunks, raccoons, opossums, blue jays, mocking, & many other birds that feed on dead & live bees.
    My one hive is now 12 mediums (6 5/8”) high thanks to my mentors Harry & Ormond Aebi. “The Art & Adventure of Beekeeping & Mastering the Art of Beekeeping “. It gets to be a challenge to work when that tall. I use a mobile gantry crane. A blessing to say the least. I’d attach photo of but can’t see how to do that here.
    Email me if interested.
    The best to you.
    Love those bees.
    , Greg
    San Jose, CA
    AKA Silicon Valley.

    1. Krista

      Hi Greg,
      I never thought about creatures disconnecting the connection between the battery and fencer. Looks like I’ll have some moving around to do! Best of luck in your beekeeping adventures and thank you for sharing!

  5. Elizabeth

    Colorado DOW was very helpful with our bear problem, too. We are located at the edge of the Foothills, just west of Denver. I never expected bears in our suburban neighborhood with open pastureland. A freak late spring freeze killed all the fruit & nut sources in the Foothills twice in the last three years. Hungry bears come looking for birdfeeders, trash cans in the park and behind restaurants, and my bee-yard. I only feel I need to keep the electric charge on the fence beginning Labor Day or if a bear has been sighted in the area (twice early last summer).

  6. Thomas Pinnow

    I live in northern Wisconsin and I knew if I was going to raise honey bees I had to take black bears completely out of the picture! At some point electricity fails. Being a farmer I just happened to have a corn crib I no longer used so I broke it down and made a bear-proof cage out of it. My bees are absolutely safe from all large pests. It has a roof that also provides shade in the hottest days of summer. I have seen other people us dog kennels to achieve the same results. Love those Bees!

  7. Chris

    Nice article! I live in Western PA and have two very active black bears. My wife and I installed a 16ftx16ft Apiary fence using cattle feed panels and a pharmacy 12 solar fencer. Bears tried to get in and the fence worked! However neighbor down the road had his hives destroyed by the same bears!( no fence) definitely worth the expense!

    1. Krista

      Hi Chris,

      The bear fence we set up is in my opinion one of the top 5 beekeeping accomplishments this year. We’ve had so many black bear around the neighborhood yet my bees have remained untouched. I chalk it all up to a sturdy fence with an electric punch. Thank you for reading the blog and good luck in all your beekeeping endeavors!

    2. Nick Melancon

      Hi Chris – I like your idea of using cattle feed panels, can you tell me what you attached the panels to? Thanks

  8. Bill

    Hi, What I tell the beekeepers that ask, it is the responsibility of the beekeeper to protect both the bears and the bees. So, don’t wait for the bear(s) to tear apart your bee hives before putting in place a deterrent. There are only methods that work reliably. One is the electric fence and the other is dogs. Dogs, however are not as manageable, unless your apiary is also in your own yard. Many of the state’s DNR or Wildlife Departments have setup instruction for build and maintaining electric fences. Here are a couple; Minnesota – https://files.dnr.state.mn.us/assistance/backyard/privatelandhabitat/beehive_protection_with_electric_fence.pdf, Alaska – http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=livingwithbears.bearfences. There are many others state departments with their own guides. One addition thing about bears and electric fencing. Most bears are uneducated about electricity, so a wise beekeeper will educate the bears with either bacon and peanut butter attached to the hot wires. Reaching out for a taste of bacon or a lick of peanut butter, the bear’s nose or tongue will get a ZAP, thus educating the bear. Paid attention to the volt (Zap) output and the ground rods… both are very important to defending off the bear.
    I would suggest moving the energizer inside the fence. Bears have been known to disconnect the energizer from the fence. I don’t worry about the coons, skunks, possums or wasps. These critters don’t totally destroy colonies with a smile swat of a paw.