Bee-eaters catching insects

on 19th June 2008

Bee-eaters hunt from an exposed perch, waiting for insects to fly by. Once an insect is spotted, it flies after it and simply picks it out of the air. The pair of slender and sharp pointed mandibles that make up the bill function like a pair of highly efficient forceps.


The images above show the Blue-tailed Bee-eater (Merops philippinus) manipulating a dragonfly after catching and thrashing it. Clamped at the tip of its bill (left), the bird deftly tossed the subdued insect to reposition it for swallowing (right).


In the case of the Blue-throated Bee-eater (M. viridis) that has caught what looks like a wasp and a moth, the prey is similarly treated (above).


When a venomous bee is caught, as in the case of the Rainbow Bee-eater (M. ornatus) of Australia, the prey needs to be rubbed against the perch to remove the sting and the venom (above).


The images above show the Rainbow Bee-eater with a beetle (left) and a cicada (right) in its bill. Again, these insects need to be subdued before swallowing.

This post is a cooperative effort between and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.

Dr Eric Tan
June 2008

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

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