African Honeyguides

Research on a remarkable
human-animal relationship

Collaborative paper out now: do honeyguides and honey badgers cooperate?

Jun 29, 2023

Honey badger raiding a beehive

Out today in the Journal of Zoology: our new collaborative paper on the potential cooperation between honey badgers and honeyguides. Such a partnership 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.

We reviewed the evidence that honey badgers and honeyguides cooperate to access bees’ nests, drawing from the published literature, from our own observations whilst studying both species, and by conducting 394 interviews with honey-hunters in 11 communities across nine African countries.

We find that the scientific evidence relies on incomplete and second-hand accounts and does not convincingly indicate that the two species cooperate. The majority of honey-hunters we interviewed were similarly doubtful about the interaction, but many interviewees in the Hadzabe, Maasai, and mixed culture communities in Tanzania reported having seen honey badgers and honeyguides interact, and think that they do cooperate.

Overall, the evidence we have gathered suggests that badgers and honeyguides likely cooperate in a restricted part of Africa, but substantial uncertainty remains and the reports are as-yet unconfirmed. We provide tips for studies aiming to clarify this fascinating interspecies interaction.

This paper was a result of a great and fun collaboration between researchers from nine African countries who study honeyguides, badgers, and honey-hunter cultures. You can find a Kiswahili translation of the abstract here.


David presents at the Apimondia Africa Symposium

David Lloyd-Jones recently gave a talk on what honeyguides and honey-hunters have taught us about Niassa’s wild honeybee ecology at the Apimondia Africa Regional Symposium held in Durban. He was honoured to pay further tribute to Ricardo Guta and his contribution to bee research in Niassa Special Reserve. Many...

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In memory of our colleague Ricardo Guta

Ricardo Guta, our dear colleague and friend in our research team, tragically died on 1 December 2022 following a swimming accident in the Cape mountains. All our thoughts are with his wife, Lailat, and their children Adrielle and Piotr. Ricardo’s life was honoured by his colleagues in a memorial at the University of Cape Town on 9 December 2022. He will soon be laid to rest by his family in his home city of Beira, Mozambique.

Ricardo’s warm and generous personality and passion for natural history touched everyone he met. He was much loved and respected at Gorongosa National Park where he worked as an entomologist, at the University of Cape Town where he had just completed his MSc studies, and at the Niassa Special Reserve where we recently carried out a wonderful field trip together. Ricardo had just begun his PhD in our research team, studying the influence of honeyguide-human mutualism on honeybee ecology. We are heartbroken to have lost a wonderful scientist, conservationist and human being, and we miss him deeply.

Ricardo’s legacy will live on in our team as we remember his joy and optimism, and his remarkable capacity to bring people together.

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