Their diet is mostly made up of beeswax, but the birds also eat insects, ants, spiders, bee larvae (LAR-vee; active immature insects), waxworms, termites, flies, and caterpillars. They sometimes eat fruits and other plant matter. All honeyguides eat live prey, animals they hunt for food, by catching it while in the air. The bill is adapted to feeding on wax and probing for insects in tree bark. They feed on beeswax by flying up to a bee nest, gripping the tree's surface alongside the outer comb, and biting off and swallowing pieces of wax. The body of hon-eyguides is strong enough to be protected from most bee stings, but they can be killed if enough bees attack. A few species lead animals or humans to honey sources by flying close to them and calling "churr-churr-churr-churr" or "tirr-tirr-tirr-tirr" in order to get them to open up the food source.

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