What are some suggestions for keeping bears out of active beehives? I live in Colorado.

In Colorado, beekeeping generates close to $2 million a year through the sale of honey. In addition, bees provide a valuable service to agriculture and homeowners by pollinating crops and gardens. Successful bee yards are usually located in protected areas near water and flowering crops or wildflowers. Mountain meadows and agricultural lands along the foothills meet these criteria. The amount of black bear damage to beehives in Colorado varies each year, possibly reflecting fluctuations in the bears’ food supply. Black bears require forested areas to find adequate food, water and cover, and the typical bear diet consists of forbs, berries, nuts, insects and carrion. To build fat reserves for winter hibernation, bears feed heavily on berries and nuts in late summer and early fall. When these foods are in short supply, as in drought years or in areas where human development has encroached on their habitat, bears may turn to other sources of food such as honey and bee brood; however, black bear damage to beehives has a relatively minor impact on the overall beekeeping industry. Bears can, however, cause significant damage to individual bee yards. Once a bear develops a taste for honey and bee brood, it will likely continue to raid bee yards, and methods to dissuade it become less effective. Therefore, it is important to prevent bear damage before it begins. Bears prefer to stay where they have adequate cover, so placing bee yards in the open, away from forest edges and other cover may discourage bears from approaching. One study found that bee yards located less than 300 feet from forest edges received an average of 4.5 visits from bears, whereas those located more than 300 feet away received an average of 1.9 bear visits. The study also found that bee yards located within 300 feet of a ravine received over twice as many bear visits as those located more than 300 feet from it. Also, avoid placing bee yards near areas frequently used by bears, such as berry patches, garbage dumps, heavily forested areas, riparian corridors, ravines, forested ridges and game trails. Bear use of an area can change depending on season, food availability and human disturbance. For example, during August and September black bears intensely forage on ripening nuts and berries in oakbrush habitat along the lower foothills of southcentral and southwestern Colorado. To avoid bear damage, remove beehives from this habitat before the bears arrive. Regional Colorado Division of Wildlife staff can confirm bear patterns in a local area. For information on identifying bear damage, prevention and damage control methods, see the fact sheet Managing Bear Damage to Beehives.