One day we got a phone call. Our apiary furthest to the south had some beehives knocked over on the ground. The property owner noticed this three days ago before finally calling us. He told us our hives had been ‘blown’ over. Fearing the worst, we set out on the one hour drive. Pulling into the cow pasture surrounded by orange groves, we could see the disaster from afar and as we got closer we could see the disaster from a-near. And when we stopped the truck, we knew. Bears. The. Yard. Was. Trashed.
There had been approximately thirty-two hives at this location. Now there were boxes all over the ground and angry honey bees in the air. Some boxes were flattened, busted and broken. Mostly, there were frames everywhere. It looked like if a bear had mated with a tornado and their baby was a Bear-nado hybrid. Then the Bear-nado decided to try out its skills at our apiary. That’s what it looked like. It took three hours in the hot sun to clean up the mayhem.
Well, Bear-nado had at least three nights to return and continue demolishing each hive by carefully lifting each frame out of the hive bodies one at a time. First, he would lick one side of a frame and then carefully turn the frame over and lick the other side, brood and honey. And he did this quite skillfully because bears do not have the same dexterity as you and I do. They are clumsy like that. Every frame that Bear-nado licked clean was thrown to the ground until he had finally had his fill. In the end we were able to salvage ten beehives but eventually even they could not recover. And that is the legend of Bear-nado. Fortunately, we have not seen him since then.
Most of us have seen the traditional style electric fence with metal ‘T’ posts, plastic wire retainers, fencing wire and post-mounted energizer boxes. In our experience, these take a lot of time to set up and cannot be easily taken down to manage weeds, plus they take a lot to take-down and occasionally get tangled up with curious cows. The problem with this type of fencing is that it’s not designed for protecting beehives, it’s designed for managing large livestock like cows and horses who are not curious like bears are.
The Best Bear Fence for your Beehives Imagine a fence designed specifically for the purpose of protecting your beehives from bears, it’s easy to set up and even faster to take down. Well there is a magic fence and I use it to protect all of my apiaries. It’s called the Bear QuikFence 12/35/12, by Premier 1. [And no, I’m not getting paid to market this fence by Premier 1. I do have links to their fencing which lead to Amazon, from which I get a small percentage of when a purchase is made. These links can be found on my Gear page.] This post is meant to be simple and honest to show you why I think this is the best fence on the market for us hardworking beekeepers. Now let me tell you about this fence and why you need it.
Let me start by explaining what makes this fence mobile and how it’s tailored for stinky ole’ bears. And I would like to add that I’m especially excited about this article today because I just received my new Bear QuikFence and energizer in the mail today from Premier 1!
The Bear QuikFence is Mobile It has drivable posts, I use a rubber mallet which is perfect for the job. The electric wire comes as a netting already installed on the posts. You pretty much take the bundle of posts and walk around the perimeter of your beehives, dropping a post every twelve feet. So you can make a circle, square, hexagram, or shapes that don’t even have names. The fencing comes in two lengths: 100 feet/30.48 meters, and 50 feet/15.24 meters. Here’s a video of someone who demonstrates the fence setting up.
Once you have finished dropping your fence, it’s as easy as picking up each post and driving it into the ground right where you need it. By the time you get to the last post, the fencing is done. The only task remaining is hooking up the solar power.
What makes this fence mobile is that it’s as easy to pull up as it was to drive in. And don’t worry, you actually have to put some effort into pulling up the posts. The eight-inch spikes make for a good grab. Taking the fence down like this also makes weeding a breeze. In the wet area of the Georgia mountains where I live, the grass grows fast and it grows often, especially throughout the summer time. I smoke the entrances to my beehives, take the fence down, and cut the grass (wearing a veil. The bees do NOT like weed eaters and lawn mowers.) Here’s a recipe for natural weed killer.
A Fence, Fit for a Bear So what makes this fence a ‘Bear’ fence? Remember the 12/35/12 mentioned earlier? Theses are the measurements of this particular fence. The first 12 means that there are twelve horizontal strands of electric wire, top to bottom. The 35 indicates the height of the fence once it’s pounded in and the final 12 represents the fact that there are vertical support strands every twelve inches, post to post. The height of the fence keeps bears in mind as they saunter towards your apiary with the scent of brood in the air. Having twelve horizontal strands gives plenty of opportunities for the bear to ‘learn his/her lesson.’ And with vertical support strands every twelve inches, it helps to take the sag out of the fence and also aids in preventing fence tangle. We want to tap a bear on the nose, not tangle the fence in his toes!
Hardware Components To make our bears jump for joy, we need to power our fence with solar energy. To do this, here’s what Premier 1 supplies: a solar panel to charge our solar battery which gives power to the energizer, the component that electrifies the fence with intermittent ‘jolts of warning.’ Lastly is our ground rod; a three foot galvanized steel rod that actually looks like a really big nail. Each component above has been linked to the Premier 1 website for reference. For a brief gear review of some of these components, click here to go to my Gear page. There are lots of recommendations I have on gear and literature and I’m always adding more.
Premier 1 Fencing provides written instructions on setting up your new fence with each order and they even have video instructions if you need more help or are a visual learner. Here’s a link to their video help site. Also, I recommend using a 10 watt solar panel to start with because you can hook it directly to your solar battery without needing a charge controller. A 10 watt panel will not overcharge your battery. When you choose your battery from Premier 1, you will see that they are all 12 volt batteries of varying amp hours. I have no idea what amp hours are or even mean. So I suggest contacting them for help to choose the right battery for you.
A ground rod comes with the energizer kit, so you should not have to order one separately. Speaking of energizers, Premier 1 recommends getting one that puts out at least 1 joule for bears. I use their energizers of 1 joule and I also use the 2 joule model, just in case it’s a really big bear. Order your own Premier 1 Supplies catalog here.
An Alternative In the beginning, when I was saving up for my very first Bear QuikFence, I used something else that I like a lot. It’s called the Nite Guard Solar Predator Control Light. It’s a small black box with a built in solar panel. When it get dark shortly after sundown, a front-mounted led red light flashes on and off all night.
The idea is quite simple You mount four of them on a post in or near what you want to protect, whether it’s your apiary or maybe even a chicken coop. The Nite Guard is mounted at roughly eye-level of the predator that you are trying to deter. When the red lights begin to flash at night, any animal that sees this light fears that they have been seen and they run away.
Not only is it solar powered but it’s completely water proof, eco-friendly, and it’s safe for pets, people and livestock. Even with my Bear QuikFence installed, I still use my Nite Guard as predator control. Learn more about it here.
I want to calm any worries about this fence actually harming bears. The jolt given to bears through this fence is simply a scare. I know this from personal experience and I didn’t die from it. When a bear touches the fence with its nose they receive a surge of energy that causes a feeling of being jolted from the inside. Animals are smart. They usually do not return to places that caused fright or pain and simply keep moving along. Still, I would keep my pets away from the fence.
I hope I have opened your eyes to an easier way of protecting your honey bees. They are so important. And when it comes to the total cost, how much is spent on package bees? How much on equipment? The Bear QuikFence is a pretty cheap Insurance Policy when you think about it. After all, it only takes one time to lose it all. I would hate for that to happen to anyone. Beekeepers are some of the most down-to-earth people I know and they’re hard workers too.
I want to thank those of you who have joined us again today. If this was the first blog post of mine that you have read, I would like to encourage you to browse through the blog page for more. Hopefully you will find something that interests you the most. I would love to hear from each of you and know what you think of the Bear QuikFence. And let me know if I can clarify anything. Until next time remember,
~Weeds are Wildflowers, let them Bee.~
Jonathan Hargus/Beekeeper Extraordinaire