Nav: Home

Wild Sri Lankan elephants retreat from the sound of disturbed Asian honey bees

January 22, 2018

For the first time, researchers have shown that Asian elephants in Sri Lanka are scared of honey bees, much like their African counterparts.

Playbacks have been used for many years to explore the behavioural responses of African elephants to a suspected natural threat, but the research, published in Current Biology, is the first time this technique has been used to record how Asian elephants react to the sound of bees.

The study, led by Dr Lucy King, a Research Associate with the Oxford University Department of Zoology and head of the Human-Elephant Co-Existence Program for Save the Elephants, showed that Asian elephants responded with alarm to the bee simulations. They also retreated significantly further away and vocalised more in response to the bee sounds compared to controls.

In collaboration with elephant scientists from Cornell University, Save the Elephants, Trunks and Leaves, Disney's Animal Kingdom and University of Peradeniya the team now hope that beehive deterrents, used so successfully to ward off African elephants from rural farm lands, can be applied to prevent Asian elephant populations from raiding crops.

Dr Lucy King said: "Asia has even higher levels of human-elephant conflict than Africa does and Asian elephants are approximately 10 times more endangered than African elephants. If we could help apply the results from this research to develop effective community-based beehive fence deterrent systems for rural Asian farmers living with elephants, we could have a significant impact on the survival of the Asian elephant species."

The study was performed in Udawalawe National Park, which has an exceptionally large elephant population. "Udawalawe is a microcosm for the issues Asian elephants face, because it is practically encircled by agriculture and settlements. This study takes the first step in offering a new way of addressing the conflicts that arise as a result," said Dr. Shermin de Silva, Director of the Udawalawe Elephant Research Project.

In partnership with the Sri Lankan Wildlife Conservation Society and Australia's Newcastle University, a network of 10 trial beehive fence projects are presently being tested to see if they can reduce human-elephant conflict for rural farms in central Sri Lanka.

"We have a wonderful community of willing farmers there who are helping us understand if beehive fences could work to reduce conflict in this intensely high human-elephant conflict zone," said Dr King. "Although beehive fences may not completely stop elephant crop-raids the honey bees provide other benefits to the farms in the form of pollination services and a sustainable income from honey and wax products".

The initiative is already harvesting honey from the beehives and four beekeeping workshops have been held to boost beekeeping knowledge and honey processing skills. Further Asian beehive fence collaborations are being formed with scientists in Thailand, India and Nepal.
-end-
Notes to editors:

The full paper citation is:

King, L., Pardo, M., Weerathunga, S., Kumara, T.V., Jayasena, N., Soltis, J. and de Silva, S. (2018) Wild Sri Lankan elephants retreat from the sound of disturbed Asian honey bees. Current Biology 28, R51-R65, January 22.

Full Paper Link: DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2017.12.018 http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822(17)31649-4

Images for download:https://wetransfer.com/downloads/11754629e87771d1c55151bafb6539e520180119200226/13b4b6323a4bb21cae242d516a66350520180119200226/84ff9c

For further information, photos or to set up interviews please contact Lanisha Butterfield, Media Relations Manager at Oxford University on 01865 280531 or lanisha.butterfield@admin.ox.ac.uk

Kyle Horton, Media Relations Manager at Cornell University on Kyle Gerlad kgh48@cornell.edu

Or contact Dr Lucy King on lucy@savetheelephants.org

Further information is available from:

The Elephants and Bees Project - http://www.elephantsandbees.com

Save the Elephants - http://www.savetheelephants.org

Trunks & Leaves - http://www.trunksnleaves.org

University of Oxford

Related Bees Articles:

To buzz or to scrabble? To foraging bees, that's the question
A team of UA biologists has discovered that for a hard-working bumblebee, foraging for pollen versus nectar is very different -- and tougher than you might think.
Nicotine enhances bees' activity
Nicotine-laced nectar can speed up a bumblebee's ability to learn flower colors, according to scientists at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL).
Scientists say agriculture is good for honey bees
Scientists with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture evaluated the impacts of row-crop agriculture, including the traditional use of pesticides, on honey bee health.
Honey bees have sharper eyesight than we thought
Research conducted at the University of Adelaide has discovered that bees have much better vision than was previously known, offering new insights into the lives of honey bees, and new opportunities for translating this knowledge into fields such as robot vision.
Overuse of antibiotics brings risks for bees -- and for us
Researchers from The University of Texas at Austin have found that honeybees treated with a common antibiotic were half as likely to survive the week after treatment compared with a group of untreated bees, a finding that may have health implications for bees and people alike.
Flies and bees act like plant cultivators
Pollinator insects accelerate plant evolution, but a plant changes in different ways depending on the pollinator.
Bees can learn to use a tool by observing others
Simply by watching other bees, bumblebees can learn to use a novel tool to obtain a reward, a new study reveals.
Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers
Attacks by robber bees result in the evolution of larger guard bees and thus promote the division of labor in the hive.
Save the bees? There's an app for that
A new mobile app can calculate the crop productivity and pollination benefits of supporting endangered bees.
Sweat bees on hot chillies: Native bees thrive in traditional farming, securing good yield
Farming doesn't always have to be harmful to bees: Even though farmers on the Mexican peninsula of Yucatan traditionally slash-and-burn forest to create small fields, this practice can be beneficial to sweat bees by creating attractive habitats.

Related Bees Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Bias And Perception
How does bias distort our thinking, our listening, our beliefs... and even our search results? How can we fight it? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas about the unconscious biases that shape us. Guests include writer and broadcaster Yassmin Abdel-Magied, climatologist J. Marshall Shepherd, journalist Andreas Ekström, and experimental psychologist Tony Salvador.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#513 Dinosaur Tails
This week: dinosaurs! We're discussing dinosaur tails, bipedalism, paleontology public outreach, dinosaur MOOCs, and other neat dinosaur related things with Dr. Scott Persons from the University of Alberta, who is also the author of the book "Dinosaurs of the Alberta Badlands".