Guess I’m Smarter than the Average Bear!
The minor bear invasion set back things a lick here at Hunny-Bunny Farm. Yogi’s nocturnal raids in the apiary cost me one hive completely with another badly crippled having no queen any longer. I still have the Top-Bar experimental hive up near the patio. Whether he just didn’t notice this hive as it was about thirty feet distant from my regular Langstroth hives or it was just too close to the house for the bears comfort I will never know. He only raided on two consecutive nights taking a hive each night. I like to think it was my aggressive defense with tomato stake in hand in the last night’s face-off that put the fear in him, but I’m sure some will argue this.
Be that as it may, the last two and one half weeks have been spent in researching adequate electric fence deterrents. It seems that nearly all E-fence manufacturers will not guarantee against bears. This is largely because the bears in addition to large amounts of subcutaneous layers of fat have a thick coat and hide. The only spots that are vulnerable are the feet pads, the nose and the inside of the mouth. Additionally, the Connecticut Bear Project manager in a phone conversation assured me that this was correct. So, the question remains how do I protect my apiary? The Bear Project manager told me some little tips and hacks that might be beneficial. First, get a powerful charger that would be rated for dear, coyote, and other larger critters.
It seems most manufacturers rate their units based on joules. A joule, (symbol J) is a derived unit of energy in the International System of Units. It is equal to the energy transferred (or work done) to an object when a force of one newton acts on that object in the direction of its motion through a distance of one meter (1 newton meter or N·m). It is also the energy dissipated as heat when an electric current of one ampere passes through a resistance of one ohm for one second.
Wha’d he say?!?!
What happened to volts, kilovolts, watts, etc. I guess I’m more traditional than I thought, but give me the right nomenclature and I could follow most things quite easily.
On AC, that is, plug-in electric fence chargers, joules of 2.5 or 3.0 and even higher are easily achieved; on solar charges you are hard-pressed to find more than 1.5 joules at reasonable prices. I purchased the Zareba 10 Mile charger though I only have about 250 feet of wire surrounding my 16’x8’ apiary. It was the only “inexpensive” (at $179) unit that had a rating of 1.5 joules. After purchase the instructions suggested 2 6’ foot grounds separated by at least 8’. This would give me a stopping jolt of 4.5 to 5 kilovolts, that’s 4,500 to 5,000 volts. Mr. Rigo, the BP manager, told me that grounding is significant as this will determine the stopping jolts. Also my further research indicated that bear stopping power begins at 1.7 joules. So at this point I wondered if I was only going to tickle Yogi while he slurped up more hives.
The second suggestion from the BP manager was to use ordinary barbed wire but I was reluctant to do so from both the bears POV, as well as, the grandkids roaming about on a regular basis. A third suggestion from Mr. Rigo, since bears are sensitive in the mouth, tongue, and teeth, is to hang a piece of bacon… Mmmm! Bacon… from the hot wire at nose height; this will be a learning process for Yogi and he will soon learn to steer clear of the E-fence.
The final suggestion was to make sure whatever was used, be it braided, high tensile, or even barbed that it be as taut as possible. Loose wires easily short out by touching surrounding objects.
So based on this and the already purchased solar charger I started to design an E-fence system. This was necessary as a ready-made system of posts, insulators, wires, etc. varies according to need, so there is no pre-package system. Most post manufacturers don’t make their T-Posts or U-Post expressly with E-Fences in mind so finding the correct posts to fit the correct insulators was a chore in itself. I settled on a 5’foot U-Post but then by trial and error had to find the nearest matching insulators and even then had to innovate the mounting so that the lines remained taut. I chose high tensile wire to get the best conductivity possible. So finally after 2 & ½ weeks I was ready to install the system… just as the weather exceeded 91° F. Combined with bright sunny days this allowed only a short time to work before sunup and also after sundown. That said, however, the system is up and running. I tested the operating system with a voltmeter and got a reading of 14.7 to 15.3kv! Yikes and gadzooks that’s 14,700 to 15,300volts. I immediately called the manufacturer of the charger, Zareba, and advised them that I wasn’t bucking to be the State Executioner should Connecticut bring back Capital Punishment. He laughed and assured me that while this should be enough to discourage any bear, it was safe because the unit contains little to no amperage. Based on this I moved the crippled hive from the fenced in pool area, which is scheduled to be opened this week back into the now protected apiary. On thinking further on the high voltage of 15.3kv, this is likely due to the two 6’ ground rods for such a small area combined with our moisture laden and highly conductive soil. So at sundown the system will be energized until morning. Should ol’ bruin decide to make a call, I will light up his life and he will venture off with his tail between his legs never to return to Hunny-Bunny Farm without a good think first. So with this writing, I now change my name from Dances with Bears to The Scourge of Bears.
For all of you Disneyesque types out there, I’m not aiming to kill this bear, but only to deter it. He will learn with just a couple or three jolts to respect the apiary perimeter and fence. Remember, bears are opportunistic feeders and seek the easy pickin’s like the neighbors bird feeder or garbage cans. Then he and I will coexist just fine, indeed, we may come to look forward to seeing each other from time to time.
It looks like my bear problems are behind me, sans a hive or two. This however, is only part of the adventures here at Hunny-Bunny over the past 2 or 3 weeks. We also had success and failure in the aviary with the Coturnix quail, but this is for a subsequent post.
Meantime, remain resolute and convicted in your daily Rosary… Things are heating up religiously, politically, and socially all around the world.
Richard of Danbury, Scourge of Bears,