Beehives protected by an electric fence. Photo by USDA - Public domain

Keep your bees safe from bears

November 2, 2023 - Author: <milbrat2@msu.edu>, <heckanar@msu.edu>, <milbrat2@msu.edu>

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

michigans-bear-range-smaller_original.jpg
Range of black bears in Michigan - https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/MIDNR/bulletins/1a20e93

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.  

bee hives in woods
Bear damage to hives near Lake City, Michigan. Photo by Ana Heck

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

Michigan DNR bear registration stations

Michigan Bear Hunting Regulations Summary

 

Guidelines for installing a bear fence

MSU and MI DNR have created guidelines for bear fencing. The figure below is taken from this document 

image of beehives, electric fence, and black bear
Illustration by Tammy Otto from "You can protect your beehives from black bears"

What you need: 

  1. Four 6'x1.5" fiberglass rods (one for each corner)
  2. Eight 43" step-in posts
  3. Three 48' x 0.5" white polytape ribbons
  4. One battery-powered fence energizer
  5. Double-insulated wire (rated for 20,000 volts)
  6. One 4' x 0.5" galvanized grounding rod
  7. 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.  

Additional Resources:

 

 


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