Significance to humans

In Australia, the arrival of the rainbow bee-eater (Merops ornatus) heralds the arrival of the rainy season, and in Africa huge colonies of rosy bee-eaters are a source of great pride to people in nearby villages. However, bee-eaters hold little significance to humans apart from the enjoyment that comes from observing their beauty and aerial antics. On all shores of the Mediterranean, those who make a living from the honey of the bee Apis mellifera have considered the European bee-eater (Merops apiaster) a pest, despite little scientific evidence that honey production is ever seriously compromised by bee-eater predation.

1. Black bee-eater (Merops gularis); 2. White-fronted bee-eater (Merops bullockoides); 3. Blue-bearded bee-eater (Nyctyornis athertoni); 4. European bee-eater (Merops apiaster); 5. Purple-bearded bee-eater (Meropogon forsteni); 6. Carmine bee-eater (Merops nubicoides); 7. White-throated bee-eater (Merops albicollis); 8. Female rainbow bee-eater (Merops ornatus). (Illustration by Barbara Duperron)

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