Bees, Trees – and now “elephant friendly” honey!

Elephants Alive Celebrates Four Years of Bees and Trees Research in Jejane

Our Bees, Trees, Elephants & People Project continually grows from strength to strength. In November 2019, this project turned four years old, a wonderful achievement on a collaboration that we are very proud to share with Jejane Private Nature Reserve (JPNR). We have also harvested ten batches of “elephant-friendly honey” between 2018 and 2020 – bottling nearly 100 litres of natural honey!

Project History

Elephants Alive’s research is based on the pioneering work of Dr. Lucy King from the Elephants & Bees Project in Kenya, where Dr. King provided evidence that African honeybees could be used as a successful mitigation method against crop raiding elephants. Whilst elephants are predominantly thick-skinned, they have vulnerable spots on their eyes, ears, and inside of their trunks. It is believed that these vulnerable spots result in them avoiding the notoriously aggressive African Honeybee. Dr. Michelle Henley, Elephants Alive’s Director and Principle Researcher, wished to test this behavioural response in South Africa, where elephant impact on iconic tree species is a major concern. Between 2015 and 2016, Elephants Alive researcher Mr Robin Cook took on this project as a part of his Master of Science degree through Wits University and Elephants Alive. In a selected study site, 150 marula trees have been under surveillance. 50 trees have beehives, 50 have been wire-netted, and 50 have been left as control (unprotected) trees. Annual surveys are carried out on the 150 trees to assess elephant impact. To date, Michelle and Robin run this project with Elephants Alive’s field officer Mr Ronny Makukule.

Elephants alive [photo]

Elephants & Bees Project

Elephants alive [photo]

Elephants & Bees Project

Using Bee Hives to Protect Trees – update

At the end of last year, we re-assessed all of the trees in our study site in JPNR. 82% of the control trees have been impacted in the study’s 4-year duration versus 54% of the wire-netted trees. We are pleased that only 10% of the beehive trees have received any form of elephant impact since November 2015. Our Elephants Alive researchers visit the site on a regular basis to check up on the bees, as well as to evaluate the site’s elephant activity. The recent summer rains have been wonderful for the bees, with pollen available for the bees on a number of tree and grass species. It is always exciting for us to see the little bees returning with bags and bags of pollen!

Honey bees [photo]

Honey bees

Tamsin Lotter [photo]

Busy Bee – Tamsin Lotter

Elephant-friendly honey

The natural honey has proved hugely popular with customers in both Hoedspruit and the bigger cities. We are also very pleased to have amazing support from the JPNR shareholders and other lodges across the Greater Kruger National Park. Every harvest produces a different tasting honey, depending on what flowers the bees are feeding on at that time of the year. We are also producing Elephants Alive lip balm made from beeswax, as well as honey-infused soaps.

Elephant-friendly honey [photo]

Elephant-friendly honey

Elephant-friendly honey [photo]

Elephant-friendly honey

Elephant friendly honey & lip balm [photo]

Elephant friendly honey & lip balm for sale

Presentation to Jejane Private Nature Reserve Shareholders

In August 2019, Elephants Alive gave a presentation to the shareholders and management of JPNR. The turn-out was fantastic and our researchers thoroughly enjoyed interacting with the JPNR members both during and after the talk. We hope to hold a similar presentation for members in 2020.

For more information, visit www.elephantsalive.org or email


Photos December 2015

Hanging fifty active beehives over a single night in Jejane Private Nature Reserve. Each beehive was designated to a specific marula tree, three teams worked tirelessly from 10 pm to 5 am the next morning hanging all fifty beehives. A special thank you to JPNR Management and African Dream Horse Safaris for assistance across the night.

Bee hives [photo]
Bee hives [photo]
Bee hives [photo]
Bee hives [photo]

Photo credits:

  • Aida Ettayeb
  • Bruce Donnely
  • Fluer Visser
  • Mike Kendrick
  • Mouritz Muschick
  • Robin Cook
  • Tamsin Lotter
  • Vera Praet
Elephants alive [logo]
Bees, Trees, Elephants & People [logo]
Elephants & Bees Project [photo]
Elephants & Bees Project
Honey for sale at Farmers Market [photo]
Honey for sale at Farmers Market