An important safety and productivity problem for beekeepers: Bears

Cengiz ERKAN, Ayhan GÖSTERİT, Turgut AYGÜN


In beekeeping, an agricultural activity nested in nature, beekeepers encounter various hazards at different stages of production. The beekeepers often encounter one of these hazards, the bears due to their shrinking habitats, leading to problems in safety and productivity. The present study that aimed to analyze the causes, damage levels of bear encounters, which became one of the most important problems of beekeepers in recent years, and methods of protection from the bears with a different perspective also scrutinized the occupational health and safety dimension and emphasized the potential risks.

Ursus arctos L., indigenous to Turkey and also known as brown bear, has adapted to different habitats since it is both herbivorous and carnivorous. Brown bears that usually prefer forested and uninhabited areas are usually found in Black Sea and Eastern Anatolian Regions in Turkey, however it was observed that their numbers increased in Central Anatolian, Mediterranean and Aegean Regions due to the recent conservation efforts that were initiated in 2003. Brown bears, which could consume a wide range of nutrients, started to live in areas closer to human settlements due to the expansion in agricultural cultivation and increase in highlands tourism activities and their encounters with beekeepers who need to set up their hives in rural areas. Besides the honeycombs they love, the smell of food that is likely to originate from lodging areas increases the frequency of bear encounters around apiaries.

Bear hunting was prohibited with the Land Hunting Law no. 4915, which also aims to preserve sustainable wildlife, and the brown bears could loot the apiaries to appease their hunger after their brumal sleep during the spring and to store energy before the brumal sleep during the autumn. In order to keep the bears away from the apiaries, several technological devices such as electric fences could be used, and also practices that would attract animals to inhabited areas should be prevented. Furthermore, in the case of physical encounter, it would be better to remain calm and move away from the site with movements that would not trigger aggressive behavior. Having knowledge about bear behavior would also assist one to prevent an attack at this stage. On the other hand, as in all production activities, the analysis and elimination of the risks present in the work environment and external risks in beekeeping should be assessed with risk analysis, which is significant for occupational health and safety.


Beekeeping; Brown bear (Ursus arctos L); Occupational health and safety; Risk analysis

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