Why does the honey badger not get stung by the bees?
Honey Badger Bee sting eating honey

Despite looming bee sting attacks, honey badgers do eat honey, and they are known for their fondness for this sweet and nutritious substance. Despite their name, honey badgers have a diverse diet that includes a wide range of food items, and honey is one of them.

Honey badgers have unique adaptations that allow them to access beehives and consume honey. They are well-equipped to handle the stings of bees, as their thick fur and tough skin provide some protection against the bees’ stingers. Honey badgers are also highly determined and persistent, and they will go to great lengths to access beehives, even if it means enduring multiple bee stings.

When honey badgers come across a beehive, they will use their strong front claws to break it open. Once inside, they will consume the honey along with the bee larvae and pupae, which are a valuable source of protein. They use their long, sticky tongues to lick up the honey and other contents of the hive.

A video of a honey badger enduring Bee Stings

While honey is a significant part of their diet, honey badgers are opportunistic feeders and consume a wide variety of other food as well. Their diet includes small mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, fruits, and roots. They are skilled hunters and foragers, using their keen sense of smell and sharp claws to capture and dig up their prey.

Honey badgers have remarkable adaptations that enable them to handle bee hive attacks, a behavior they exhibit to access the nutritious honey and bee larvae inside. Here are some adaptations of honey badgers when dealing with bee hives:

So, while honey badgers do eat honey, they are not solely dependent on it. Their diet is diverse and adaptable, allowing them to survive in various habitats and take advantage of available food sources.

Read more about Honey Badgers

Honey Badger adaptation to bee stings

The honey badger, despite its frequent encounters with bees, has several adaptations and behaviors that help minimize the number of bee stings it receives. Here are some reasons why honey badgers are relatively resistant to bee stings:

  1. Thick and Loose Fur: Honey badgers have a dense and loose fur coat that acts as a physical barrier between the bees’ stingers and their skin. The fur helps to absorb and distribute the force of the stings, reducing the impact on their body.
  2. Tough and Thick Skin: Honey badgers possess tough and thick skin, which provides a certain degree of protection against bee stings. While some stingers may penetrate the skin, the honey badger’s resilient skin reduces the number of stings that actually reach their body.
  3. Quick Movements and Agility: Honey badgers are agile and swift in their movements. When attacking a beehive, they move quickly, making it challenging for the bees to accurately target them with their stingers. Their agility allows them to dodge and evade incoming stings.
  4. Durability and Tenacity: Honey badgers are incredibly tough and persistent animals. They have a high pain threshold and can endure a significant number of bee stings without being deterred. Their determination allows them to continue their pursuit of the honey despite the stings they may receive.
  5. Avoidance Techniques: Honey badgers employ various techniques to avoid excessive stinging. They often attack the hive at night when bees are less active and more sluggish. They may also use their strong front claws to quickly break open the hive, minimizing the time spent in direct contact with the bees.
  6. Quick Retreat and Thick Skull: Honey badgers have the ability to make a swift retreat when the bee stings become overwhelming. They can back out of the hive rapidly to escape the swarm of bees. Additionally, honey badgers have a thick and strong skull that provides some protection against accidental head-on collisions with the hive or defensive stings.
  7. Resistance to Venom: Honey badgers have a certain level of resistance to venom, including bee venom. While bee stings can still cause pain and discomfort, honey badgers are more tolerant of venom compared to other animals. This resistance allows them to continue their pursuit of honey despite the stings they receive.

It’s important to note that while honey badgers have adaptations that reduce the impact of bee stings, they are not completely immune to them. They can still experience pain and discomfort from bee stings, but their physical adaptations and behavioral strategies help them minimize the number of stings and continue accessing the valuable resources inside the hive.

Do Honey Badgers eat the bees or the honey?

Honey badgers have been observed raiding wild honey bee nests and bee hives. Honey badgers will undoubtedly consume some of the honey that bees have produced and stored in combs during the attack. Despite its conventional name, the Ratel is really after the brood (the larval form of bees) within the hive/nest, according to studies.
The growing young are a rich supply of protein for hungry honey badgers, who are willing to risk a few bee stings to get their hands on it.

In other words, while honey badgers will take honey from a bee hive, it has been shown that the major reason for attacking honey bee nests and hives is to obtain larvae, not honey.

How do honey badgers get into beehives and bee nests?

Wild honey bee nests are frequently found in tree hollows. The honey badger, on the other hand, has powerful claws for gripping onto the bark of tree trunks and can climb to reach an elevated nest.

When honey badgers assault honey bee nests or hives, do they get stung?

Yes, honey badgers get stung, but their physical qualities allow them to tolerate several stings, allowing them to reach and swallow at least part of the brood (and any connected honey) before leaving the nest.

Are honey badgers a concern for beekeepers?

Bee hives are being utilized in Africa to reduce elephant-human conflict. Elephants are frightened of bees, therefore farmers place bee hives around crops to keep elephants from crushing them.

Beehives, on the other hand, provide opportunities for honey badgers, and 40% of participants in one study in Tigray, Ethiopia, ranked the honey badger as the most serious pest facing their beekeeping community4, to the point where beekeepers admitted to killing honey badgers despite the fact that they are a protected species.

The good news is that beekeepers are devising novel methods to safeguard their hives without endangering badgers. These are some examples:

  • Hives suspended from branches
  • Sheet metal used to protect hive posts
  • Various lid fasteners and hive stands
  • Steel drums with automobile tires.

Honeyguide birds, do they lead honey badgers to honey?

Most likely not. Furthermore, only one honeyguide bird species had been confirmed to lead people to honey.


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