Damage to bees and hives is the most economically important agricultural problem associated with the Louisiana black bear. A bear that encounters an unprotected commercial apiary can destroy or badly damage scores of hives in just one night. Losses to some beekeepers can be a significant financial burden, especially when several apiaries are managed within the home range of a bear that has become a habitual beehive robber. In some cases, individual beekeepers have reportedly sustained as much as $10,000 in damages.
It is important for beekeepers to initiate damage prevention strategies that preclude or minimize bear-caused damage.
Some bears are especially fond of larval bees and honey and will actively seek out hives in their home range. Consequently, beehives should be located as far as possible from timber and brush providing bears with cover and travel routes. Honey crops should be harvested as soon as possible after the spring, summer and fall nectar flows to reduce the attractiveness of hives to foraging bears, and prevent the loss of the new honey crop in the event of depredation. When possible, apiaries should be moved to new locations if bear activity is detected nearby.
To minimize possible damage to hives and prevent bears from establishing bad habits, apiaries in occupied habitat should be protected using electric fences, bear-resistant platforms, or, with the help of an authorized wildlife professional, aversive conditioning of bears. Electric fencing has been shown to be almost 100% effective in deterring bear damage. Fences can also be used to control ongoing damage. Compact apiaries are easier to protect with bear-resistant fencing than those scattered over a larger area. Therefore, beekeepers should consolidate hives to form the smallest apiary that can be practically managed.
Plans for various types of bear-resistant fences and other types of damage control information can be obtained from the offices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, any of the state wildlife agencies, or the Cooperative Extension Service.
To minimize possible damage to hives and prevent bears from establishing bad habits, apiaries in occupied habitat should be protected using electric fences, bear-resistant platforms, or, with the help of an authorized wildlife professional, aversive conditioning of bears.