Bees will not go out of their way sting people or animals unless they sense a direct threat. A bee will sting a bird if it feels threatened. Considering birds are a common predator of bees, this happens often.
What You'll Learn
Bees are the perfect example of the phrase “strength in numbers.” They may be tiny, but in swarms, they are uniquely effective at warding off unwanted guests.
The most important characteristic, however, lies in their built-in defense systems, which are sharp stingers.
Natural predators of bees, such as badgers, skunks, and even some spiders, can be seriously injured if stung.
But would bees use their stingers against birds, and if so, how effective is it?
Why Do Bees Sting?
Unlike some other winged insects that sting, such as wasps and yellow jackets, bees avoid seeking conflict and are rarely the aggressors. In fact, bees almost always sting out of self-defense.
Stinging To Defend The Hive
If bees sense danger to themselves or their hive, they react defensively. Not all bees have stingers, but those who do defend themselves by using their stingers to inject venom into whatever is threatening them.
Bees get especially defensive and aggressive when danger lurks too close to their hive. Bee hives and nests are the most important thing to a bee. This is their source of shelter, where they store their food, lay their eggs, and raise their larvae.
This means that any potential predators who get too close to the hive are in significant danger because this is when bees will attack in swarms. A single bee sting may not be enough to scare off or injure some animals, especially birds, but very few creatures are safe from a bee swarm.
Stinging To Defend Against Predators
Bees may also defend themselves away from the hive, such as if they feel threatened by potential predators. The venom from their stings is usually powerful enough to fend off most predators, especially if the animal or person is stung by multiple bees.
Bees Vs. Birds
While common predators of bees include skunks, beetles, crab spiders, bears, and wasps, some birds will also try to eat bees. In these instances, bees defend themselves just as they would against any other predator.
Why Would Bees Sting Birds?
Like any other threat, birds can pose a danger to bees. In this case, bees will attack and sting birds. It is more likely that this will happen if there is a large enough group of bees to successfully chase away the bird and sting it enough for the venom to have an effect, but birds are a potential threat, just like other predators.
Bees will not seek out birds to sting, but if a bird attempts to eat them or attack their hive, then bees will take action against them.
Birds That Pose A Threat To Bees
Not all birds eat bees, but several do.
The European Honey Buzzard is a great example of a bird that specifically targets bees. In fact, they will seek out nests of bees, wasps, and hornets to eat their larvae and the fully grown insects. These birds are especially dangerous because they have a protective outer layer that shields them from stings.
Common avian predators in North America include Woodpeckers, Northern Cardinals, Purple Martins, Swallows, and Mockingbirds, to name a few.
These birds do not exclusively or even primarily eat bees, but bees are a part of their diet and have ways of defending against bee stings.
However, one of the most obvious birds that hunt bees is known as the bee-eater. These brightly colored birds live in regions of Africa, Asia, and some parts of Australia and Southern Europe. Their diet primarily consists of bees, wasps, and other flying insects.
Bee-eaters rarely approach bee hives or nests. Instead, they attack bees out foraging while in mid-air and then hit the bee against a hard surface to break off or damage the bee’s stinger.
Knowing what birds are natural predators to bees can be useful for people who beekeep or who grow plants that rely on the fertilization bees provide. It can be especially important to ward off predatory birds of honey bees since honey bees die after using their stinger and are more likely to be severely affected if attacked.
Effectiveness Of Bee Stings Against Birds
Bees that sting inject venom into their victims, but this venom can have different effects. Many birds that specifically eat bees as part of their core diet have developed protections against bee stings.
The European Honey Buzzard is one example of a bird that bee stings have very little impact on because of its strong exterior. Many birds are more resistant to bee stings than other animals simply because of their plumage, which provides an extra layer of protection.
At the same time, if a large swarm of bees attacks a bird, this can be fatal. The sheer number of bee stings would be overwhelming, especially for smaller birds.
Like in almost any other situation, bees typically will not sting birds unless they or their hive are directly attacked or threatened.
Bees Sting To Defend, Including Against Birds
Ultimately, who or what bees choose to sting comes down to whether or not they feel threatened.
For the most part, bees are not aggravated easily. Despite their handy stingers, bees can present as vulnerable targets to birds, especially if the bee is away from its nest and flying around in the open.
Bees must be prepared to ward off any danger that comes their way, even fast, lethal birds, so bees will at the very least put in their best effort to sting any birds that try to attack them or their hives.
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I am Bryan Powell and I own BirdHour.com. I love bird watching; in fact, I have a parakeet of my own. I enjoy spending time outdoors and observing the natural world around me. This website is a means of sharing my passion for birds with others who may be interested in this activity.