Beehives and Bears: An Accident Waiting to Happen!

Me and brother-in-law in Vermont working his bees

I was introduced to beekeeping in Virginia while visiting my brother-in-law Bruce. He had several beehives and I wanted to try my hand at working the bees before I made the plunge on my own.  Since then, Bruce has moved to Vermont with his hives –  prime bear country. In Vermont, he set up a remote control camera surveying their property and the camera took this picture of a juvenile bear roaming around causing trouble last year. The bear clawed his way up to a two-story deck and knocked over the hives sitting there. There were claw marks on the post “bearing” this out.

Juvenile black bear caught on video camera

Well, that bear must have grown up and/or been kicked out by Mom to sink or swim on his own and come back for more mischief. Bruce’s neighborhood which is pretty rural recently had a rash of bear invasions in the last couple of weeks which included a garage being torn apart. So, I guess it was only a matter of time until the bears sniffed the hives out again! There is something about bears and honey that is irresistible.

Damage caused by bear in Vermont

As you can see, the bear/bears (?) tore right into the hive to get to the honey and larvae. This hive was set up in a nearby field, ripe for the picking.

I found this video on you tube which just goes to show you how impervious bears are to stinging bees. It is pretty amazing.

Could This Happen to Me?

Here in Maryland, there have been several bears spotted within 50 miles of here. Right now, I think the likelihood is slim but there are no guarantees.  I remember maybe 20 years ago, it was pretty unusual to see deer nearby.  Now they are just as common as squirrels.  I live in a suburban area and have a friend nearby who saw a mountain lion on her front porch!  So, I don’t believe that it is impossible that a bear will make a visit.

Turned upside down beehive

Costly Damage

Bears can cause considerable beehive damage, including the destruction of hives and frames to get at that finger lickin’ honey and larvae. I was surprised to find out from news articles that bear destruction is pretty common in northern states, and to the south in North Carolina, Florida and Louisiana. Massachusetts has been getting a rash of hive attacks from bears which I really didn’t think of as being rural enough for bears. But with our mild winter, bears are roaming, so check this out –

Fortunately for Bruce, the hive the bears attacked was probably dead but had some honey stores that they could have used for the other hives.

An American Black Bear (Ursus americanus) at t...


Fish and Wildlife publications suggest putting your hives at least 50 yards from wooded cover.  And virtually everyone comes to the same conclusion – the only effective method for preventing costly destruction is an electric fence. As for Bruce, he has several hives on his deck that are producing and the one that was attacked will be salvaged and set up closer to the house and an electric fence may be in the works.

Hives strewn on the ground

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About thegardendiaries

Claire Jones is a landscape and floral designer and owner of Claire Jones Landscapes, LLC. She designs and helps people to create their own personal outdoor oasis and loves to write about her gardening failures and successes.
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5 Responses to Beehives and Bears: An Accident Waiting to Happen!

  1. and here I was feeling put upon because we have such vicious mosquitos this Spring in Texas. Not to mention that I have happened upon 2 baby copperheads already. I guess I am pretty lucky, after all. Mary Evelynn


  2. Gosh, those bears look pretty pleased with themselves. Lucky we only have mice and wasps and the occasional woodpecker trying to steal our bees’ honey in London!


  3. mossgreene says:

    Thanks for this info. I’m in North Carolina and a bear visited my bees yesterday. My pictures look just like Bruce’s. I was a little miffed that the bear pooped right next to my remaining hive. Hadn’t he/she already insulted me enough? 🙂 Living in the country sure can be an adventure!


  4. Pingback: Bee-hive Yourself Poohbear from

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