What is meliponiculture ?

The stingless are stingless bees that live mainly in hot countries, they make their hives in tree trunks and even underground. Protective action hives sometimes through the use of chainsaw…

In Europe and on the North American continent, the main problem of pollinators is the discharge of chemicals into the environment. Gaucho, Cruiser, Poncho… These products are especially guilty of the gradual disappearance of the honeybee (apis mellifera). "Here, In the Amazon, we do not have problems with pesticides. Especially in the region of Loreto, who lives apart from the rest of the world, because there is no route. No way to easily carry pesticides… », explain José Carlos Garcia Morales, member of La Restinga association, In Iquitos, heart of the Peruvian Amazon.

Carlos Garcia Morales, de La Restinga

Carlos Garcia Morales

Agronomist, José Carlos Garcia Morales work since two years for the preservation of native bees : The melipona, a stingless bee species are living in tropical countries (South America, South, Africa, Asia, Australia). It is a "social" bee , from the Apidae family (melipona ), who lives in colonies such as the European bee (apis mellifera).

The main problem here, In the Amazon, comes from a wild and destructive way to harvest honey. But deforestation, "That destroys the habitat of bees". In Peru, the action of La Restinga arises in terms of education of the local population, so that they can learn to exploit the forest, main natural resource, without prejudice to swarms. This requires awareness operations and the use of chainsaw !

To isolate the swarms, it is necessary to cut the truncated sides of the hive. You can then carry this section containing the colony, in specific conditions, to the site of the future hive. After a few days, once bees accustomed to their new environment, the trunk can be opened "gently" with a chainsaw and stakes. "Get the swarm must be carefully, so as not to break the structure or stress bees. Younger specimens can not fly yet , they must be moved manually to the new shelter ". No need of protection, as they do not bite. The meliponiculture is also an educational activity for all.

The main rules of meliponiculture

  • When you close the box of the new hive, we let only a small hole which is the enter and exit for the bees.
  • As an aperture of the hive, it is imperative to put the same input tunnel that was on the tree trunk.
    Important fact, cardinal orientation of the input must be the same to ensure the return of bees.
  • The new hive must be sealed with clay, so that other insects do not fit : ants, cockroaches, butterflies, termites, mosquitoes.
  • The hive is placed vertically on a wooden holder and then we coat the feet of this tray with a natural repellent.
  • Do not forget to regularly check the inside of the hive. we shall remove by hand any intruders and their eggs.

Later, we can divide the swarm, to achieve two hives. Only can be divided hives that produce larvae, visible white area in the brood, and have many workers. Thus, By this technique of breeding colonies, it is no longer necessary to cut down trees to harvest honey. Harvesting of bee products is done directly in the "honey pots" and "pollen pots", using a syringe to aspirate the content. This is a very technical, sensitive and caring, careful not to deplete the colony.

An ancient practice

Maya pottery of the God of honey (Mexico)

The meliponiculture was developed in Central America and South America before the arrival of European settlers. At that time, Indians got honey and wax stingless bees. Later, "Normal" “bees” were brought from Europe and, in the twentieth century, from Africa. Mayas, for example, were great meliponicultors. The activity has traditionally been performed almost throughout tropical America ", says Juan Manuel Rosso-Londoño, PhD Colombian, in the magazine Sciences au Sud (Number 67, nov.-dec. 2012).

Pre-Columbian civilizations such as the Mayas were already practicing "meliponiculture". places with dozens of traditional hives are described by the first Spanish conquistadors in the sixteenth century. From 1549, bishop Diego de Landa, reports that meliponiculture is a major agricultural activities of the Mayas. Bee, symbol of sunlight to these civilizations, is often depicted in many paintings of Central America.

For thirty years, through studies carried out in Brazil and Mexico, governments, scientists and NGOs interest has greatly increased for this activity. The meliponiculture is useful in more ways than one :

  1. This is an ancient tradition of indigenous peoples.
  2. This honey has great medicinal value.
  3. The stingless bees are the main pollinators of the Amazonian jungle.
  4. They are part of biodiversity (the stingless bees have more than 600 species when Apis are only represented by 7 species).
  5. These bees are local species, perfectly adapted to the environment.
  6. This activity helps to support the family economy.

Small amounts but excellent qualities !

Association La RestingaThe annual harvest of honey produced by one stingless bee colony varies between 200 grams and 5 kilos. It depends on the species of bees, and on the vegetation around. On average, 3 kilos per hive is what we can get. This is very little compared to the production of honey bees : on average 20 kilos. However, the stingless bees produce incomparable quality honey , strong flavor, slightly acidic. Royal jelly is even incorporated into honey. It’s super food ! "The high rate of humidity is a source of frequent chemical conversions that generate a significant production of hydrogen peroxide and gluconic acid, two powerful antiseptic ". Its antibiotic activity is higher in order to avoid fermentation. In laboratory tests, Melipona honey therefore has a stronger inhibitory factor bacteria than normal honey bees. The website beeking.com recalls that in Nicaragua, honey mixed with milk powder is used as a beauty mask. The "jicote" honey is preferred to any other to sweeten teas and thereby increase their healing power. In Cuba, it is applied on burns and wounds to accelerate cicatrization. In Brazil, we put few honey drops in the eyes to cure conjunctivitis.

Some hives from stingless bees :

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