Bees, magnificent gifts of mother nature, play a vital role in the sustenance of agricultural products like fruits, flowers, and vegetables. Studying bees can send shivers down the spine of any seeker of knowledge. They are one of the most cooperative and organized insects. Their relentlessness and ingenuity can be likened to decorated soldiers in the armed forces.
Bees are herbivorous insects that usually maintain a length of 0.4-0.6 inches for the workers. These invertebrates who traditionally live in hives are not free from the attacks of daring predators. We would know more about what eats bees as we read through!
Background on Bees
Having its origin from the class Insecta and the specific order Hymenoptera, bees are one of the most abundantly present insects in the world with appropriate distribution levels in all the world’s continents, except for Antarctica, which is devoid of them.
Bees derive their energy from nectar and, as such, influence their high consumption of it. They also enjoy eating pollen, which provides them with protein and other valuable nutrients when synthesized. These nutrients supply the energy for them to fly, carry out colony maintenance, and do other activities.
What Eats Bees?
Bears, racoons, an skunks are considered bee and honey eaters. Additionally, flycatchers, shrikes, honey-buzzard, greater honeyguides, badgers, crab spider all eat Bees.
Let’s learn about these predators one at a time.
Bee Predator: Flycatchers
This bee predator originates from the large family Muscicapidae, which is usually comprised of small passerine birds and is one of the regular bee predators. Flycatchers can be found in Europe, Asia, and Africa. They enjoy eating bees and other insects; hence they are classified as insectivores. This bee predator is divided into 51 genera, and there are over 324 species of this predator.
Bee Predator: Bee-eaters
These vertebrate bee predators are non-passerine, unlike their insectivorous counterparts, the flycatcher. The bee-eater belongs to the family Meropidae and has an extension of three genera further distributed into twenty-seven species. Bee-eaters are renowned for their colorful feathers and enjoy eating bees because of their nutritional value. The majority of the species are found in Asia and Africa.
Bee Predator: Shrikes
Shrikes are notorious carnivorous peregrine bee predators belonging to the family Laniidae. Shrikes eat bees but are fierce and never satisfied until they have torn their prey open. The family name is derived from a Latin word, Lanius, which means butcher. Some shrikes are mimicked as butcherbirds.
Bee Predator: Honey Buzzard
These bee predators are very careful about pulling attention to themselves. They belong to the family Accipitridae and are also referred to as birds of prey. Honey Buzzards enjoy eating bees.
Bee Predator: Greater Honeyguide
The greater honeyguide is a member of the family Indicatoridae. This bee predator is domiciled in Sub-Saharan Africa and can be found in any proper habitat with many trees but never in the West African jungle. The greater honeyguide eats bees’ eggs, larvae and pupae, wax worms, and bee wax. It is notorious for guiding bee hunters to the hives of bees in their territory.
Bee Predator: Badger
Badgers are omnivorous mammals belonging to the family Mustelidae. They eat bee larvae and bee honey. Badgers are short, with wide bodies and short legs that enable them to dig. Their faces usually are black with a distinctive white spray.
Bee Predator: Crab Spider
Belonging to the family Thomisidae and Philodromidae, crab spiders are distinctively known for their particular hunting tactics. They are very patient and stealthy while waiting to ambush their prey. Crab spiders eat bees because of their nutritional value. Fascinatingly, they also eat other prey like flies, moths, and butterflies. Crab spiders are often motionless, giving a sense of safety to unsuspecting prey.
Bee Predator: Praying Mantis
Praying Mantises are commonly famous for their unique praying position. They belong to the order of insects, Mantodea, containing over 2,400 species and 460 Genera from 33 families. They can be found in almost every part of the world, especially in temperate and tropical dwellings. Their body morphology consists of forelegs specialized for catching and holding their prey. Praying mantises eat bees, as well as beetles and crickets.
Other Exciting Facts about Bees
Bees are essential players in pollination and are unarguably invaluable to the ecosystem and agriculture.
Honey bee hives have long provided for human honey and beeswax needs – this is shown in the widespread industrial beekeeping around the world to meet the demand for these invaluable resources.
One of the unique attributes of bees is their sociability and laudable high cooperation. They usually are three divisions of beehive inhabitants: the workers, the queen, and the drone.
These bees are responsible for sourcing food, which would be nectar and pollen from flowers in a bee’s case. They are also into the construction department and help build the hive and circulate air inside it by flapping their tiny wings.
They are the most visible as they always go about attending to their natural duties.
The queen can be referred to as the epicenter of bees’ existence. She is responsible for laying eggs that would become members of the hive and continue in their bee duty. She is loved by other bees and is never left in solitude. A bee hunter can move the entire colony of bees from one beehive to another by simply first moving the queen, as wherever the queen goes, they follow. Queens are replaced only after death. The workers would feed designated female larvae a special kind of food- ‘royal jelly’ which would nourish the larvae and influence the growth of the larvae to become fertile to perform the duties of a queen.
Drones are male bees, making up a few hundred of the hive population. They are usually accommodated in the hive during spring and summer but not always during winter.
During winter, bees usually take to clustering positions to creatively retain warmth. They survive this cold period by feeding on stored pollen and honey. Very ingenious, I would say.
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