Mr. Bear

In my first post, I told you I’d tell you the story of Mr. Bear. As promised, here goes.

In early April this year, we made our first attempt at keeping bees. We got two packages of bees and set up two lovely hives, on the edge of our future orchard. We spent plenty of time shoveling snow out of the area (due to the very late spring), ensuring everything was just right in terms of shade, direction, etc. We also put up an electric fence to keep out the local bears.

We chose a fence that was marketed as a bear fence for keeping bees. It seemed awfully flimsy to me, but everything I read in both the reviews and on beekeeping forums said this was an excellent choice. Onward we went, driving the grounding rods into the frozen earth (quite a project), setting up a marine battery and solar panel to ensure a constant flow of electricity, and checking that the perimeter was far enough from the hives that the bears wouldn’t be able to reach over. Everything was ready to go.

A few days later, I picked up our bees and into the hives they went! It was such an exhilarating experience! After making sure they were snug as a bug in a rug, I eagerly awaited the first hive check.

The following weekend, we returned to the homestead and I ran right out to the hives first thing, but as I rounded the last bend in the path, I couldn’t see the hives. My stomach dropped, my heart climbed into my throat. As I drew closer, I saw Mr. Bear’s work – the fence was down and the hives smashed to bits. I feel sick just writing this.

This bear was huge. I could easily put my thumb through the teeth marks in the plastic sugar water containers, and the gouge marks in the hives where he’d swept them over were massive. I fell to the ground and sobbed.

I don’t know exactly how this happened. With such a late spring, perhaps the bear didn’t care about the electricity in his drive for food. Maybe the snow had somehow shorted out the fence. Whatever it was, my beautiful, lively honeybees were gone.

When this first happened, I was too sad to want to try again. But try again we did. And the fence we built ourselves is a fortress – 8 inch posts 9 feet tall dug deep into the earth and cemented in. Electric cattle wire every 4 – 6 inches, wire so thick it likely could likely keep the bears out even if not electric. The evidence we once found of bear scat around the fence tells me that they’ve checked it out and been beaten.

And over these intervening months, I’ve been able to remind myself of the circle of life, how we need the bears to keep the natural balance, and as long as they leave my honeys alone, I’m more than ok with that.

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