Free Access
Volume 31, Number 6, November/December 2000
Page(s) 727 - 736
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2000157

Apidologie 31 (2000) 727-736

The predator-prey interaction between blue-bearded bee eaters (Nyctyornis athertoni Jardine and Selby 1830) and giant honeybees (Apis dorsata Fabricius 1798)

Gerald Kastbergera - D.K. Sharmab

aDepartment of Zoology, University of Graz, 8010 Graz, Universitätsplatz 2, Austria
bDepartment of Zoology, Gauhati University, Assam, India

(Received 28 January 2000; revised 5 July 2000; accepted 22 September 2000)


We investigated the interaction between raiding blue-bearded bee eaters (Nyctyornis athertoni) and counter-attacking bees in an aggregation of 50 giant honeybee (Apis dorsata) colonies on a bee tree in Assam, India. We filmed two scenarios with an Arriflex camera at 150 frames per second: first, the bee eater passed parallel to a nest, threatening only the sunny side of the colony, and second, the bird passed a nest laterally in a perpendicular direction, eliciting release of a great number of guard bees from both sides of the colony. In the first scenario, we assessed more than 700 bees in the mass release, comprising 2-3 per cent of colony members. We found the first evidence for intercolonial group defence in Apis dorsata, which means that colonies or parts of them, which were not directly threatened, joined the defence action of the threatened colony. We discuss how unthreatened nests or parts of them can be challenged for mass release of guard bees.

Keywords: Apis dorsata / giant honeybee / bee eater / predator-prey interaction / defence behaviour

Correspondence and reprints: Gerald Kastberger

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