What Beekeepers Should Consider about Electric Fencing

Thursday 4 April 2024

In Atlantic Canada, there are multiple pests that threaten the safety of honey bee colonies. One major pest that beekeepers often stress about is bears, which will destroy equipment and eat honey and bees. An electric fence around an apiary is the most effective way to prevent a bear attack. Read this week’s blog to learn some key considerations for electric fencing.

What Beekeepers Should Consider about Electric Fencing

Bears present a significant threat to honey bee colonies across Atlantic Canada, with the exception of Prince Edward Island, which lacks a bear population. To safeguard apiaries from bear attacks, beekeepers often rely on electric fencing as a primary defense measure.

Ensuring the effectiveness of an electric fence requires proper installation and regular maintenance. Adequate grounding is crucial, particularly in environments like blueberry fields where the soil is typically sandy. To function properly, the ground must contain sufficient moisture to conduct electricity. Grounding rods should be buried at least 3 feet deep to ensure optimal performance. Otherwise, during drought conditions, beekeepers might need to moisten the area around the electric fencing to sustain conductivity.


Unlike humans, bears are not instinctively aware of the danger posed by electric fences. Therefore, it is essential to bait new fences to train bears to avoid them. Baiting methods such as bacon strips or cans of tuna attached to wires can effectively teach bears to steer clear of the charged fence.

Another key consideration is that when hives are rented for pollination, the grower and the beekeeper need to determine who is to be responsible for installing and maintaining the fence. Addressing colony protection in pollination contracts ensures that both parties are aware of their obligations.

For new beekeepers, there is a cost-benefit analysis that should be considered before purchasing an electric fence. A new beekeeper should weigh both the cost of installing an electric fence and the current value of their colonies. If the cost of purchasing a fence is significantly higher than the value of their colonies, it may not make economic sense to invest in a fence. However, if the beekeeper anticipates expanding their operation in the near future, then buying a fence is likely a good investment. Conversely, if a beekeeper's colonies are valued higher than the cost of a fence, it would be unwise to put their operation at risk by not protecting their colonies, especially in an area with a high bear population.

Finally, when selecting a charger for an electric fence, it is essential to consider various options. The key factor to prioritize is the power output of the charger. For optimal bear deterrence, the charger should output a minimum of 1 joule. Other factors come into play when choosing a charger. Solar-powered chargers, while more expensive, require less frequent checks. On the other hand, battery-powered chargers are more budget-friendly, but it is essential for beekeepers or growers to ensure that the batteries are consistently fully charged. Opting for a 12-volt (2 joules stored) solar-powered charger is advisable, as it maintains a reliable charge and delivers sufficient shock to discourage bears from returning. Alternatively, a 9-volt (less than 1 joule stored) D cell battery-powered charger is a common choice, but it may not provide the necessary shock to deter bears, and the batteries need regular replacement. A third option is a fencer that can be plugged into a home power grid. This option is only possible if the apiary is located near a home or farm building to which the beekeeper has power access. Finally, a good fence tester is a helpful tool to determine the fence is working properly during each apiary visit.

For more information about electric fencing please reach out to ATTTA.

Connecting with ATTTA Specialists

If you’d like to connect with ATTTA specialists or learn more about our program, you can:

visit our website at https://www.perennia.ca/portfolio-items/honey-bees/

Email abyers@perennia.ca