Protecting Bee Hives with Apiary Fence

Bears are very smart and usually don’t forget, therefore, a psychological barrier will easily prevent the devastation of bees, hives, and honey.  A bear with a sweet tooth can destroy all your efforts and hard-earned money. A well-constructed electric fence will keep bears out of any apiary and do its job for years. IMG_0111

Electric fencing is an effective, easy-to-construct, and economical way to prevent bears from entering an apiary.  Install the electric fence early in the season so that a bear is welcomed with a strong, negative encounter the first time it attempts to contest the fence.  It is much simpler to keep bears away from hives before they have acquired the sweet treat.

When building an apiary fence, it is important to start with a piece of land that is completely free of vegetation and debris, preferably a mulched bed.  This will ensure that the electric fence will never short out on high grass and will require minimal grounds keeping.

IMG_0115Recommended Electric Fence Construction:

A minimum of 6 strands of 12 ½ gauge high-tensile galvanized wire, tensioned to approximately 125 pounds. High-tensile galvanized wire has a high breaking strength and will not rust for up to 40 years.  Place posts no more than 16’ apart, and set them 2’ into the ground. Posts may be wood, metal, plastic, fiberglass, or composite material. Given that bears are large, forceful animals that will rapidly utilize any weakness in the fence, do not buy cheap materials to cut cost.  Install the bottom wire about 2” from the ground to ensure that the intruder does not try to get under the fence. Evenly space the remaining 5 strands 8”-10” apart using insulators on hot wires.  Create a positive-negative system to ensure the bear still receives a good shock under very dry conditions.  Connect the first, third, and fifth strands to the positive terminal on the charger, and the second, fourth, and sixth strands to a ground wire connected to the ground bed of the charger.   Construct a ground bed by connecting the negative terminal of the fence energizer to multiple ground rods driven at least 3’ deep.  It is recommended to install one ground rod per joule of energizer.  If possible, install the ground bed in a moist soil area to improve conductivity.  Select an energizer capable of producing 6,000 volts on the fence.  Choose the energizer according to the size of your fence.  One joule of output is recommended per mile of fence.  If bees are kept in a remote location, choose a solar energizer.  The energizer should be placed in an enclosure so that it cannot be damaged by the weather or an angry bear.

IMG_2009Recently, Kencove customers have innovated bear fence constructed using PasturePro fence posts with wire cattle panels.  PasturePro posts are made from a wood-plastic composite allowing them to be self-insulated.  The post material drills like wood, making it very easy to attach the 52”X16’ cattle panel with only cotter pins.  A fence like this can be constructed with little time, and when the energizer is connected, all vertical and horizontal wires are HOT!

Giving the bears a quick tutorial about electric fence and shock is always a good idea.  Because bears are well known for their poor eyesight and keen sense of smell, baiting the fence is very common.  Baiting the fence is easily done by attaching peanut butter-coated tin foil, slices of bacon, or empty tuna-fish cans to the hot-wires.  This will prompt the bear to touch their nose or tongue directly on the wire, providing a long, painful memory.
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Bear fences can be designed numerous ways, the key is leaving a lasting impression.  Design, quality, and proper upkeep determine the effectiveness of any electric fence. Electric fences can be tailored to most applications and can be constructed temporarily or permanently. Fences have reasonable maintenance and are cost-effective to build. They do need regular inspection to safeguard proper operation and protection. If you follow these steps, you should have no problem fencing your bees in and the bears out.

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