Do the Bee-eaters decimate bees?

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· (Merops apiaster) perched ·

Southern is yet again suffering a general lack of rain. The Mediterranean climate is characterised by periods of rain followed periods of drought with a resultant biodiversity paradise.We now appear to be entering a drought period after three winters with ample rainfall. In the start of what appears to be a new drought period with a dry autumn and winter, beekeepers are suffering and many beehives colonies have fallen dramatically.

Human nature seems to be weak and needs to blame somebody (or something) for their misfortunes and Spanish beekepers have pointed their blame at Bee-eaters. But they are wrong!

They claim that Bee-eaters raid beehives every spring, but naturalists’ observations contradict this and the latest report from the Ecology Unit of University of Murcia bears this out!

Standard beehives have an average of 55,000 worker bees and daily replacement index is about 1,200-1,500 bees. The researchers and field reports show the number of worker-bees eaten by a Bee-eater to be 1,493 individuals in a six month period. Additionally, bees are not the favourite insect for the birds, as other Himenoptera such as Bumble Bee spp. are favoured, with additional predation of beetles and large dragonflies.

Decreasing numbers of Iberian bees appears to be related more to a combination of factors: the infection of the Varroa Asian disease, the very cold winter we have experienced and the lack of water and consequent wildflowers in the field as Bee-eaters have not yet arrived in Europe from their African wintering areas and will not do so until mid april onwards.

Therefore, Bee-eaters eat bees but do not decimate them as the apiculture industry says! The report (link below) also gives directions for improve output by changing beehive emplacements in the field.

[ Direct access to the researching report (in Spanish) HERE ]

Jorge Garzón ©2012

E: [email protected]

Twitter:http://twitter.com/#!/naturalAND

Jorge Garzón

Jorge Garzón

I was born in 1965 and brought up in Burgos (North Spain) and Granada (Andalucía), where I mixed my university degree in Tourism with natural history, wildlife and bird watching activities. I started guiding in the early 1980s, becoming one of the first professional natural history tour leaders in southern Spain. My passion for mountains and the Sierra Nevada led me to found the first mountain guiding company, and writing my first two books on nature and walks in the Sierra Nevada range, leading the first petition to declare Sierra Nevada as a National Park. I also worked to achieve effective protection for the richest botanical areas in the Mediterranean cliffs of Malaga and Granada provinces (Maro-Cerro Gordo Nature Reserve), and also spent long periods of time studying literature in France and botany in the Alps. After successfully completing my degree, I moved to Australia and travelled around the Pacific area and South Asia. I founded the first nature and outdoor travel company in in 1991 and started to lead specialised nature and bird watching tours at that time that have taken me to the Orkneys, Scotland, The Netherlands, France, Austria, the Alps, Italy, Portugal, Madeira and North Africa. Because my extensive guiding knowledge in Andalucia and Extremadura, southern Portugal and Morocco I was elected the 'Swarovski Recommended Guide - SRG' in 2003. Member of SEO/BirdLife, I worked as the BirdLife Regional Officer in Andalucia for years, being responsible of its birding conservation projects and actions; giving lectures and being a nature and bird watching tourist adviser for institutions and companies. Author of many articles and several books, the latest ones being the much praised 'Where to watch Birds in Donana' for Lynx Edicions, or 'The Birds of Sierra Nevada' for the Andalucian Environmental Ministry and Sierra Nevada National Park. Being a professional naturalist, I own my local nature company 'al-Natural', organising nature and bird watching tours, botanical and wildlife outings, and as a Master on 'Management & conservation on National Parks and protected areas (NPA)' also work as a freelance consultant in the ecotourism and environmental fields. Proudly member of SEO/BirdLife, SPEA/BirdLife Portugal and Butterfly Conservation UK, I live beside an outstanding nature reserve facing Sierra Nevada National Park, near Granada, and have two teenagers who have not yet flown the nest.

Jorge Garzón

Jorge Garzón

I was born in 1965 and brought up in Burgos (North Spain) and Granada (Andalucía), where I mixed my university degree in Tourism with natural history, wildlife and bird watching activities. I started guiding in the early 1980s, becoming one of the first professional natural history tour leaders in southern Spain. My passion for mountains and the Sierra Nevada led me to found the first mountain guiding company, and writing my first two books on nature and walks in the Sierra Nevada range, leading the first petition to declare Sierra Nevada as a National Park. I also worked to achieve effective protection for the richest botanical areas in the Mediterranean cliffs of Malaga and Granada provinces (Maro-Cerro Gordo Nature Reserve), and also spent long periods of time studying literature in France and botany in the Alps. After successfully completing my degree, I moved to Australia and travelled around the Pacific area and South Asia. I founded the first nature and outdoor travel company in Andalusia in 1991 and started to lead specialised nature and bird watching tours at that time that have taken me to the Orkneys, Scotland, The Netherlands, France, Austria, the Alps, Italy, Portugal, Madeira and North Africa. Because my extensive guiding knowledge in Andalucia and Extremadura, southern Portugal and Morocco I was elected the 'Swarovski Recommended Guide - SRG' in 2003. Member of SEO/BirdLife, I worked as the BirdLife Regional Officer in Andalucia for years, being responsible of its birding conservation projects and actions; giving lectures and being a nature and bird watching tourist adviser for institutions and companies. Author of many articles and several books, the latest ones being the much praised 'Where to watch Birds in Donana' for Lynx Edicions, or 'The Birds of Sierra Nevada' for the Andalucian Environmental Ministry and Sierra Nevada National Park. Being a professional naturalist, I own my local nature company 'al-Natural', organising nature and bird watching tours, botanical and wildlife outings, and as a Master on 'Management & conservation on National Parks and protected areas (NPA)' also work as a freelance consultant in the ecotourism and environmental fields. Proudly member of SEO/BirdLife, SPEA/BirdLife Portugal and Butterfly Conservation UK, I live beside an outstanding nature reserve facing Sierra Nevada National Park, near Granada, and have two teenagers who have not yet flown the nest.

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