Do Bats Eat Bees?

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Honey bees and bats are two important parts of our natural ecosystems. However, beekeepers may worry that bats pose a danger to their hives. This is a special concern for those who are blessed with a healthy bat population in their area. Do bats eat bees? In this article, we take a closer look into the foraging lives of bees and bats. They have been coexisting for millions of years – is there any real reason to worry?

Bat in flight hunting for food, insects, bees etc.

As a Master beekeeper I am always concerned about any honey bee predators in my area. However, the natural world has a balance that keeps things in correct order – in most cases anyway. Do beekeepers need to worry about bats?

Bees and Bats: Natural Interactions

During the daylight hours, our honey bees are out in force. So many flowers to visit and so little time. As they gather pollen and nectar, they provide important pollination services to the plants. Bee pollination is very important to the ecosystem and to our agriculture system.

But once evening approaches, honey bees head back to the hive. Whether bees sleep or just rest – their work outside the hive is done for the day.

Now, the bats take on the second shift job of pollination. They too visit flowers for sweet nectar but that is not their only food source.

Most bats eat insects – lots of insects during a night. This is a vital component of maintaining an ecological balance.

Wait a minute – bats eat insects. Honey bees are insects. Certainly, this poses a major threat to bees from bats? Not really.

Because bees work during the day (diurnal) and bats fly at night (nocturnal), there is little interaction between the two.

Sure, if a bee stays out a bit late and a bat “gets out of bed early” – they could meet. But, normally the two do not come into contact very much.

Bats in tree and drinking nectar from a flower.

The Bat’s Diet

Among the many species of bats, you find differences in their diets. For most, insects do make up a large portion of their diet. Others feed on fruit, nectar and small invertebrates – even mosquitoes that threaten public safety.

How Often Do Bats Eat Bees? Based on our observation that in most cases bats and honey bees are not out foraging at the same time – relatively few bees are eaten by bats.

However, in a situation where the natural food of bats is very limited – it is not impossible that they would turn to bees are a food source.

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Additionally, some bat species are opportunistic feeders, meaning they will eat whatever prey is available to them. In these cases, bats may eat bees if they come across them while foraging for food.

Potential Threats to Honey Bees

Is bat predation a big enough of a threat to your hives to worry? No, not really. Beekeepers have many other threats – bigger threats to the safety of their hives than a few bats.

In addition to predators that attack hives, an infestation of honey bee pests will do much more damage to the colony than the loss of a few bees.

If a situation occurs where bats are seeming to target your beehives, hopefully this will be a short term problem. In fact, many beekeepers have put up bat houses near their apiaries with no problems.

Bat house on tall pole and beehives in nearby apiary.

Benefits of Bats to Ecosystems and Agriculture

The role played by bats in pollination and seed dispersal contributes to biodiversity. This means a healthy ecosystem with a wide range of plants for honey bees and bumble bees and many other nectar loving insects.

When bats help control pest insect populations, this reduces the need for pesticides. Therefore benefiting all the bee species that would otherwise be exposed to these chemicals.

Over 500 species of flowers in at least 67 plant families rely on bats for pollination. Consider this –  Tequila is made from the agave plant, which relies primarily on bats to pollinate its flowers and reproduce.

FAQs

Can bats help protect honey bees from other predators?

Bats may indirectly protect honey bees by preying on other insect predators that attack bees. By controlling populations of harmful insects, bats can create a safer environment for honey bees.

Do bats and bees compete for food sources?

In some cases, bats and bees may compete for nectar, particularly if they are both present in areas with limited flowering plants. However, their primary food sources are different, as most bats focus on insects.

How can beekeepers coexist with bats?

Beekeepers can take steps to coexist with bats, such as providing habitats away from beehives and using netting to protect hives at night. Additionally, understanding bats’ feeding patterns and habits can help beekeepers minimize potential conflicts.

A Final Word

Bats and bees can coexist in a healthy ecosystem – both have roles to play. And if occasionally bats eat a few bees – the numbers will be very low. Embrace and protect both of these important pollinators.

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