Elephant Fears: Why They’re Scared of Mice and Bees

As we know, elephants are the largest land-dwelling animals on the planet. While elephants may seem like large animals capable of trampling anything or anyone in their path, they still have their own set of fears.

Elephants, like most living things, have some fears. They aren’t generally scared of many animals, but bees and mice surprisingly somewhat frighten them. They fear bees because a swarm can attack elephants and damage their eyes and trunks. Angry bee swarms can also damage the skin of young elephants.

This article will give you an idea about why elephants are fearful of bees and mice, what predators scare these animals, and how humans also impose themselves on elephants.

Angry elephant in mid charge

Why Do Elephants Fear Mice and Bees?

These large creatures are known to be scared of even the tiniest animals, like bees and mice.

Let’s look at these two small creatures and how they get on with elephants individually.

Elephants’ Fear of Mice

In general, the fear of mice is perhaps most regularly depicted among elephant fears in cartoons and children’s books, the most famous example being the case of Dumbo. 

In reality, while there’s most definitely some form of fear, the reason for this fear is still misunderstood.

The fear elephants hold for mice doesn’t appear out of concern for their trunk, that the tiny rodents can damage it.

The real reason they fear mice is because of how the small creatures surprise these behemoths. Elephants already have horrible eyesight, so mice genuinely surprise and startle them.

Wild wood mouse sitting on the forest floor

Elephants’ Fear of Bees

While most elephants have a slightly different attitude towards mice, some are also known to be scared of bees, in particular, swarms of Africanized bees. 

Their reaction to bees is brought upon by the fear that bees can hurt the eyes and trunks of elephants and pierce baby elephants’ skin. 

East African elephants have created an alarm call to alert other elephants when they hear the sound of bees.

Researchers have tried to depict the true meaning of these calls, but they’re still unsure because of the wide vocal range of elephants. 

Nonetheless, elephants usually react by flailing their ears and trunks to keep the bees away.

Large swarm of Africanized bees on a fence

What Predators Do Elephants Fear?

With their size and power, elephants are usually unafraid of most predators. While most predators are incapable of hunting even a lone elephant, there are still some predators that can incite fear in these large animals. 

Even as they rest, most elephants are more concerned with insects; However, predators can also affect how they try to survive in the wild. 

Their primary concern around predators is only for animals capable of harming them. The number of predators that concern elephants are small, but their fear makes them act cautiously. 

Lions

Perhaps the most well-known enemy of elephants, they’re their number one natural predator.

Both of these majestic animals are part of the Big Five, the group of animals hardest to hunt. 

In the lion’s group, the lioness hunts the elephant while the lion focuses on protecting its pack. Lions particularly look out for young elephants that travel in herds but can still isolate and attack them.

They also have the physical capacity to harm and kill larger ones or even take down elephants in groups, but this is rare and requires excellent strategy.

Elephants chase lions around Nkorho Pan!

Crocodiles

Elephants fear crocodiles as another possible threat to their safety. 

While crocodiles are also large, they are mainly a threat to elephants because they are powerful predators. While they can’t usually take down a fully-grown elephant, crocodiles can kill the sick and young in the herd.

Crocodiles have another element in their hunting tactics that incites fear in elephants.

They can fight on land and surprise and attack their prey from the water. The presence of crocodiles within an ecosystem can consequently be a significant cause of mental distress in a herd overall. 

Like lions, the most concerning aspect of crocodiles is that they mainly prey on young calves. Consequently, their survival instinct perhaps kicks in to be careful.

Herd of elephants watching crocodile

Elephants’ Fear of Humans

While most see these animals in captivity or sanctuaries, elephants are also found to be fearful of humans. 

They have good reason to be fearful of humans, as many tend to harm elephants out of selfish desires. On average, 100 African elephants are killed by poachers and hunters daily.

As humans hunt down elephants, their intelligence helps protect the ones remaining. Elephants often find themselves harassed and attacked by humans in the wild. 

So, with their strong memories, they develop trauma associated with their interactions with humans.

Consequently, the influx of hunters and poachers within their habitats has created a general fear of humans among some elephants.

Final Thoughts on Elephants’ Fears

While fiction and media emphasize elephants’ fears of rodents and bees, these mighty creatures are generally unafraid of most animals. 

As humans, perhaps we have done the most harm to these animals, so we should be more concerned about our impact on them.

We all have seen elephants being calm and collected in zoos or sanctuaries, but now you know that these sensitive creatures also feel shocked or scared. 

Man and child riding on the back of elephant in swamp

FAQs

Why Do Elephants Fear Rodents?

Rodents startle elephants because their poor eyesight makes it hard to distinguish rodent-like creatures, making them feel shocked.

How Do Predators Attack Elephants?

Most powerful predators, like lions and crocodiles, deal with elephants’ sheer strength and size in two ways. The first involves targeting smaller and sick members of herds, and the other consists of overwhelming them with numbers.

Why Are Captive Elephants Friendly With Humans?

While most wild elephants are afraid of human beings, the same isn’t the case for captive elephants. Most elephants raised in captivity become used to their environment around humans, and several are born and raised around people.