Skip to Content

Do Flycatchers Eat Bees?

Do Flycatchers Eat Bees?

Different birds tend to have different diets that are actually so varied. There will be cases when certain species of birds are more likely to eat plant-based food than meat while other birds are more likely to eat other animals such as insects. Such is the case for flycatchers, which are aptly named because they like eating flies. But do flycatchers also eat bees?

Flycatchers also eat bees. Despite having the name “flycatchers”, these birds are also fond of catching and eating insects regardless of whether or not such insects fly. Of course, the list will also include bees. In fact, there is a flycatcher that is known for preferring bees over other insects.

Because birds (and not just flycatchers) are omnivores that will also eat insects, you will be surprised to know that birds will eat bees when they have a chance to do so. However, because not all birds are equipped to handle the flying capabilities of bees, flycatchers and only a few other birds actually include bees in their regular diet. Now, let’s get to know more about flycatchers and other birds that prefer to eat bees.

Do flycatchers eat bees?

One of the things that you probably already know about birds is that they are omnivores. While you do know that birds love to eat seeds and other similar plant-based foods, they also love insects and other invertebrates (hence the saying about the early bird catching the worm). Meanwhile, bigger birds can even eat rodents, reptiles, and other small animals. However, the smaller birds are more likely to prefer insects if they are looking to add protein to their diet.

That said, when it comes to birds that love to eat insects, the flycatchers tend to be some of the most common of them all. As the name suggests, these types of birds are fond of eating insects because of how they are built to have the capabilities that will allow them to easily catch any kind of insect. And we are not only talking about non-flying insects as flycatchers usually love eating flying insects, and that is why they are aptly named. They do so by capturing insects at the wing so that it will be easier for them to eat the insects.

There are different types of flycatchers out there depending on their species. But what is common is that they are equipped to know how to catch flying insects very well and will also eat non-flying insects if the opportunity to do so presents itself. 

But while flycatchers are indeed known for eating insects, does it also follow that these birds eat bees? Yes, all flycatchers or probably all birds do and will eat bees when the opportunity to do so is available to them. That’s because, again, birds are omnivorous animals that will eat a wide variety of different types of food and are really fond of eating insects. In that case, flycatchers will also eat bees as well.

Do all flycatchers eat bees?

Now that we said that most, if not all, birds actually eat bees, does it also follow that all flycatchers eat bees? Well, yes, all flycatchers will eat bees when they have a chance to do so. However, we have to subdivide the type of birds or flycatchers that will actually eat bees into two different categories.

The first are the opportunists. We have said over and over again that birds will eat bees when they have a chance to do so. That is precisely what it means to be an opportunist as birds or flycatchers will eat bees when they have a chance to do so such as when the bee is not flying or when the bee is already too weak and may even be dying. The reason is that not all flycatchers are probably equipped to handle catching a flying bee.

Meanwhile, the second types of flycatchers that eat bees are the specialists. These are the birds that are naturally built to be capable of catching bees and are not merely opportunistic eaters that will try to eat a bee when the circumstances allow them to do so. As such, because specialists are built to know how to catch bees, they will hunt bees and even include these insects in their regular diet as some of their most preferred foods.

In fact, there is one type of flycatcher that is particularly known for its fondness of eating bees. The bird we are talking about is the summer tanager, which is also called the beebird. This bird is one of the most hated birds among beekeepers precisely because of how the summer tanager makes it a point to actually look for bees instead of just simply eating whatever insect is available.

Summer tanagers are also called bee and wasp specialists because they are insectivores that love eating bees and wasps. This is why it is quite common to see summer tanagers hanging around beehives or even apiaries during the spring or summertime when the bees are at their most active. However, summer tanagers will also eat other flying insects whenever bees are not on the menu.

The way summer tanagers eat bees is actually smart and very calculated. These birds, like most flycatchers, are perching birds that wait for bees to pass by. When a bee does indeed pass by, the summer tanager will quickly dart over to the bee to catch it by the wing.

However, the summer tanager, after catching a bee, won’t eat it right away because it will have to bring it back to a perch and beat the bee against a tree branch to kill it and to remove the stinger. That is when the summer tanager will now eat the bee as it is now safe for it to consume it without getting stung along the way.

What other birds eat bees?

In addition to summer tanagers, other birds or flycatchers also eat bees. This includes the scarlet tanager, which is a close relative of the summer tanager. Scarlet tanagers are not as fond of bees as summer tanagers are but they will still eat them when presented a chance. And scarlet tanagers press the bees into a branch to kill them and to hopefully remove the stingers.

Honey buzzards may also try to eat bees but these are birds that are fonder of bee larvae. So, what they do is that they follow adult bees back to the hives where they can feast on the bee larvae by opening the hive. And they have feathers on their face that will allow them to protect themselves from bee stings.

Aside from that, most other birds actually eat bees as well. As mentioned, almost any kind of bird will eat a bee when presented a chance to do so because birds can be opportunistic feeders as well. 

However, because catching a bee isn’t quite easy considering that it will be difficult for a lot of birds to catch a flying bee due to its speed and irregular flight pattern, a bird should be able to have extremely quick bursts of speed to catch a bee midflight. On top of that, not all birds know how to properly remove the stingers on a bee. And that is why there are flycatchers that are specialists when it comes to catching and eating bees.