What are the meliponas?
They are stingless bees that inhabit the tropical areas of the world.
In the Yucatan Peninsula there are 17 species. We have worked with two species: the xunáan kaab and the kant sac.
The melipona (Melipona beecheii) is a bee that measures a little more than one centimeter, without a sting, with a rounded torso and a golden-yellow color. It is known as xunáan kaab, which means honey lady in the Yucatec Mayan language. It naturally lives in the trunks of hollow trees. However, it has been domesticated by the Maya since ancient times. To raise meliponas, the Mayas have used hollow trunks called jobones. Wooden boxes have also been used in recent decades. Although the melipona is not particularly aggressive if it feels attacked it will show the strength of its jaws. Melipona honey is light and aromatic.
The bee Scaptotrigona pectoralis, known in the Yucatec Mayan language as kant sak, measures less than one centimeter. It is reddish-brown. It naturally inhabits tree trunks. Their nests have a tubular entrance with several guardian bees, but in the last decades it has also been raised for the production of honey in wooden boxes. Its honey is dense and it is usually dark. This bee is aggressive, and although it does not have a stinger, it attacks in a group if it feels threatened, biting with its jaws, sticking to the hair, and getting into the nostrils and ears.
WHY ARE THESE BEES IMPORTANT?
The native bees have a close relationship with the vegetation of the region. Certain plant species depend on these bees to be pollinated and without them, they can disappear. Therefore, they are very important for the conservation of the environment.
But they also pollinate our food, the plants we need to live. In recent years, bees of all species, and in most parts of the world, have been disappearing. In the same way, there is a growing interest in its conservation by institutions and producers, but it has not been enough to stop the threats that decimate these insects.
The main threat to bees is people: deforestation, urbanization, honey poaching, the use of agrochemicals, the introduction of new species. In addition, the increase in temperature that has occurred in recent decades has affected its survival.
Bees are very important for the conservation of the environment, and for humans they are essential since they pollinate the trees and plants that are part of the diet.
Have you ever wondered what would happen if they didn’t exist?
THE PRODUCTS OF THE BEES
Meliponas collect pollen, nectar, and resin from plants to produce honey, propolis, and bee bread (pollen).
Melipona honey is transformed nectar from multiple flowers. This honey is almost liquid, slightly acidic and has an intense aroma. It ranges from very light shades, yellowish, orange and greenish to reddish and almost black tones. The color of the honey depends on the vegetation, the time when it is harvested. Each harvest is different for these reasons.
This honey is mainly used for medicinal purposes. It has been reported to be useful for digestive disorders, eye diseases, especially cataracts, conjunctivitis and dry eyes; ear infections, respiratory infections, wound treatment, postpartum recovery, fatigue, anemia, skin ulcers, cough, sore throat, asthma and body odor.
Furthermore, it is a main component in the Mayan ritual drink known as balché. Melipona honey can also be used as a natural sweetener giving a very special flavor to food and drink.
BEE BREAD (POLLEN)
Bee bread is the pollen of flowers that has been transformed by meliponas and stored in the hive to feed them. It has a color ranging from light yellow to bright orange. It has the appearance of a fine powder, sometimes dry, sometimes wet, even with the presence of lumps. Its flavor is very strong and its smell is very intense and special.
Bee bread has antimicrobial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. Contains amino acids, lipids, and vitamins. It helps lower cholesterol, helps in diseases of the circulatory system, hypertension, protects from heart disease, as well as strokes. It is also an excellent antibiotic and antiallergic. In addition, it is used as a nutritional supplement, energizer, and natural restorative.
It is a mixture of resins, earth, vegetable balms, essential oils that protect the hive. Propolis helps in the treatment of tonsillitis, respiratory tract infections, influenza, skin problems, fungi and helps in the care of the vocal cords.