Living Organisms /Animalia / Craniata / Mammalia / Carnivora / Ursidae / Helarctos / Species:

< > FEEDING BEHAVIOUR with literature reports for the Sun bear - Helarctos malayanus: Use sub-contents list below, or simply scroll down the page to view findings.

BEHAVIOUR  - Editorial Comment

Editorial Comment

(Editorial Overview Text Replicated on Overall Species page - Helarctos malayanus - Sun bear)
  • Sun bears feed on a wide variety of foods, including crops such as sweet potato, manioc and coconut palms (ripping out and eating the soft growing point of coconut palms), in an opportunistic fashion. They also prey opportunistically on small vertebrates.
  • These bears climb trees to feed on available fruits.
  • Sun bears will tear open trees to reach insects, honey and larvae, feed on insects in rotten wood, and dig up termite mounds, eating the termites directly from the broken mound, or by sitting holding a piece of the mound and taking the termites from the mound, or by licking them off each paw in turn. 

Further information on diet is provided in Helarctos malayanus - Sun bear - Natural Diet (Literature Reports)  

(References are available in detailed literature reports below)

To Top of Page
Go to general Sun bear page

Feeding Behaviour

Source Information

  • Tear trees open to reach bee nests and insects and insect larvae. (B147)
  • Rip out and eat the "palmite" - the soft growing point of the coconut palm. (B147)
  • Dig up termite mounds, then alternately place each forepaw in the mound and lick of the termites from the paw. (B147)
  • A captive bear has been observed to scatter rice given to it near its cage, then catch chickens which came to eat the rice. (B147)
  • These bears use their claws to tear open trees to obtain honey and larvae. (D246)
  • Opportunistically they will feed on a wide variety of foods including crops e.g. sweet potatoes, manioc and coconut palm hearts. (D246)
  • A study of sun bears in lowland tropical rainforest in Borneo found that the bears had four main types of feeding area: decayed standing tree stumps, decayed logs or other wood on the forest floor, fruiting trees, underground termite nests, termite mounds, tree cavities containing bee nests and tree root cavities. Bears were seen breaking open decayed wood to search for beetle larvae, termites and earthworms, feeding on termite mounds, harvesting figs from trees and on one occasion a bear was seen eating the carcass of a tortoise. (J345.13.w2)
    • A bear was observed in a tree, using his right paw to reach the end branches of a strangling fig tree (growing on the other tree), to bring the figs to his mouth, where they were eaten whole. (J345.13.w2)
    • A bear was observed using claws and teeth to break open a standing termite mound in a few places, then licking and sucking the contents. Additionally, he sat on the ground, back straight, held a piece of termite mound and licked termites from its surface. (J345.13.w2)
  • A study of radio-collared bears in Sabah, Malaysia, found that bears which fed in an oil palm plantation did so only at night. (J345.15.w1)
  • A study in Central Borneo demonstrated seasonal use of fruit sources and found that each sun bear defecation contained seeds of a given tree type, and no animal matter, indicative of the bears' tendency to remain in a fruiting tree until its fruit crop is completely depleted. (J365.15.w1)
  • A study in Sabah, Malaysia found that bears foraged in decaying wood for termites, beetles and beetle larvae, also in decaying standing stumps, in tree cavities containing bee nests, in tree root cavity, in termite mounds, in underground termite nests, and in fruiting trees. A bear was observed breaking a termite mound into pieces using teeth and claws, licking and sucking the termites out of the mound, then sitting holding apiece of mound with his front feet and licking termites from the piece. They will also tear open trees to reach honeycombs/honey/bees. It appears that they prey opportunistically on small vertebrates. (Th9.II.w2)
  • The sun bear feeds on fruits, honey and small vertebrates; they may scavenge tiger kills. (B399.5.w5)

To Top of Page
Go to general Sun bear page

Authors & Referees


Dr Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)


Dave M. Augeri, Ph.D. (V.w97), Ellen Dierenfeld (V.w16)

To Top of Page
Go to general Sun bear page