Science //

Honey Badgers

Their punishment must be more severe! Lane Sainty explores a frightfully fearless animal

Source: National Geographic
Source: National Geographic

The honey badger was catapulted to unlikely Internet stardom in 2011 when a dubbed video titled ‘The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger’ was uploaded to YouTube. Originally National Geographic footage, the video (which is nearing 50 million views) raised awareness of the reckless lifestyle being carried out by honey badgers all over Africa, the Middle East and Southern Asia.

It shows a honey badger destroying a beehive and killing several cobras while a flamboyant recorded voice proclaims that the honey badger ‘don’t care’, ‘don’t give a shit’ and ‘takes what it wants’. It may disturb you to realise that the claims made in the voice over are only slightly exaggerated, and that despite the deceptive name, the honey badger is anything but sweet. In fact, the ‘honey’ reference derives from a bloodthirsty tendency to destroy beehives in search of larvae to eat.

However, larvae is not the only thing consumed by the fearsome honey badger. Practically an antonym for ‘fussy eater’, the honey badger has been known to chow down on venomous cobras, turtle shells and even human corpses. Not one to waste food, the honey badger eats every part of its prey, including bones, beaks, feathers, wings and skin.

Casually snacking on snake. The honey badger is conveniently immune to snake venom, but it’s unlikely to fear anything anyway. Source: National Geographic

The thick skin of the honey badger is impervious to bee stings, snake venom and, according to Wikipedia, ‘several machete blows’.  It is also very loose, allowing the honey badger to move around easily if caught by a larger animal.

While the appetite, skin and strong jaw of the honey badger already paint a formidable picture, the scariest thing about this animal is by far its attitude. As claimed in the YouTube video, ‘the honey badger just doesn’t give a shit’. The frequent attacks on animals far larger, stronger and more poisonous than the honey badger itself show that they are either plain dumb or literally fearless. And considering they are one of the only animals known to use tools in order to complete tasks, I’m guessing it’s not the former.