The feeding mechanisms of animals constrain the spectrum of resources that they can exploit profitably. For floral nectar eaters, both corolla depth and nectar properties have marked influence on foraging choices. We report the multiple strategies used by honey bees to efficiently extract nectar at the range of sugar concentrations and corolla depths they face in nature. Honey bees can collect nectar by dipping their hairy tongues or capillary loading when lapping it, or they can attach the tongue to the wall of long corollas and directly suck the nectar along the tongue sides. The honey bee feeding apparatus is unveiled as a multifunctional tool that can switch between lapping and sucking nectar according to the instantaneous ingesting efficiency, which is determined by the interplay of nectar–mouth distance and sugar concentration. These versatile feeding mechanisms allow honey bees to extract nectar efficiently from a wider range of floral resources than previously appreciated and endow them with remarkable adaptability to diverse foraging environments.

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