Keep your bees safe from bears
Bears can be a big problem for beekeepers in the Upper Peninsula and northern lower Michigan.
Learn more about black bears in Michigan in MSUE Bulletin #3428 - Black bears - Wildlife management series for midwestern farmers and "The Bear Essentials" video from Michigan DNR.
The best way to keep your bees safe from bears is to install an electric fence around each bee yard. It is important to set up a fence BEFORE you get your bees. Once bears have found your hives it will be much more difficult to keep them out, even in future years, as bears can remember food sources from year to year. Keep your hives away from anything that could attract bears including birdfeeders or trash cans.
Livestock owners, including beekeepers, may shoot problem bears without a permit under Section 9.4 of the Michigan Wildlife Conservation Order, as long as they report it within 24 hours. This rule pertains for bears that have damaged hives, or are about to damage beehives. Beekeepers may also designate an authorized agent, someone else who is an experienced hunter, if they do not want to kill the bear themselves. If you do not own the land on which your hives are on, you will have to coordinate with the landowner
Guidelines for installing a bear fence
MSU and MI DNR have created guidelines for bear fencing. The figure below is taken from this document
What you need:
- Four 6'x1.5" fiberglass rods (one for each corner)
- Eight 43" step-in posts
- Three 48' x 0.5" white polytape ribbons
- One battery-powered fence energizer
- Double-insulated wire (rated for 20,000 volts)
- One 4' x 0.5" galvanized grounding rod
- Volt meter
Many beekeeping supply and farm and fencing supply stores will have bee hive fencing kits that you can order as well, and many beekeepers and beekeeping clubs outline the setups that work best for them.
- University of Guelph Bear Fence Video
- Betterbee beekeeping supply store owner discusses bears on the Beekeeping Today podcast, covering their bear management equipment.
- Randy Oliver from Scientific Beekeeping detailed draft of a bear fencing set up.