Bees: Enemies

There are many enemies to all the bees and wasps of this world. Generally bees and wasps provide a rich source of food for many animal predators from huge mammals to fish, frogs, lizards and birds. Even small minibeasts can cause havoc to their lives. Further, the nests that contain honey is also a great store of food for creatures who either stealthily sneak in or rip apart the nest to steal the pure honey inside. Other creatures ravage the nest for pollen or the wax. In Africa baboons and monkeys brave themselves the raid the nests of stingless bees and honey bees. In Sumatra and Borneo the orangutan does the same.

Bee-eater birds tear into the nests and take the precious honey. The Honey guide bird of Africa and western Asia absolutely loves honey above all other food. Alone, the bird is not strong enough to fight off the bees so it enlists the help of the Honey badger. First the Honey guide scouts the area until it has found a bee nest. Then it goes out to find a honey badger by calling for it. The bird will only get between 15 50 ft of the badger. The bird makes a special call and fans its white tail in a remarkable display to guide the badger to the nest. Once the badger arrives the honey guide shows incredible patience as it waits for over an hour for the badger to do its work. The badger then breaks open the nest to feed on the honey leaving the bird to feed on the remaining honey as well as the larvae and the wax. Honey guides also lead people to the bees' nest for the same reason. Other bird predators include the wagtail and woodpeckers which eat bumblebees and solitary bees. They catch them on their wing and then rub them against a perch to disable their sting.

The waxmoth creeps into the nest unsuspected through the top entrance that has been left unguarded. They come at night when they are most active and there is a smaller chance of them being seen. They then lay eggs in the tiny crevices that are not used by the bees. Once the eggs have been laid the waxmoth quickly flies off. When the eggs hatch the larvae eat their through the wax combs until they reach the used cells where a bee or wasps empty cell lays. They then eat this shell and weave a cocoon made from a powerful and extremely sticky substance. This substance is similar to that of a spider's web but stronger. This shields the larvae who then pupate and hatch as adult waxmoths.

On occasion a horde of army ants will launch an assault on a nest. They will climb up to the nest an pile inside. Their sheer number and great size overwhelm the bees or wasps inside. The army ants then feast on the larvae within. Army ants are enemies of many social insects including other types of ants and termites.

One of the worst enemies to any colony is the Varroa mite. The Varroa mite looks like a flat-headed mushroom with eight hairy legs. The mite lives on the bee's skin and sucks its blood and some carry disease making them especially dangerous. Another type of mite, the tracheal mite, infests the bee's breathing tubes. The two types of mites have recently destroyed thousands of bee colonies worldwide.

Some solitary wasps hunt out bees to feed their young. The wasp will like any other capture prey, sting the bee to paralyse it and then drag it back to its lair where the young wasp larvae will hatch and feed on the still-living bee. The Hornet is a formidable enemy of honey bees. In Israel, hornets severely damage the nests and wipe out the bees. In 1949 the Hornet destroyed 3,000 out of the 28,000 hives belonging to the Israel Beekeepers Association.