Mist-Netting of Migrating Bee-Eaters Positively Influences Honey Bee Colony Performance

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Bee-eaters (Meropidae) are considered agricultural pests and their presence provokes conflicts with beekeepers and farmers who rely on the pollination services of honey bees. This problem is often deal with through the mass killing of the birds, even though the quantitative evidence on the impact of bee-eaters on honey bee colonies is scarce. The current paper reports the performance of honey bee colonies protected with mist nets from migrating flocks of European bee-eaters Merops apiaster in Israel. In the study the weight gains of bee hives surrounded by mist nets were 6.44 times higher than that of unprotected hives (26.4 kg vs. 4.1 kg). The results confirmed that bee-eaters locally pose a problem to apiaries and potentially to the crops that require pollination. Mist- netting appeared to be an effective mitigation method for alleviating conflicts between beekeepers and bee-eaters. However, the study also showed that bees were able to differentiate between their main predator and other avian species trapped in mist nets and stung only bee-eaters. Moreover, the bees were targeting the most vulnerable body parts of birds which resulted in some bird fatalities. Therefore, due to accidental mortal- ity of birds, mist-netting is recommended only on the migratory routes in cases when bee hives cannot be moved to other areas.

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