We are delighted to have a new paper on wax-eating behaviour by honeyguides and other animals published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. In this study we used camera traps to investigate which animals, other than honeyguides, fed on wax made available from the human-honeyguide mutualism, and whether larger animals feeding on this unusual food undermined the mutualism by depriving the honeyguide of its reward. Our camera trapping revealed nine wax-eating species, five of which were not previously known to consume wax. We expected that these wax-competitors could negatively affect wax availability for honeyguides, but instead found that these competitors likely stabilize the mutualism by shifting the benefits toward the early-arriving or guiding birds. A video abstract including clips of wax-eating behaviour is available on Youtube, and further media coverage can be found at New Scientist. We are also thrilled for our co-author, honey-hunter and long-term collaborator from Mbamba village, Orlando Yassene, as this is his first publication.
Potential cooperation between honey badgers and honeyguides may have implications for the origins of our own species’ cooperation with honeyguides and for the ecology and conservation of both honey badgers and honeyguides.