Repopulating the melipona bee communities in Mexico

An effort to save Mexican bees.

By Dania Vargas Austryjak Wednesday, June 3, 2015 comments

The whole world has been buzzing about the increasing loss of bees, a phenomenon that has affected spores and seeds. Why? Simple: bees are fundamental for pollination, which is basic for maintaining a good balance of plants, fruits and vegetables in the world. Under such context and paying a little higher attention to the millennial American bee -the melipona bee– has also suffered significant declines in their populations. To target this glocal issue (local with global impact), local communities in the Yucatan Peninsula have gathered and joined forces, in order to save and repopulate this species of bee.

The real Melipona beecheii bee, -known for the absence of its stinger-, is native of the American continent and mostly found in tropical weather, like that found in the Yucatan Peninsula, where Tulum, Quintana Roo was considered as the cradle of these bees. These small insects are of huge importance; since they help maintain the jungles of Quintana Roo, along with the ecological balance of the area, reason why it is extremely important to recover the melipona bee communities.

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A problem arose when European bees were brought to Mexico. This then led to a difficult situation, since keeping the melipona bees turned into quite a hard task, carried out only by a few native communities. This unfortunately, led to losing up to 80% of the communities in the last 20 years. This species is a bit more delicate than others, and produces less amount of honey; nonetheless, it actually provides higher health benefits for humans.

Today, the intention is to recover traditional bee keeping methods, those used by local communities. Such is the case of the women-only organization “Co’oleel Caab Collective”, which has been keeping bees as their way of helping their community, by repopulating this species… another important task they undertake within this entire labor, is generate extra income, by selling natural remedies based on bee-products, such as honey, wax and herbs.

A larger organization, “Melipona Maya Foundation”, has the purpose of rescuing hives and producing new ones; they have taken those traditional methods kept by the communities and also contributing with modern ones, to create a method that will end up breeding more and more bees, expecting to produce 5,000 hives in 5 years; being able to produce honey and in the long run representing an economic benefit for all the participants.

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