Bird pressure on hive productivity

Hi Barrie

I notice that we have a diversity of insect eating birds who congregate around our hives in the morning. Do you think that the swarms are large enough to sustain the losses from these birds, and what sort of impact will they have on honey production? My sense is that it could be negligible and that we should allow them to take the bees they can, especially as they do not hang around the hives all day. What are your thoughts?

Thanks and kind regards.

Hello Kevan,
It's an interesting question, and I'd like others to contribute to this topic. The bird in question is I presume the fork tailed bee-eater, or drongo. They can apparently take up to 300 bees each per day; that's a considerable threat to the colony.

Each bee will collect about a teaspoon of honey in her life time; it's a significant threat.

The problem looking at the bigger picture is that the drongo makes a great contribution to keeping other insects under control; they are an important part of the ecological cycle.

They are highly intelligent birds, not easily frightened off; and I for one will not shoot them, despite the significant damage they do.

I keep a paintball gun which I fire off, aiming to hit the branch they are sitting on, but not the bird; that does keep them at bay.

It's a nuggety problem; I wonder what others think.

Do you have a photo of the bird bothering your hive?


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May 31, 2017
birds and the bees
by: Mike

The only birds in RSA that seem to have a (periodic) significant impact on apiaries are drongos, European Bee-eaters and Alpine Swifts. The swifts are always passing through, so the impact is short-lived. This is normally also the case for the bee-eaters. This leaves the drongoes, which can be so bad that they literally close down an apiary.

I have never seen or heard of any human management method - birdlime & shooting seem to be the most common responses - but I also don't subscribe to such measures.

The best method that I can suggest is move the bee colonies under foliage - into bushes - or to drape foliage around them - so that the flight paths taken by the bees as they leave and return are much more varied, and much less predictable. This works pretty well for drongos as well as bee pirates.

Many thanks, Mike

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