bee forage

A pair of enemies share a pear

Yellowjackets and honey bees share a meal. Photo © Manuel.

Yellowjackets and honey bees share a meal. Photo © Manuel.

Have the gangs settled down long enough to break bread? Well, it’s not the Jets and the Sharks, or the Crips and the Bloods, but close enough: it’s the Honeys and the Jackets sharing a pear.

This interesting photo was sent to me by Manuel, a beekeeper in a drought-stricken area of California. He says the pears have been falling in his yard, and a variety of creatures have been munching on them. But he was surprised to see the honey bees and the yellowjackets peaceably eating side by side. Not only that, he didn’t know that honey bees would eat fruit.

Two months ago I ran a post on that very subject, and the overwhelming consensus of beekeepers is that honey bees will definitely eat fruit, especially in a dearth. The only question remaining was whether they are capable of piercing fruit themselves, or whether they eat it only after the fruit is breached by something else.

Manuel’s pears, like my own up here in Washington, have been opened by any number of creatures including birds and small mammals. So neither the Honey’s nor the Jackets had to breach the skin.

We have all seen yellowjackets attack bees, and we’ve seen honey bees on flowers chase off intruders, so what exactly is happening? I’m not sure, but since neither species is protecting its nest, perhaps they are okay with sharing the windfall—a sweet drink on a hot day.



  • I personally hate the jackets this time of the year, but they do a swell job of cleaning up in the front of the hives. If I could only get the ants to scour around looking for varroa mites……

  • Bees will often appear to “bite” my hive tool or Apiguard foil, but I think you’re right to suggest they probably make use of piercings in fruit skin made by others. Here in the UK they say it takes twenty bees to kill a wasp when they attack a hive, but of course the bees in this picture have no interest in attack. The same can’t always be said of wasps. I think your pic shows the equivalent of an African waterhole in a drought!

  • I’m a new beek this year….. so with nectar and pollen scarce right now, if a person had access to some ripe fruit could it be put out by the hives, or would I be inviting trouble?? Thanks

    • Stephanie,

      I’m really glad you asked before you tried it.

      I would not put fruit near the hives. For one thing, it could attract predators such as wasps and yellowjackets who may learn where your hives are. But more importantly, fruit nectar is not good for bees. Fruit nectar is high in fiber, and a high-fiber diet can cause honey bee dysentery. Honey bees that can’t go out for cleansing flights during the cold months end up defecating in the hive which spreads disease.

      An incidental amount of fruit nectar that they find on their own is probably not going to be harmful, but to give it to them deliberately is not good management.

  • I live in a drought stricken area of southern California and have a jujube tree. Normally I pick the fruit while still firm like an apple or pear. This year I have been allowing them to dry on the tree so they look and taste more like a date. When I went to pick some a few days ago I was surprised to see many of (my?) bees on the fruits that had been breached, presumably by birds. I had never seen this before. Very interesting!

  • Rusty,

    Anytime I have seen a bee feasting on some fruit it has been through an area where the skin has been broken. But, I have seen them chew through a ziplock bag to get the last bit of honey inside.

  • I often see the yellowjackets and my bees sharing my fountain pond “watering hole.” I’ve never seen a skirmish there.

  • We had a lot of grapes this year. We always leave some for the birds. The bees took a lot of the juice, I think they must have been making wine.

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