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Bear prevention idea

 
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Ok, bear with me...  Everyone around here says that if you have bees you either have to accept that bears will get your hives every once in a while, or you need to put up electric fencing.

What about an alternative approach.  I'm imagining surrounding a hive with a bunch of boards or pallets with dull spikes/nails sticking up from them every inch or two.  So to get to the hive the bear would have to walk on something that would modestly hurt.  (anyone see the Lego firewalk?)  Then when you want access you just lay down a board to walk out on or flip over a pallet.

Maybe they would have to be sharp, I don't know how bear feet work.  I just heard they do that to protect doors and windows in polar bear country.
 
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I was reading about this recently and wondered about planting a very thorny / prickly hedge around bee hives.  Either wide or high, or both?  I haven't worked out a hedge gate idea yet... still pondering.
 
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Around here, SE New Brunswick, I see a lot of spots with 6-20 hives surrounded by one electric hot wire about 10-12" high.  We've definitely got bears, so I'm sure that's what the wire is for and I haven't seen any hives disturbed.  

Also, don't leave any picanic baskets around...
 
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Some neighbours I used to have built a 12 foot high platform with some steel pipe for legs.  Then put hives on the platform.  Bit of a hassle for access but no bear trouble.
 
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I like to search images of solutions and the first results did not disappoint...all sorts of crazy people with crazy ideas...

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bear proofing bees
bear proofing bees
 
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I would use trees as hive platforms, where possible, and grow thorny plants on supports around it, such that one section of overgrown lattice could be moved aside to access the tree, perhaps lowering the hive carefully with a rope and pulley, or block and tackle, more than likely.

If I had more money than things to do with it, I would probably go with the solar-charged electric fencing, but I am critical of any system that crowds many hives together. This isn't how hives situate themselves in the wild. I think it would be best to figure out simpler and cheaper solutions that could be used in multiple different locations. That way, a half-dozen to a dozen hives, instead of being clustered in a fenced-in area, are dispersed over a larger area, with at least 150' between each one, and should one bear countermeasure fail, not all hives would be open to ursine depredations; each hive would have its own bramble and thorn barrier, and would be found away from the others, making for a lot more work.

Of course, some honeybee education might be beneficial. If we could only get them to be on the lookout for bright yellow bears suspended from balloons in mud-based raincloud costumes...



-CK
 
Mike Haasl
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A big time bee keeper around here uses electric fences and the bears still break through once in a while.  But that is clearly a proven approach.

I doubt anything that grows around here is thorny enough to keep out bears.  They'll stroll through blackberries that I can barely rip my way through (painfully).  Plus then the gate is the weak point

I like the platform or suspension trick.  Maybe a combination deer stand and bee platform...

Any thoughts about the pokey floor approach?  Seems pretty low tech and affordable.  Plus amenable to spreading the hives around the landscape wherever needed without having fences all over the place.
 
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A black bear can climb very well.  the old caches in Alaska worked pretty well, but there was an overhang.  (The bear could climb one of the support poles, but he couldn't reach around, pull himself up, and deal with the door).  You had a ladder of some sort hanging on a couple of trees off to the side you put up to access the door.  The bear won't figure out hauling the ladder over and leaning it against the cache.  

Back when I was a teenager people would nail up plywood with a bunch of 16 penny nails sticking out to their cabin doors and windows when they had to leave for a while (or if it was a seasonal cabin).  It worked most of the time, but a determined bear could still find a way in.  Laying them on the ground is an idea I haven't heard of before.  It might work, but the plywood won't last too long, laying on the ground.

I think a raised platform, either with steel supports or wood, with an overhang so the bear couldn't reach around would work well.  I would hang the ladder on the inside of the support posts, sideways.  You don't want any cross pieces that the bear can get on and use as a base to push up boards on the floor.  (Even a small bear is REALLY strong).

Alternatively, if you have a couple of dogs running loose, they will, over time, convince the bears to just leave that area alone.  (They can't hurt the bear, but they will annoy the hell out of them).  It probably won't work 100% of the time, but if you have the dogs running loose for a while before you install the hives, the bears will usually figure it just isn't worth the trouble.
 
Catherine Windrose
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Mike, the spiky pallets/boards idea made me think about 6 penny nails in waxed canvas straps.  Considerations:  

  • Initially fussy putting together.  
  • Bulk pricing hovers around $2 per yard; guessing $20-30 per hive?  https://www.bigduckcanvas.com/webbing-straps/1-1-4-heavyweight-cotton-natural/  
  • Light weight.  
  • Flexible.  
  • Durability improved if waxed.
  • 6 penny nails pushed through webbing strap with pointy ends outward.  Nail one end to the top of a hive structure, wrap in a spiral with about 4" between straps going around to the bottom and nail end to structure.  Maybe nail each layer in the spiral to the structure?

  • Questions:  

    I've watched videos in which bears investigate then become frustrated and leave to find an easier conquest.  If a bear were really fired by hunger, would a hive likely be destroyed in the effort to get past the nail wrap?  In which case boards with nails as you described might be more appropriate.

    Maybe there's a niche business with waxed canvas nail wraps for bee hives? :.)  Might also work with fencing for certain purposes.
     
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    Mick Fisch wrote:
    Back when I was a teenager people would nail up plywood with a bunch of 16 penny nails sticking out to their cabin doors and windows when they had to leave for a while (or if it was a seasonal cabin).  It worked most of the time, but a determined bear could still find a way in.  Laying them on the ground is an idea I haven't heard of before.  It might work, but the plywood won't last too long, laying on the ground.



    Where I grew up on the Yukon, the really old cabins had wooden shutters to close when away.  The shutters had diagonal boards on the outside (so did the front door, typically) and worn out saw blades (from the old cross-cut saws with handles on both ends) permanently nailed to the diagonals.  So any attempt to shred the door or shutter would result in wounded paws.  Even that didn't work very well -- better than nothing, but a determined bear would dig his way in through the smaller poles of the roof, or just rip a door or window frame right out of the wall.  

    I have to agree with the several suggestions of putting hives on a tall cache platform.  It doesn't have to be real tall (platform just higher than the tallest bears in your area can reach standing on hind legs, so taller if you're in brown bear country than if it's just black bears you're defending against) and it doesn't need pipe or metal legs.  As mentioned, the platform is an overhang that a bear shimmying up one leg of a tripod can't manage to climb past.  Just be aware that a powerful bear can knock down some pretty thick trees/posts/structures.  So use logs, not poles.  
     
    Chris Kott
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    I like the 6 penny nails through waxed canvas straps idea as a way of adding "thorns" to the hive proper. If the hive was placed on a platform in a tree by rope and pulley, I would probably wrap the canvas strap assembly in a similar spiral up to head-height on the tree. It's hard to get a good grip on a tree trunk that's constantly biting you.

    What I was thinking about as an alternative to a grown thorny impediment on the ground was, instead, something with the effect of caltrops, like Mike suggests. I would take old chainlink fencing and leave enough of it intact to act as a larger framework, but break some links to be bent with the points in the same direction. The metal blanket would lay spikes-up, and roving bears would hit the sharp and pointies before they ever got too close to the tree, never mind close enough to think about climing it to get to the hive.

    And at the same time, an understory guild could be sown and cultivated, even if it were primarily pollinator forage, to grow up straight through the caltrop blanket. At need, it would be thrown aside for access, and the worst that would happen is that some plant tops would come away; the movable section might then be planted exclusively in green manures and clovers, where being beheaded or torn up would be a planned part of the soil-building.

    My only concern with the caltrop plan is over what happens should an animal, or a person, for that matter, fall atop it. A bear might be given quite a few hideous punctures, and getting off it might make those into tears in flesh. Suddenly, bleeding out and infection are lethal possibilities. A human might make out with fewer punctures, and less trauma from getting out again, but two inches is a radically different thing in terms of puncture wounds for bears and humans.

    But I think wrapping the trunks with waxed canvas strips of spikes is a bad-ass way to protect an elevated bee position. All we need is for that waxed material to be black leather, and for the spikes to be shiny chrome. Nobody but nobody would mess with those trees, I assure you.

    -CK
     
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    In Chicago, bee keepers place hives on the roofs of tall buildings.  Probably not too many high-rises in bear country, but if you have any existing structures a bear couldn't climb, maybe hive could be placed there.

    Nails (even blunted) sticking up out of the ground seems like too much of a puncture-wound hazard. A person could fall on them. Also, bear would step on it with its whole weight, so could end up maiming bear before dissuading it. It is different from placing them on vertical surface/windowsill. The idea of a spiked enclosure or spikes on the hives seems better.
     
    Mike Haasl
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    At a previous house, the neighbors had pretty good luck keeping bears from climbing trees to get to their bird feeders by tacking stove pipe sections to the trees.  Start at the bottom so the overlaps act as shingles and their claws can't catch on anything.

    For the spikey ground thing, I was thinking pallets so that the nail part is off the ground a bit and won't rot as fast.  Maybe the pallets could be off the ground on small rocks so they last even longer.  

    I'm not sure about the spikes under an elevated thing because if the bear did cross the spikes and fall off the tree, yeah it would get some serious acupuncture.  

    We just have black bears here but they can probably reach over 6'.  And I'm imagining this contraption on a college campus so there could be some liability from an elevated beehive.  Hmm, or spikes for that matter.  But a low fence and sign should protect the spikes from the public.

    Thanks for all the ideas, if I get this project off the ground I'll report back!
     
    Catherine Windrose
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    Dan, what about a platform atop a log as you described, and to the sides of that log add a few nailed in vertical 1"x2" strips with 2" nails pointing outward?  To safely manage the hives above, a single 3-sided board cover could be made to use as needed for each hive platform and left on the ground when not in use.  Or waxed cotton canvas straps with nails could spiral down the sides of the log?

    Could a bear climb a nail studded log?  Would 2" nails be short enough to not become a nail ladder, yet long enough to be uncomfortable, and not so long as to do serious injury?  Are there other critters drawn to honey that would be able to climb up the log if the sides were studded with nails?
     
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    What is needed is reverse psychology - Bears like sweet things, right?

    Well, surrounding beehives with THESE would surely deter Bear encroachment because, to a Bear, Clowns simply taste funny!



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    Bear Deterrent
     
    pollinator
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    That's a good idea for keeping Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern (the Wet Bandits from Home Alone) out, but I worry about human safety and bears' incredible pain tolerance. I would bet an inevitable nail through one's boot and foot would not be worth the honey, but maybe I'm wrong. I have also seen a bear sitting on a giant bramble of himalayan blackberry to eat and bring more within reach. They also tolerate hundreds of stinging bees on their face in order to get at that honey, so maybe pain isn't a big motivator for them. Perhaps the startling aspect of a nail in the foot would be, like a jolt from an electric fence. It's not the pain but the start that seems to get them running. One thing to remember is that bears have been selected though human intervention to fear us above all else. The one's that didn't fear humans got shot and didn't reproduce. Along those lines, I have heard a motion activated radio can work (You Bet Your Garden podcast. I'd also pee all around the hive in a wide perimeter, but also should warn that during dry season, this could get you a sting on a very sensitive place from a thirsty bee (this happened to me last fall, but with a yellow jacket). Peed all over myself when I was trying to get it off, only to brush it down into my pants, which then had to come off but got stuck on my boots as it kept stinging my thigh as I howled in pain and laughter at the absurdity of it all. It was worth it for the story though.
     
    Dan Boone
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    Catherine Windrose wrote:
    Could a bear climb a nail studded log?  Would 2" nails be short enough to not become a nail ladder, yet long enough to be uncomfortable, and not so long as to do serious injury?  Are there other critters drawn to honey that would be able to climb up the log if the sides were studded with nails?



    Well, here's why I'm not a fan of the notion of nails as bear deterrent spikes -- on the ground or on vertical surfaces.  Nails are soft metal.  They're easy to bend with any significant sideways pressure.  And bears?  Bears are strong and (over short periods of time) act as though they don't feel pain.  You might get a few spikes in bear, but I think as soon as he stops moving fast, any interactions with nails sticking the wrong way out of wood are going to result in (a) a whole bunch of bent-over nails and (b) an pissed-off, angry bear.  Sure, he might run off, but he'll still be pissed off and angry.  Or he might just wipe all the nails out with one sideways swipe of a powerful paw and go right back to his orginal hunny-eating plan.  

    The other critter where I grew up that I imagine would demolish a bee hive is the wolverine, who, yeah, could climb your spike strips or the Blazo (white gas) cans hammered flat and wrapped around tree trunks.  People did wrap the legs of their caches in old fuel can steel to try and keep wolverines from climbing ... because those little monsters were a lot more agile climbers than bears ... but it didn't always work.

    Here's a photo of  a fairly typical bush/wilderness cache.  No overhang on this one, but they've done something they probably hoped was clever with the protruding log butts between the corner logs and the wall with the door in it.  Now imagine getting rid of the little cabin on top and putting the bee hive in the center of the floor/platform.  That's the only truly scheme I can imagine for keeping bears out of bee hives.     (I guess electric fences have been said to work, but I've seen too much evidence of bears ignoring pain while foraging for me to be entirely sanguine.  They are notorious for biting open canned goods, for example, and a few cans of oven cleaner, insect repellent, hair spray, spray paint, and similar noxious aerosols don't even slow them down.)  



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    trapper cache
     
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    My general thought is that if there's a bear present it's probably more naturally the bears home than the honeybees home.

    I would be very reluctant to try nails. Too much risk of injury to humans, bears, or other large animals. It probably violates some animal cruelty laws too. Although bear deterrence, not hunting or trapping, is the intention I think game wardens & lawyers could potentially have a field day with it. Besides all that, I just don't think it works as well as electric fences. It would be difficult to build a living hedge that bears can't breach with very little effort. I've seen what a bear can do to an apiary. Not a pretty sight. Nothing left but a pile of kindling. I didn't lose a single bee with several hives spread across a particular pasture perimeter wood line but my friend lost several hives, all bunched together in the open. Which seems like backwards  bear behavior but that's what happened. We made a LOT of LOUD noise for a few days & nights. We make a LOT of LOUD noise almost every time we go into that pasture now. Bears are still in those remote mountain woods. As far as we know none ever returned back down to the pasture, at least they haven't bothered any more bees. Yet. Since then we electrified a small orchard in that pasture so future hives there will be inside the electric fence. The electrified lunchbox idea mentioned in one of these links has merit.

    The thing on cables depicted in one of the posted pics ... easy to see that one accidentally going bad. Very bad. I think a well designed one could work if used very carefully. It would need to be more stable than food hoists used at places such as the Appalachian Trail to keep food away from bears. Even if it doesn't crash to the ground with the full fury of bees it needs to be kept close to level. Bees build their combs at specific angles to prevent uncapped honey from flowing out. Wax comb breaks easily in the heat too. Interesting idea but I will pass except maybe for a very specific need.

    http://www.bbcc.org/living-with-bears/beehives/

    bear prevention & bees

    In Africa some hives are raised above ground. This particular one doesn't look bear proof but it gets the point across.

    If all else fails ... why not try clowns? One never really knows until they try. Let us know how that works out:)

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    scary-clown.jpg
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    The cache idea that Dan showed is a great low tech old school fix.  

    Some bee keepers that I know in bear county did the following:

    Put in fence posts surrounding the hives.  Have 2 holes drilled in each post, the lower one 2.5 feet up. Run cables through the holes. Place spike boards on the inside of the fence. Nail those to the ground with rebar on opposite angles so the bear can't easily flip them.  
    The bear is an inherently curious beast but he is also careful when exploring new things.  He will probe with his paw under the tight  cable, touch the nails and retract his paw. Without injuring.  After a few times trying he will go away. He doesn't want to puncture his paw.

    Combine that with the cache.  
     
    Mike Haasl
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    Oooh, good point about flipping it over!  What is the fence for and what is the upper cable for Roberto?
     
    Mick Fisch
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    The other point about a hive is that bees 'memorize' where their entrance is.  The instructer for the beekeeping class I took said that moving the hive a foot can really confuse the bees, so they recommended putting something (a weed or bush branch) in front of the entrance if you move it.  The idea being the bee flies out and says "hmmmmmmm, that wasn't there before", Then the bee does a reevaluation/ rememorization of where the hive entrance is before it leaves.  I didn't move my hives much, and if I did I put something in front of the entrance for a few days as was recommended.  

    I would like to hear from more experienced beekeepers.  Was what they taught me in the class correct, or just a beekeepers 'old-wives tale'.

    If what I was told is correct, it argues against any sort of 'raise and lower' bee hive system.
     
    Mike Barkley
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    Good point Mick. I hadn't considered that with the lowering & raising hives concept. But it's good advice not to move them too far without blocking their entrance with grass & twigs so they have to work their way out. Placing a shrub or a large branch in front is also frequently recommended. Move them at night so they are all inside to begin with. It's interesting to watch them come out, realize they are in a new location, fly around in circles to reset their bee gps, then zoom away. No problem after that.

    I haven't moved many established hives. Have moved a couple though. Not far but I moved them gradually, only a foot or two at a time. Noticed some temporary bee confusion but no major problems. The one time I moved one about 15 feet, in the middle of the day, was a mess. Almost immediately a large cloud of bees started forming as the foragers returned to the previous location. They were very confused.

    Roberto's suggestion of less dangerous "warning nails"???  hmmm that might work!!!

    Wolf urine available via hunting & trapping suppliers might also work.




     
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    If one wants to make a spiked barrier,  a nail gun would be a quicker way to go than hand nailing.
    Set the pressure low,  so the nails don't worry themselves and shave off the heads with a side grinder.

    I'm not sure if a bear hurting itself on countermeasures is an ethical  problem or not.
    I'm pretty sure the honey isn't a staple food we are keeping them from.
     
    Mick Fisch
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    I don't think bears are particularly afraid of wolves.  I'm not sure the wolf urine would work.
     
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    That African beehive fence is designed as a deterrent for elephants to keep them from breaking through the fence.  Any efforts to break through the fence jiggles the attached hives, bringing out the highly aggressive African bees in droves to attack the elephant, whose trunk tip is very sensitive to bee stings.
     
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    I would be worried about other animals stepping on the nails.  Especially my dogs.  We have an assortment of other animals as well.  Deer, elk, coyotes, wolves, raccoons, possums, porcupine, badgers, and on and on.  Some of them are probably smart enough not to step on the nails, but if they were being chased or even just spooked, who knows?  I haven't gotten bee hives set up at my new place yet, but I'm counting on the presence of the dogs to keep the bears away.  I know I have bears, because I caught two on my game cams this year.  One was shot by hunters, I'm not sure if the other stuck around or not, but there are bears in the area.  Guess I'll find out quickly enough.
     
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    Mike,

    I think the idea you are thinking about is called a bear board.  I know that many people use these for remote cabins to keep bears from getting in through windows and doors.  I would think you could lay a barrier (bearier?) down, but It would have to be wide enough that a bear couldn’t just step over.

    Eric
     
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    Sometimes the problem can be the solution.  Bear makes excellent ham, sausage and burger.
     
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    I live in bear country... just a few years ago, my veteran, retired cop neighbor awoke to what he thought was someone breaking into his house.  He grabbed a 9mm and walked toward his front door about the same time as a 490 lb black bear crashed through it.... fortunately, his neighbor likes bear meat... Some folks don't.  But, I'd echo, "THe problem is the solution"....  that is a whole lot of meat... and it is so very good if taken in cold weather dressed and butchered quickly!
     
    Mike Haasl
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    Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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    I do agree that there are lots of ways to dissuade bears from an area.  My situation is either of:  
  • college campus natural area
  • my field

  • Neither should have dogs running loose, nor an expectation of a person with a gun handy to shoot the bear.  Other wild life or non-wild life in the area is expected to be people, deer and dogs.  I'm thinking a dog sized fence is a good idea.  With a sign for people explaining the glory of the system (and that they shouldn't step on the nails).  Deer I'm not really worried about if there's a small fence around it and it's in the open.
     
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    Solar battery charger, dual batteries and electric fencing, the bright white nylon solar "conductor" used for sheep makes a good psychological reinforcement for bears and a warning to humans. If it was me I'd make a double ring about 4' apart so in the process of avoiding one he'd be likely to encounter the other one.... put the first at 12" off the ground and the next about 18"
    As a back up put the hive high and put 4 rings of conductor at 18", 24", 36", and 48" enroute up the support.
     
    Posts: 118
    Location: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
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    I know nothing about bees or hives but do have a somewhat novel idea, if one were a tinkerer.

    As I understand the situation, the desire is to have multiple hives, located singly. The issue of protecting a group of hives would work with the platform/electric fencing/spike options suggested. But I don't see this working for scattered hives, in a potentially public location. The solution would need to be simple, portable, safe for humans and inexpensive to be used in multiple locations, potentially on public land.

    I do think electricity is the key, powering it is the issue.  Could one use a car or cart battery, powered by solar charger, perhaps motion activated to prevent constant draw on the battery? Simple step on stakes holding the small corral of electric fencing? There is an electric mesh rabbit fence (Kencove?), it might work (or provide an idea for framework?) but I suspect a higher juice level would be required for bear.

    The cost of the small solar panel should be reasonable, as should a small battery, perhaps even used? The motion detector could be cannibalized from old security lights, or even incorporate security lights...

    Lastly, do you have access to the student body? A challenge to the engineering dept. (or whatever dept. might be suitable there) could generate some interesting solutions.
     
    Posts: 158
    Location: 54 North BC Canada
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    My father kept bees.  His house had a flat roof.  Bears couldn't climb up the side, although occasionally they would
    rip down the siding.  I thought if I kept bees, I invest in a used shipping container and put the hives on
    top.  An added benefit would that it would be an excellent place to store wax and extra supers as it is
    lockable and could be made rat/mice proof.
     
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