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:

Bees point to new evolutionary answers
Evolutionary biology aims to explain how new species arise and evolve to occupy myriad niches -- but it is not a singular or simplistic story.
Quantifying objects: bees recognize that six is more than four
A new study at the University of Cologne proves that insects can perform basic numerical cognition tasks.
Prescribed burns benefit bees
Freshly burned longleaf pine forests have more than double the total number of bees and bee species than similar forests that have not burned in over 50 years, according to new research from North Carolina State University.
Insecticides are becoming more toxic to honey bees
Researchers discover that neonicotinoid seed treatments are driving a dramatic increase in insecticide toxicity in U.S. agricultural landscapes, despite evidence that these treatments have little to no benefit in many crops.
Neonicotinoids: Despite EU moratorium, bees still at risk
Since 2013, a European Union moratorium has restricted the application of three neonicotinoids to crops that attract bees because of the harmful effects they are deemed to have on these insects.
Bees 'surf' atop water
Ever see a bee stuck in a pool? He's surfing to escape.
How bees live with bacteria
More than 90 percent of all bee species are not organized in colonies, but fight their way through life alone.
Where are the bees? Tracking down which flowers they pollinate
Earlham Institute (EI), with the University of East Anglia (UEA), have developed a new method to rapidly identify the sources of bee pollen to understand which flowers are important for bees.
Pesticides deliver a one-two punch to honey bees
A new paper in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry reveals that adjuvants, chemicals commonly added to pesticides, amplify toxicity affecting mortality rates, flight intensity, colony intensity, and pupae development in honey bees.
Trees for bees
Planting more hedgerows and trees could hold the key to helping UK bees thrive once again, a new study argues.
More Bees News and Bees Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.