I’ve been bamboozled.
Like a hungry trout on a fly, I swallowed a flashy internet factoid and took off, running.
I was told bears don’t like honey. Specifically, I was told they want the bee larvae or baby bees. I was told that bears don’t have a sweet tooth per se, but they do search for good sources of protein.
They don’t want the sweet honey. They actually want the brood comb of a hive.
But I didn’t go out on this limb alone. Not a bear pun … but it almost was.
The truth is, I followed the lead of the folks at the North American Bear Center who said the bears will eat honey, depending on the alternative. But bears prefer eating immature bees, like the ones played by Jerry Seinfeld and Matthew Broderick in the animated movie “Bee Story”.
“As good as honey sounds, it does not compare with the nutritional value of immature bees which are mostly fat and protein,” the site says.
Two things stand out. First of all, I see you immature bees and I, too, am mostly fat and protein.
Secondly, I was foolish to think bears are thinking all that hard about nutritional value. Oh, I’m sure the bears really are willing to hang around while protective adult bees sting the bears’ faces just to get the prized pupae, larvae and eggs in the brood comb.
As soon as they get the brood comb, the good source of protein, they scurry away from the honey bees to avoid more bee stings. A likely story.
So do bears eat honey?
Yes. Of course, but that’s no longer the question. The question is motivation and purpose. In other words, do bears like the sweet honey they consume? Or is honey merely a means to an end?
First, let’s set the parameters. What types of species of bears are we talking about, black bears, brown bears, grizzly bears, polar bears or giant panda bears? Well, let’s eliminate the giant panda which isn’t actually a bear species.
And also the polar bear as I don’t think you have a lot of honey bees in the artic.
Bears are omnivores, they are opportunistic feeders.
Perhaps it’s common knowledge, but they will eat a wide variety of foods including human food or human garbage. Therefore, a bear’s diet consists of plants, fruits and nuts and other wild animals like young deer or elk.
What are a bear’s favorite foods?
Some evidence suggests whatever food items it can get access to. In other words, it’s fair to question how much bears enjoy what they eat versus how much they eat what’s available.
Hungry bears will travel a significant distance in search of food, but I think it’s safe to assume bears have some food preferences. They have shown many times they will return time and again to a favorite food source.
Editor’s note: This article is meant to feed your curiosity, not the bears! Remember, never offer food to a bear.
Do bears love honey?
A New York bear sanctuary aimed to put the question to rest, uploading a YouTube video of bears going to town on a jar of honey.
The bears certainly seemed to be enjoying the raw honey just licking away despite the spoon in the way. But since these are sanctuary bears eating the honey out of a jar being held by a human hand – never do that – I question the scientific methodology used in the video.
I feel like we have to reject the results as anecdotal at best. Do bears love honey? Inconclusive, but these two sure do.
Thankfully, we have Elizabeth Manning, a wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish & Wildlife News.
Manning says bears are attracted to beehives and while they like the immature bees and the larvae, they also love the honey.
In Alaska, there aren’t wild bee populations that produce honey – sorry polar bears. But there are human bee farms, which sound like places that grow human bees but are actually just beekeepers.
Manning says electric fencing is a good tool to give the bears a hard time reaching the hives and maybe dissuade that love of honey, just a bit.
Which type of bear likes honey the most?
Some sources say that black and brown bears are said to love honey the most. How do they know? I consider that a good question.
How do you get to a motivation of a bear? Are they doing bear taste tests?
I think we’re just going to have to take the internet’s word on this, which is what got us into trouble in the first place.
Do bears get stung by bees when they eat the honey?
Oh, yeah. See the video from the BBC, embedded above. Generally, bears want the comb and they’re willing to endure some bee stings to get a taste of honey.
The wild bears’ thick fur serves as good protection for most of their bodies, giving the bees who want to sting a hard time reaching pay dirt.
But bear’s fur is lesser around the face and eyes, giving the adult bees a good target.
What other types of animals eat honey?
Well, first and foremost the Honey Badger of internet video fame. The honey badger, famously, does not give a, well, you know.
Tough little boogers from Africa, India and Southwest Asia, the honey badger is a member of the weasel family and pound-for-pound may be the animal you’d least like to mess with.
Other animals that like honey are the holy trifecta of animals likely to scare the daylights out of you in the yard at night. For example, skunks, raccoons and possums.
Skunks are generally the foremost predator of honey bees. Some sources say that skunks prefer the bees to the honey but will eat the honey as well.
Oh no! Not that mess again.
Raccoons are known to make trouble for beekeepers, destroying the hives to get to the honey.
Possums, like skunks, eat the bees and prefer them over the honey … OK, I give up now.
Have you spotted a bear foraging for food? Share your thoughts in the comments.