Do Birds Eat Bees?
It’s a well-known fact that birds eat insects, but, do they also feed on bees? There are actually a few bird species that do eat bees. However, it’s not an easy meal for them.
Bees are small and quick. They will most likely try to fight off the attacker as well, using their stinger. The birds that do enjoy the occasional stinger aren’t as common in the United States as they are elsewhere around the globe.
Birds That Eat Bees
There’s actually a whole species of bee-eating birds, most of which are found in Africa and Asia. These birds come from the family called Meropidae, which consists of three genera and around 26 species.
Bee-eaters are usually categorized by their colorful plumage and long tail feathers. They also have a slender body and a long, down-turned beak. Bee-eaters are known to feed on flying insects; this includes all types, such as flies, bees, and wasps.
Bee-eaters are social birds, they usually live in small flocks and build their nests on riverbanks.
The European bee-eater is mostly found in southern Europe, parts of North Africa, and western Asia. This bird is migratory and during winter, it will travel to tropical parts of Africa.
The European bee-eater grows to between 10.6 and 11.4 inches long. It’s very richly colored and quite stunning to look at. It has a slender body, much like other birds in the family.
Males and females look very much alike. Females, however, have more of a green-colored shoulder feather, whereas males have gold colors in this area.
The European bee-eater’s favorite meal is a mix of honeybees and bumblebees. Many European beekeepers blame the bee-eater for scaring away worker bees. It has been shown, though, that the birds don’t affect foraging.
The greater honeyguide is a bird found across Africa. Many people report that the bird does actually guide them to wild honeybees. It will wave at humans while expressing various sounds like peeps and pipes.
The greater honeyguide primarily feeds on resources found in a bee’s nest. It will feed on bee eggs, pupae, larvae, and even beeswax.
Are Bees a Big Part of Their Diet?
Just because they are called bee-eaters, it doesn’t mean they exclusively feed on bees. Bee-eating birds enjoy all types of flying insects, but bees do play a big part in their diet.
Bee-eaters will usually feed on the bees that are in their surroundings. The European bee-eater enjoys honeybees and bumblebees while in Europe. During winter when the bird travels to Africa, it will usually feed on stingless bees.
Bee-eaters also enjoy wasps and hornets. The Blue-cheeked bee-eater actually prefers dragonflies, but will, of course, also eat bees.
These relatively small birds have a massive appetite. They will usually consume about 250 insects a day, most of which are bees.
After eating, bee-eaters are known to regurgitate undigested materials. Similar to kingfishers, they will regurgitate small pellets usually around 0.8 inches long.
These pellets give important information to researchers. They could actually see that bee-eaters would feed on almost all day-flying insects in their habitat.
Bee-Eaters in Action
Bee-eaters will usually sit around on high grounds, waiting for potential prey to come flying. Once they spot a delicious meal, they will dive in for the catch.
Smaller insects are sometimes eaten on the wing. Larger prey will be brought back to the nest and killed.
Bee-eaters usually bang the insect on a hard object, such as a rock, until it’s in smaller pieces. If the prey is poisonous, the bird will first beat it until it’s dead. It will then rub it to squeeze out the stinger and venom sac, and they do this with closed eyes.
These birds have amazing eyesight. They are able to detect potential prey from great distances. The European bee-eater can spot an insect from a 200-foot distance. The Blue-cheeked bee-eater can distinguish prey from a whopping 330 feet away.
Do Other Birds Eat Bees?
There are a few other bird species that will eat bees, however, it isn’t a big part of their diet. These birds include kingfishers, mockingbirds, thrushes, martins, and swifts.
The mockingbird is a well-known backyard visitor in North America. During summer, mockingbirds will feed on a variety of insects. They love beetles, moths, grasshoppers, wasps, and bees.
Mockingbirds usually hunt on the ground, therefore, they do mostly eat what they catch crawling around. They have also been spotted drinking sap from cuts on pruned trees. During winter, mockingbirds will change their diet from insects to fruits.
The birds that feed primarily on bees are bee-eaters. They come from the bird family called Meropidae, and there are around 26 different species. Bee-eaters are not common in America, they are mostly found in Africa, Southern Europe, and Asia.
The reason why many birds avoid bees might be because they aren’t the easiest meal. It takes a few special skills to catch bees, not to mention avoiding the stinger.
Bee-eaters know exactly what to do to successfully catch, kill, and clean out the venom, for a well-deserved meal.