What Do Honey Badgers Eat?

Written by Colby Maxwell
Published: January 14, 2022
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Honey badgers are a widely distributed member of the mustelid family (weasels, beavers, badgers, and ferrets) that are known for their ferocity and stubbornness. Although their name gives us some hints as to their diet, honey badgers are less picky than most other members of the weasel family. Let’s take a look at these interesting creatures and learn: what do honey badgers eat?

What do honey badgers eat?

What Do Honey Badgers Eat
Honey badgers are omnivores that reptiles, small mammals, frogs, honey, bee larvae, and more.

Honey badgers eat honey, bee larvae, insects, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals, berries, roots, and more. Although honey badgers are omnivores, their diet is primarily that of a carnivore. These sturdy creatures are known for their lack of dietary specialization, feeding on whatever they can catch, scavenge, or forage.

Since these animals are widely distributed across Africa, Asia, and India, their specific diets are representative of their region, but there are still some general consistencies among all of them. Honey badgers get their name from their preferred food choice – honey and bee larvae. They are known to raid hives on a regular basis, giving credence to their name.

Their main calorie source is small vertebrates, however. They are known to eat frogs, lizards, turtles, rodents, snakes, and birds with regularity. In a study at Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, they were reported to get around 50% of their food exclusively from geckos and skinks. In another study of Kalahari-based badgers, 40% of their prey came from gerbils and mice.

Additionally, badgers eat snakes, frogs, and turtles with regularity. In fact, honey badgers are specially adapted to eat venomous snakes. They are known to kill and eat cobras, rock pythons, and even black mambas (regarded as the most dangerous snake in the world).

Aside from other animals, honey badgers also forage for plant material. Their diet includes berries, roots, bulbs, insects, and bark. While they do eat plant material, they generally prefer meat. Killing small prey is their preferred survival strategy, and they are rather adept at doing so.

A complete list of foods honey badgers eat

Here is a complete list of foods that honey badgers eat:

  • mice
  • rats
  • springhares
  • gerbils
  • frogs
  • turtles
  • lizards
  • geckos
  • skinks
  • tortoises
  • snakes
  • birds
  • eggs
  • honey
  • bee larvae
  • insects
  • berries
  • roots
  • bulbs
  • bark
  • sheep
  • goats
  • chickens

How do honey badgers get their food?

What Do Honey Badgers Eat?

Honey badgers dig their food up using their long claws and incredibly strong bodies.

©Pavel Kovaricek/Shutterstock.com

These generalist predators are known as some of the best hunters, as well as some of the most persistent pests, all across the world. Let’s look at some of their hunting and foraging methods to get an understanding of their worldwide reputation.

The primary method that honey badgers use to get their prey is through burrowing. Small rodents often burrow in the dirt, and honey badgers are adept at digging them out. Their claws are 2 inches long, and their bodies are incredibly muscled. This combination allows them to swiftly dig out their most common prey from holes and burrows.

Aside from digging, badgers are known to hunt by sight and smell. Their keen nose allows them to detect food underground, and their eyes allow them to spot prey aboveground. Their hunting method is to simply chase their aboveground food and grab it with their claws or jaws. Once they get a hold, they will swiftly kill it with a few shredding claw swipes or a bite to the neck. They eat their whole prey, bones, skin, fur, and all.

Their ability to kill snakes and scorpions so well comes from their unusually tough skin and their natural immunity to venom. In fact, their skin is so tough and loose that they are quite literally impervious to arrows and spears. This helps them avoid snake bites but have some immunity even if they do happen to get tagged by a fang.

One strange adaption is that honey badgers have an anal pouch that can be outwardly inverted, releasing a smell. The smell is said to be so “suffocating” that it is theorized that it helps them calm angry beehives as it removes honey and larvae.

Do honey badgers attack farm animals?

What Do Honey Badgers Eat?

Honey badgers attack and eat chickens, goats, and sheep on human farms.

©Dirk Theron/Shutterstock.com

Honey badgers don’t have a great relationship with humans in the areas that they clash. They are most famous for their predation of farm chickens and will go to great lengths in order to get them. They will usually rip planks of wood from shelters, dig under baseboards and stone foundations, and climb walls to get them. To make matters worse, they often engage in “surplus killing,” essentially killing en masse for the sport of it.

Aside from chickens, goats and sheep are occasionally attacked and killed. Although they are generally larger than a full-grown male (35 lbs), this doesn’t deter the badger. They are known to harass domestic herds, although it doesn’t happen as often as it does with chickens.

Humans have a tough time dealing with honey badgers, specifically because of their biological adaptations and their intelligence. Dogs aren’t able to harm a badger in any real way with their loose and thick skin, and even a machete struggles to harm one. The only real ways for rural farmers to deal with honey badgers are guns and a perfect club to the head.

What predators do honey badgers have?

What Do Honey Badgers Eat?

Honey badgers don’t have many predators but don’t have an issue fighting the ones they do have.

©Dirk Theron/Shutterstock.com

Honey badgers don’t have many predators and are known to be fearless. They are occasionally attacked by lions, leopards, and hyenas, but badgers put up incredible fights. Although they are outmatched, honey badgers regularly repel these attacks and are often successful. Still, large cats and hyenas do prey on these animals, but it’s never an easy catch. Crocodiles are also known to successfully prey on honey badgers while they are drinking.

Additionally, honey badgers will attack horses, cows, and buffalos that wander too close to their dens.

Humans are the main predator for honey badgers, but most interactions happen when a badger attacks a farm looking for food. These usually end with the human killing the badgers, but not without a significant fight.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Erwin Niemand/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Colby is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering outdoors, unique animal stories, and science news. Colby has been writing about science news and animals for five years and holds a bachelor's degree from SEU. A resident of NYC, you can find him camping, exploring, and telling everyone about what birds he saw at his local birdfeeder.

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