Sunday, April 10, 2011

Nature & Nonsense

The greater honeyguide of Africa eats beeswax but isn’t always able to invade a hive on its own. So it has forged a unique partnership with human beings: The bird attracts the attention of local honey hunters with a chattering call, flies toward a hive, then stops and calls again. When they arrive at the hive, the humans open it, incapacitating the bees with smoke, take the honey, and leave the wax for the bird.
This arrangement saves the humans an average of 5.7 hours in searching for hives, but it’s not foolproof. “We have been ‘guided’ to an abrupt precipice and to a bull elephant by greater honeyguides,” report biologists Lester Short and Jennifer Horne. “In these cases there were bee-hives below the cliff (in a valley) and beyond the elephant. Concern for the welfare of the guided person is beyond any reasonable expectation of a honeyguide.”

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