With over 20,000 different species worldwide, these flying insects play an important role in our environment.
Their ability to pollinate as they buzz from flower to flower gathering nectar is crucial to the survival of plants, other wildlife, and even people.
Unfortunately, many species of bees are considered endangered in the United States because of things like habitat destruction, disease, use of pesticides, changes in land use, invasive species, and climate change.
While many of these issues are human-made, bees have some natural predators as well. In this article, we will list down animals that eat bees.
What Animals Eat Bees?
While their brightly colored yellow and black striped bodies warn off some predators, there are plenty of animals who have no fear of adding bees to their diet.
The animals that choose bees for food usually have one of these three things: thick skin which withstands stings; quick speeds to avoid stings completely; or enough poison of their own to withstand the venom found in a bees sting.
In general, some of the animals that dine on bees include:
There are at least 24 species of birds that eat bees. The bee-eater family of birds contains several species that mostly live in Africa and Asia, with a few found in southern Europe, Australia, and New Guinea.
As their name implies, they eat flying insects, especially bees and wasps. Perched birds capture the bees as they fly by, and then remove the stinger by hitting and rubbing the bee against a hard surface. This also removes most of the venom.
Other birds that eat bees include: mockingbirds, summer tanagers, ruby-throated hummingbirds, blackbirds, magpies, and starlings.
Some animals that enjoy a bee feast include: badgers (who mostly choose wasps) and black bears. Black bears also eat the honey out of the hives, chomping on a few bees as they dine.
3. Reptiles and Amphibians
Geckos and other lizards will occasionally eat bees. Frogs, toads, and salamanders eat adult bees as well as bee larvae.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the most abundant predators of bees can be found in other insects. After all, many insects carry their own poison that can combat the venom of a bee.
For example, robber flies have a proboscis capable of injecting a paralyzing neurotoxin into a bee (wasp, or any insect) thus preparing it for a meal.
Other insects that eat bees include dragonflies, hornets, centipedes, praying mantises, and spiders.
Bees have many ways of protecting themselves from predators. If the bright coloring doesn’t work, their painful venomous stinger might.
Some species (like the Japanese honey bee) surround predators and vibrate, raising the temperature of the predator to deadly levels. Still, depending on the species, there is always something that wants to eat them.
Read on for more specifics.
What Eats Carpenter or Wood Bees?
Carpenter bees nest by burrowing into hard plant material like dead wood or bamboo, or the unfinished and weathered wood found on people’s homes.
Woodpeckers and others are attracted to the larvae crawling in the wood, which leads them to peck out a wonderful feast.
Other birds like shrikes and members of the bee-eater family also eat carpenter bees. They also fall prey to large mantises and predatory flies.
Honey badgers will also choose this delicacy for their meal; mammals who can easily find their prey with their amazing sense of smell.
What Eats Honey Bees?
Out of the 20,000 different bee species, there are only 7 that are officially identified as honey bees (although they have several subspecies).
That puts a lot of pressure on these tiny insects, as the only producers of honey in the world. Their decline can and will have a tremendous effect on the environment.
Due to their small size, honey bees have a lot of natural predators. While, like other bees, honeybees have a stinger and will use it, using it means death for the bee–so that means that it cannot really defend itself from the numerous natural predators.
The usual culprits of birds, small mammals, reptiles, and other insects will often hunt for honey bees.
In addition skunks love to eat bees. If they find a hive, they will return night helping themselves to a bee and honey-flavored feast. They like to chew on the bees, extracting the yummy inner juices, and spitting out the rest.
Raccoons and opossums also occasionally attack hives in a similar way.
Bears absolutely love honey and will destroy a hive to gain access, eating honey and bees alike. They too will return repeatedly until there is nothing left.
Another major honey bee predator is the small hive beetle. This insect lays its own eggs in the honeycomb. Then the larvae of the beetle eat the honeycomb, pollen, and larvae of the honeybees. Adult hive beetles also eat the eggs of honey bees
What Eats Bumble Bees?
Bumblebees are bigger than honey bees and able to sting more than once without hurting themselves (or dying). That doesn’t prevent them from becoming dinner for another animal, however.
Most bumblebees nest underground in holes made by larger animals, although some will nest in abandoned bird nests and hollow logs. Badgers dig up nests and eat it whole, including any adult bees inside.
Bird like bee-eaters and shrikes capture and eat adult bumblebees in flight.
Camouflaged crab spiders capture unsuspecting bumblebees as they bees dine on the delicious nectar of flowers.
European honey buzzards follow the brightly colored bumble bees back to their nests, then dig the nests up with their feet and eat all of the creatures inside.
What Eats Killer Bees?
The Africanized bee, known as “killer bees” is actually a hybrid species of the Western honey bee. They came to exist when bees from southern Africa mated with Brazilian honey bees. The end result was a dangerous, aggressive, stinging insect that have killed about 1000 humans.
In defense, they will chase a human for a quarter of a mile, and if attacked humans receive 10 times more stings than they would from your average European honey bee. That said, killer bees still have their own predators.
They face the same predators as their less aggressive relatives, in addition to ants, anteaters, and armadillos. The biggest predator of killer bees, however, is humans.
Let’s face it, humans don’t like to feel afraid of something smaller than they are. Plus, Africanized bees, like all honey bees, are great producers of honey. So, while its necessary to take precautions, beekeepers still keep an eye out for ways to access their honey.