Why is the juvenile bee-eater not fed bees?

Samson Tan was observing the behaviour of a pair of Blue-throated Bee-eater (Merops viridis) feeding a recently fledged juvenile. What intrigued him was that the adult only fed dragonflies to the juvenile (with short tail, above), not bees. Bees were brought back but these were not offered to the juveniles, even when the latter was ready to accept them. In the images below, the adult brought back a bee, perching near the juvenile. Instead of offering it to the juvenile, it moved away to a higher branch.

Bee-eaters, as the name implies, prefer venomous insects like bees, wasps and hornets (left). But dealing with such insects requires special skills to remove the stinger. The bee-eater usually rubs the insect or bashes it against the perch before swallowing it.

Recently fledged juveniles are still in the learning stage as far as foraging is concerned. And the skills to deal with venomous insects need to be learnt gradually. This is probably the reason why the adult Blue-throated Bee-eater did not offer bees to the juvenile. Instead, it was probably teaching the juvenile how to manipulate them.

This post is courtesy of Samson Tan of Manta’s Experience….

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