Optics Mag is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Read more.

Do Birds Eat Bees? What You Need to Know!

Last Updated on

Two European bee-eaters catching bees

Birds are interesting animals that come in all kinds of sizes, shapes, and colors. They are well-known for eating grasses, seeds, and berries during their travels. However, did you know that some birds will eat bees to get the nutrition that they need for survival? While bees are not a required food for birds, they can offer vitamins and minerals to help round out their nutritional intake when other food sources are scarce. Here is what else you should know about this topic.

owl divider 2

What Kinds of Bees Do Birds Eat?

Some birds will eat any type of bee that they come across. However, honeybees and bees still in the larval stage tend to be the most popular because they don’t have stingers and are easier to hunt down than other types of bees. But when it comes down to it, if a bird has a chance to snatch up a bee and consume it, they will do so. Some types of birds are better known for eating bees than others.

european bee eater perched on a wiring while eating bee
Image Credit: michael_kreibig, Pixabay

What Kinds of Birds Eat Bees?

Most birds eat bees when the opportunity presents itself, but some bird breeds make it a point to hunt down bees as a food source. Birds that seek bees out tend to eat them on a regular basis, so they don’t need to seek out insects and other types of food as often. Here are a few bird breeds that make bees a regular staple in their diet:

  • The Honey Buzzard — Belonging to the same family as buzzards, vultures, and eagles, honey buzzards are hardy birds with wingspans that reach as long as 59 inches from wingtip to wingtip. These are carnivorous birds that munch on bees, bee larvae, and even beeswax.
  • The Bee-Eater — As its name suggests, this bird is well-known for its bee-eating habits. Bee-eaters live in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia, where they thrive in tropical weather. These are bright birds that typically display vibrant green and yellow feathers.
  • The Purple Martin — This is North America’s largest swallow bird that is about 8 inches long when fully grown. They can be found in South and North America, including Brazil, Canada, and the United States. They’re agile and quick, which makes them great at catching bees.
  • The Scarlet Tanager — These birds are part of the cardinal family. They spend most of their time in the United States and Canada, although they are known to migrate to South America during the winter months. They have bright red plumage and dark wings.

In addition to eating bees, these birds are known for eating ants, moths, flies, dragonflies, beetles, and grasshoppers. Some also eat berries and seeds when they can be found. Depending on the time of year and exact location, these foods may or may not make up a significant amount of the nutrition that these birds get.

Related Read: Do Birds Eat Cicadas? What You Need To Know!

Scarlet Tanager eating Bee
Image Credit: Brian D Smith, Shutterstock

How Do Birds Catch and Eat Bees?

It requires agility to catch and eat a bee because bees don’t fly in one straight line, and they are extremely quick. A bird must either stalk a bee and attack from above by diving onto the bee, or they must glide in the air to catch a bee in mid-flight by correctly determining the bee’s speed and angle. Once a bird gets a hold of a bee, the battle is over quickly, as bees are no match for a bird’s beak.


Although birds do eat bees, it is not a common occurrence for most species. However, some birds seem to have been born to hunt bees and similar insects, like flies. It is a part of keeping ecosystems healthy throughout the world. The earth needs bees to thrive, but overpopulation of them could be dangerous for other animals and humans alike.


Featured Image Credit: Voodison328, Shutterstock

About the Author Rachael Gerkensmeyer

Since 2000, Rachael has been a freelance writer, and has had an opportunity to research and write about many different topics while working to master the art of fusing high-quality content with effective content marketing strategies. She is an artist at heart and loves to read, paint, and make jewelry in her spare time. Rachael is obsessed with helping animals in need both in her community and anywhere in the world where she feels she can make a difference. She lives off the grid in Hawaii with her husband, her garden, and her rescue animals including 5 dogs, a cat, a goat, and dozens of chickens, so it's no surprise that animals happen to be her favorite topic to write about!