What is a bee martin?

Bee martin and bee bird are merely popular names for the common American kingbird, a member of the flycatcher family. This species lives chiefly on insects captured on the wing. It has a bad reputation because of its alleged preference for honeybees. This habit, however, according to the United States Department of Agriculture, is much less prevalent “than generally supposed and probably does not result in much damage to beekeepers. Government scientists examined 665 stomachs of kingbirds collected from various parts of. the country. Only twenty-two of them contained the remains of honeybees. In the twenty-two stomachs there were sixty-one honeybees in all, of which fifty-one were drones, eight were workers, and the remaining two were too badly broken to be further identified. This proves that individual kingbirds do sometimes acquire the bad habit of preying on honeybees, but, as the American naturalist Elliott Coues observed, it “destroys a thousand noxious insects for every bee it eats.” Therefore it appears that members of this species should not be killed unless positively proved guilty of the bee-killing habit. Many other members of the flycatcher family occasionally acquire the habit of preying on bees. The American summer tanager is also sometimes called bee bird because of its habit of occasionally resorting to a bee diet. The purple martin, which is a kind of swallow, does not kill bees and should not be confused with the bee martin or kingbird. There is a popular notion that the flower like crest of the kingbird serves to attract bees within reach of the bird’s bill.

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