A surprising number of African animals eat beeswax

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Honeyguide birds lead humans to bees’ nests and get beeswax as a reward, but camera traps reveal that honey badgers, baboons and mongooses all feed on the leftovers

Life



6 December 2022

A honey badger eating beeswax

Dominic Cram

Many animals in southern Africa feed on beeswax, and by doing so, they help maintain a unique partnership between humans and birds that lead honey-hunters to wild bees’ nests.

Until now, it was thought that very few animals apart from greater honeyguides (Indicator indicator) could digest beeswax – a high-energy food that the birds obtain as a reward from humans who break open bees’ nests.

David Lloyd-Jones at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and his colleagues wanted to see if larger animals feeding on …

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