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Beekeeping is not only one of the most fulfilling hobbies, but it also a most rewarding venture for agriculturists. There are, however, some limiting factors, including honey bee predators, being one of the biggest challenges to beekeepers. Some of these include: beetles, rodents, wasps, ants, mammals, and birds. Poor hive management that leads to improper mitigation of these pests and predators certainly weakens the bee colony. While honey bees may instinctively keep off most of their enemies using their stinger, they sometimes require some assistance from the beekeeper.
The tiny bee is a target of small to large predators making it an insurmountable task for a single colony to defend itself from all these predators and pests. Some predators eat the honey bees as a whole whereas others are parasitic, sucking the life out of the bees. In this article, we will discuss how to protect honey and mason bees from birds.
Do Birds Eat Bees?
Most birds are omnivorous by nature and that means they can eat both plants and animals/insects. However, some other bird species do not eat insects such as bees. Their diet comprises predominantly of seeds and plants. It is worth mentioning that most birds would rather eat some other slower-moving insects instead of bees, as they tend to be difficult to catch and the stingers keep off most predators, including birds.
It takes skill for a bird to catch a bee. Firstly, the small and fast bee is difficult to catch since it never flies in a straight line. Secondly, not all birds have the ability to judge the correct angle and speed required to catch the bee. It is thus not so easy for most birds to predate on the honey or mason bee. You will therefore find that most of the birds that eat bees, prefer those on the ground, the dead or stationary bees.
Most birds that eat bees are found almost anywhere across the globe. They are widely categorized into a group of birds referred to as bee-eaters. The most common regions with these bee-eating species of birds include: Africa, Asia, and Europe. Other regions such as the USA also have some bird species that feed on bees. The most popular bird is the migratory Summer Tanager, a bird that can reach up to 7 inches in length. It has a bright yellow or red color and can easily be spotted. These birds also eat fruits and some other insects. You will find it in the USA from April to summer.
Most bee-eaters will employ the same strategy when hunting for bees. They can swoop the bee from branches or glide and catch the flying bee. They will then use their beaks to remove the stinger, then kill the bee before eating it.
Which Birds Eat Bees?
There are quite a few bird species that eat bees within the US. Most of these birds also consume some other insects such as wasps and fire ants.
Some opportunistic bird species such as purple martins eat bees and also feed on wasps and fire ants. Other birds that eat bees include: thrushes, swifts, kingbirds, woodpeckers, and mockingbirds. The woodpecker is extremely disastrous. It will single out an individual hive and consume the bees whenever it gets an opportunity.
The honey buzzard is a popular bee-eater, though not in existence within the US. It is mostly found in the UK and Africa. It has a unique plumage and is large. They mainly target the bee larvae and will not eat the adult bees. It also targets wasp larvae and will trail the adult bee or wasp to its hive or nesting area. They have sharp claws used for opening the nest. They have heavy plumage that makes it impossible for bee stingers to penetrate.
The northern cardinal is a common bee-eating bird found in seven US states. It has a characteristic red plumage making it easy to spot. It visits backyards and will also feed on sunflower and safflower seeds.
Most birds prefer eating slow-moving insects such as worms, caterpillars, grubs, and spiders. An additional diet comprises fruits, grains, and seeds.
The bee population is not endangered by the predatory birds. Honey and mason bees have co-existed with birds for centuries. Their impact is quite minimal when compared to some other predators such as shrews, foxes, bears, badgers, and rodents. The larger predators have a bigger impact since they can break into the hive and completely consume everything from adult bees, brood, and even the honey itself.
Bees are best controlled using feeders. A backyard feeder can help prevent the birds from eating the bees. You can feed most bee-eating bird species in the US. The northern cardinal is never shy and can therefore be kept off hive yards using feeders.
You can lure woodpeckers into birdhouses to keep them away from apiaries. The downy woodpecker in particular is common in North America and is easy to spot given its white and black plumage. They do not fear feeders making it easy to keep them in check.
Do Pigeons Eat Bees?
Pigeons are a common sight almost anywhere within the US and beyond. They are extremely intelligent birds that have been tested and proven to surpass other bird species. They have a range of skills which include the ability to use the sun as a guide in navigation. Pigeons are highly sociable and will mostly be found in groups of about 20 to 30 birds.
Pigeons will raise two chicks at the same time and will mate for life with one mate. Both male and female share the responsibility of raising and caring for their young ones. This will include incubating the eggs and feeding the chicks with their special secretion referred to as the pigeon milk.
Pigeons are omnivores and have a life span of approximately 3 to 5 years. They are seed eaters by nature and eat insects in small numbers. Their primary diet includes cereals, corn, peas, wheat, millet, and any other seed. Pigeons will also consume fruits and greens. They eat apples, lettuce, grapes, and spinach. The dove is closely related to pigeons and usually lives side by side. In terms of size, doves are smaller. They both eat a similar diet. Pigeons rarely eat insects, including bees but it is wise to keep birds and bees away from each other. Pigeons will occasionally feed on snails, earthworms, and other tiny insects.
If you intend to keep pigeons then it is wise to ensure the nesting area of the pigeons is located away from bumble and honey bees.
Do Swallows Eat Bees?
Swallows belong to the same family as martins. There are about 84 species globally that breed in most countries in the Northern hemisphere with an exception of Iceland. They are also found in Australia and Africa. They are migratory birds that move to the south of Sahara in Africa during winter. You will find them nesting in open-fronted parts of buildings such as barns, cowsheds, and stables. They are drawn to domestic animals such as cattle and horses. The male and female cannot be differentiated since they are virtually identical in terms of appearance.
Swallows will readily adopt an artificial nest that resembles their mud-built constructions. The males tend to be the first to arrive at their migratory destination and can be noted singing to attract a mate. Females arrive a fortnight later. They will attempt to raise two broods every summer with others successfully raising 3 broods.
Swallows rely on flying insects as a source of food. You will find them hunting in areas such as lakes and waterways. You will also find them in open habitats such as marshes, grasslands, savanna, scrubland, mangroves, and high alpine areas. They have a life span of approximately 3 years when in the wild. Their body length ranges from 10 to 24 cm or 3.9 to 9.4 inches. They will weigh about 10 to 60 grams. Its plumage is usually glossy dark blue with green coloration above and some streaked or plain underside.
Swallows feed on insects and are highly successful when it comes to their hunt. They are greatly adapted to hunting on the wing. Their slender and streamlined body makes it so much easier for the birds to glide and maneuver easily. They also have long wings that are pointed giving them long flight endurance. They generally avoid insects such as wasps and bees. Asides from insects, some species of swallows feed on plant matter and fruits.
Do Robins Eat Bees?
Robins also referred to as the American Robins are a common sight all over North America. They have a unique appearance and are tiny in size. They generally have a gray-brown plumage with an orange underside and dark heads. You can easily see a white patch on its lower belly and tail when it is flying. The males tend to have darker heads when compared to females.
Robins can be seen usually digging out worms from the ground. They are found almost anywhere including towns and cities. They are however more at ease when in wilder areas such as the Alaskan wilderness and mountain areas. Robins are rarely seen during winter even though they are still there. At this time, they will spend most of their time roosting in trees instead of showing up in the backyard.
The American robin is a friendly bird and is easily attracted by bird feeders. A breeding pair can easily be allured into a nesting box. The pair is capable of raising 3 successful broods within a year. On average, their lifespan is about 6 years with exceptions of 14 years.
Their main diet comprises plenty of fruit during fall and winter. Robins also eat earthworms, insects, and seeds. They mainly look for their food on lawns and will be following you around as you dig your garden. They eat beetles, raisins, crushed peanuts, suet, sunflower hearts, and mealworms also. Robins also eat honey and bumblebees. They have been observed catching bees and rubbing them against branches to remove stingers before pecking out their insides.
Robins are naturally ground feeders hence will be attracted to feeding trays. You can also provide bird tables and if possible ensure the feeders are covered. Remember, birds get easily sick when fed on damp food. The feed should therefore be well covered to avoid mold and bacteria. Feeding will help keep off the robins from the bumble and honey bees.
Do Orioles Eat Bees?
Baltimore orioles are a common sight in North America. They are migratory birds that nest in trees and never use a nesting box. They will however use offered nesting material to make their nest somewhere else. The female and male have similar plumage but can easily be distinguished given their striking differences. The female and young males are paler in terms of plumage. The males are flame-orange and black and have a solid-black head. Females and young males have yellow-orange plumage with grayish head and back. They also have two white wing bars. Oriole’s plumage never changes throughout all seasons.
Orioles are attracted by bird feeders even though it requires perfect timing. The best time to attract them is during early spring. At this time they are tired, hungry, and cold after their migration. The feeders should be placed one week before their migration occurring from April to May. The feeders should be placed in late March or early April. They also love bright and flashy colors, therefore add an orange ribbon to your backyard. They prefer high canopies therefore you can tie the ribbon, cloth strip, or tape on tree branches, railings, bushes, or around trees.
Orioles can only be encouraged to build their nests in your yard. They love deciduous trees. They love polar, willow, cottonwood, elm, oak, or other similar trees. Preferred nesting material includes grass, plant fibers, bark strips, vines, and strings.
Orioles rely heavily on small insects and fruits. They eat beetles, spiders, grasshoppers, wasps, bugs, snails, and other small insects. They eat oranges and will peck on the pulp and sip the juice. Orioles rarely feed on bees and are not a threat to a bee colony.
Do Hummingbirds Eat Bees?
Hummingbirds are the tiniest migratory birds. They have long beaks and can usually be spotted darting around nectar. They are common in the US and usually migrate alone instead of moving as a flock. Hummingbirds will cover up to 500 miles in a single flight. Its name is derived from the humming noise their wings produce as their feed on nectar. These are the only birds in existence that can fly backward. They have perfect sight and lack a sense of smell.
Hummingbirds have tiny legs that are used for perching and moving sideways when perched. You will never see one hopping or walking since the legs are too thin. Their specially designed beak helps them suck nectar at a frequency of 13 times every second. They can also consume nectar double their body weight in a day.
A female hummingbird can only lay a maximum of two eggs in a tiny nest made of spider silk, plant down, and other natural materials. There exist about 330 species of hummingbirds in South and North America alone. The common species in the US include: Anna’s Hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbird, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Calliope Hummingbird, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and Black-chinned Hummingbird.
Hummingbirds are social birds that like feeders. Native plants and sweet formulas attract these birds. They mainly eat sugar water and love nectar. The nectar is rich in sucrose thus providing the birds with the required energy for flight. They also eat small insects such as spiders, insect larvae, and insect eggs. These act as a source of protein and salts. They hunt for these insects on barks, flowers, or even spider webs. They also sip tree sap during dearth seasons. Other food sources for hummingbirds include pollen, sand, and ashes.
Hummingbirds do not predate on honey or bumblebees. They also avoid other insects with stingers such as wasps. They are therefore never a threat to any bee colony.
Do Sparrows Eat Bees?
The sparrow is a very small bird that can easily be recognized. Sparrows originated in North Africa and have been introduced successfully to New Zealand, North America, Asia, Australia, and Europe. Sparrows prefer to live close to humans and can never be found in deserts and forests. They thrive in both rural and urban areas. They are generally about 4 to 8 inches long and weigh between 0.8 to 1.4 ounces. Sparrows have rounded wings with a brown, white, and black coloration. The males can easily be differentiated from the females. The brown-black stripped hummingbird is the female whereas the male has a reddish back in addition to a black bib.
These are social birds that live in colonies and are carnivorous by nature. They also feed on insects such as moths. They also eat seeds, fruits, and berries. Their proximity to the human population forced them to adapt to a new way of life. They can eat served food. Sparrows rarely feed on bees even though they tend to be opportunistic. Sparrows can land on the hive entrance and get a few bees as a snack. They are mainly focused on dead bees and will be seen on the ground feeding on dead bees. They rarely feed on healthy worker bees.
These birds are never territorial but tend to protect their nest from other sparrows. Their preferred nest location includes under bridges, under the roof, and inside hollow trees.
The female sparrow lays 3 to 5 eggs with several broods each year and will incubate the eggs for a period of 12 to 15 days. The male and female will care for the eggs and chicks. They can live for 4 to 5 years when in the wild.
Do Cardinals Eat Bees?
The northern cardinal bird is also referred to as the cardinal redbird or Virginia nightingale. They are the easiest to recognize with males boasting a red color and females have a bright orange warm tan color with red edges to its tail and wings. Both male and female are songsters and will sing throughout the year.
Cardinals are monogamous birds, with males and females remaining together for a long time. They can however separate and find a suitable mate top raise more chicks. The mated birds will spend time together and will be seen feeding each other.
Cardinals are grain eaters and will use their large and powerful beaks to crack seeds. They rely heavily on grains, fruits, berries, and insects. They change their food preference depending on the season. This flexibility allows cardinals to thrive throughout different seasons. They eat flies, beetles, butterflies, katydids, crickets, leafhoppers, and centipedes. They also eat pest bugs such as cotton bollworms, codling moths, aphids, scale insects, snails, slugs, grasshoppers, and cotton cutworms. Cardinals also eat bees occasionally, especially during their breeding season.
Cardinals are extremely territorial and will violently guard their territories. Males will readily chase competitors from their territory. They have an average of 3 years life span even though some could live for up to 15 years. They are easily attracted to bird-friendly yards. Ground feeding areas, open tray feeders, and large hopper feeders attract these birds. They also love birdbaths, bushes, and shrubbery.
A Final Word
You will suffer occasional losses of adult bees to a bird as a beekeeper. Some of the birds that are known to eat honey and mason bees include shrikes, martins, cardinals, kingbirds, woodpeckers, titmice, and many others. They will not target all colonies but rather one or a few beehives. Birds are never a threat to beekeepers since bees have coexisted with them for years. You can however help minimize the impact of the predatory birds by providing feeders for these birds. Most of them are quite friendly and can easily be allured by nesting and feeding. Use the information in this article to better protect honey and mason bees from birds.
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