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Rodents, Bees, and Elephants

You've probably heard that elephants are afraid of small rodent like mice and rats. But is there really any truth in this? Find out on A Moment of Science.

Bees swarming around hive

Photo: Stock Exchange

Mice do not scare elephants, but bees like this will send them running for the hills.

You may have heard that old wives’ tale about how elephants are afraid of small rodents like mice and rats. Like many old wives’ tales this one is incorrect, as the experiment has been done several times. For example, John Stossel, of the TV show 20/20, introduced a mouse to some circus elephants and the big guys didn’t even blink.

While a small mouse may not seam too frightening, think about a rat the size of a cow. While such creatures don’t exist today, about four million years ago they did! A record setting twenty-one-inch-long rat skull was discovered in Uruguay. It is thought to have belonged to a rat the size of a bull.

Not to worry though, analysis of the skull led researchers to conclude that the big rat ate only veggies. The old wives’ tale is likely wrong no matter the size of the rodent! But did you know that elephants are afraid of something smaller than a common mouse?

Bees. Scientists have noted that elephants tend to avoid trees with beehives. They run away if they hear buzzing, and have been seen fleeing from the little buzzers over long distances.

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