honey bee threats predators

A bear with table manners

Well, sort of. Susan, a beekeeper in Pennsylvania, sent these pictures of her hive after a local bear had a meal. I have seen photos of dozens—maybe hundreds—of bear damaged hives over the years, but I have never seen one where the bear was so respectful of the equipment. Usually the hive is in splinters, including the frames, brood boxes, bottom boards, everything. Not that this bear didn’t do damage—he completely destroyed one colony and badly injured the other.

Susan said she didn’t see the bear, but she did see bear scat in the yard. She learned from the Pennsylvania Game Commission that the bear that’s been seen in her area is estimated to be 500 pounds—plenty big enough to leave toothpicks instead of a hive. The bear, having had a taste of brood with honey, came back two days later and did it again.

A Pennsylvania bear toppled this hive twice in three days. Photo courtesy of Susan Fulmer.

Undaunted, Susan stabilized the remaining hive against the porch and is waiting to see what happens next. Go Suz! I am eager to learn the outcome.

Creative problem solving: going for bear. Photo courtesy of Susan Fulmer.

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  • Thanks, I was going for the natural look with clear polyurethane on the wood and the animal print duct tape 😉

  • I don’t believe that Susan has the least understanding of the power of a bear. She should have the Pennsylvania Game Commission come and take a look at her setup.

    The Pennsylvania State University Extension website has a good plan for an electrical bear fence.

    All the best to Susan because the bear will visit again.

    • You are right, of course. I was thinking she might lose a good portion of her porch when he comes back.

  • Bracing your hive against a deck might work, or it’ll just be a good challenge for a 500 lb. bear (and that’s a big Black Bear!!).

    But really an apiary in bear country might wanna consider a good bear fence. Our club just got a demo yard established and we put in a top-notch electric bear fence.

    We had great help from a area wildlife advocacy group, Defenders of Wildlife, and our state wildlife agency, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. They assisted us in design and construction. In exchange we offer the demo yard as an example of a proper bear fence setup and we got a top notch electric bear fence!!

    View pics of our bear fence and demo yard at:


    Thanks for such a great site Rusty,

    Don John

    Big Sky Beekeepers http://bigskybeekeepers.hoop.la/home

    • This is a good example of a bear fence. As far as I know, an electric bear fence is the only thing that reliably keeps them at bay.

  • Yes, the bear will tear it all apart. I’d put up a tuna can enhanced electric fence asap. I might also move it a bit away from the house, too, if possible.

  • I realize that he could put this all into a pile of toothpicks. However, he seems to be the least motivated bear ever. The second time he returned he couldn’t, or didn’t want to, or got scared off from knocking this hive off the cinder blocks. He pulled it so crooked that another beekeeper and I spent 5 hours together undoing it, putting the frames of the medium in another medium, and redoing it again. He had pulled 2 sides of the medium off, but didn’t pull out any of the frames. So either it was too much work, or he didn’t have the time. He hasn’t been back yet, thank goodness. They have set a trap for him nearby. The farthest I could set the hive from my house is 15 feet since I’m in a surburban neighborhood with neighbors all around. The reason that it is beside my house is because of all the neighbors. Obviously the bear didn’t care about the fence at all and just went right over it. I’m not sure it is worth it to put eletric wire around my hive. Seems like an expensive cost after already investing well over $900 this year. Plus I don’t think I want an electric fence in my backyard. So far, he hasn’t been back in a week. After all the problems I’ve had all spring and summer, I think I’m about ready to throw in the towel.

  • ps. It took 11 hours to rebuild it the first time he tore it apart. Just when I finished the beehive repair, I had to start preparations for the hurricane, which is just over, and did a lot of damage. Including the chicken coop……

  • I guess I should mention that the Commissioner was here, but didn’t call before he came, so of course I wasn’t here. He did not give me any feedback on my hives. I’ve only been keeping bees since spring.

  • I just spoke with a friend beekeeper who did so for close to 50 years. He said that bears sometimes even go through electric fences because their fur is so thick, that nothing is 100%. I’m wondering how much good it would do to put it on the roof of the shed. I’m guessing not much, since they are good climbers. Assuming a hive would have really good ventilation, is there any reason why I couldn’t wrap the deeps and mediums in metal and then put fasteners, like on a tool box, to hold them all together. I suppose unless it was welded, it wouldn’t hold up to a bear? Are there fences that work 100% of the time?

  • Suz – don’t give up, after all that work! Wish I could come over & help. Look at
    They make stock fence but I note they now have advertised “beehive protection.” Can’t tell you how well it works. My specialty is goat / containment.

    About keeping it on top of the shed, I was thinking that maybe the scent would be too high in the air to draw them?

    About keeping the hives away from the fence line – you have BEARS in your neighborhood, and your neighbors are worried about BEES?

    Best of luck!

  • Nan, that last comment made me laugh! I’m sure I must irritate my neighbors with both the chickens and the bees. They looked a little worried about the bear, but at least had seen a bit on TV about it roaming locally in different neighborhoods. I guess I now know the mountain really isn’t that far away! The PA Commissioner left a brochure that states the best way to stop them from coming back is to remove the source of food for a month or more. The best protection currently is an electric fence. Things that attract them to neighborhoods is garbage, bird feeders (including hummingbird feeders), compost piles, pet food, livestock feed, fruit trees, grills, and beehives. It is best to clean or put away these things. I know we have all of these in our neighborhood. My goal is to make my food harder to get to, in hopes he will go to the neighbors houses, where it is easier. Also, I have no idea if keeping a light on will discourage him, but at least I can see easier when I look out the back door to check.

  • Ahhhhh We just had a bear? tear up our hives. At least we think it was a bear. We have since moved the remaining hive to a safe place but our question is: Can a bear carry full boxes with all the frames in them? We have searched everywhere and they are no where to be found.??? We have seen his escape trail through the blackberries but no boxes Two are missing – complete boxes. We lived next to BLM land last house on the road. We borrowed a game camera and all we got on it was a fox, a horse, my husband and our son-in-law 🙂 Next year the electric fence goes up for sure.

    • Anita,

      It sounds like someone is stealing your hives. Bears generally smash everything to bits and then eat the brood and honey. They don’t neatly cart it away. I think it was a human thief. Hive theft is not uncommon and it sounds like someone could get close to your hives via public lands.

  • Another interesting bit of information…… Although the Game Commissioner filed a claim, I haven’t gotten a cent.