Melipona bees are a species endemic to the Yucatan Peninsula, where they are known as Xunan Kab, which means “lady bee” in Mayan. This small insect has a long history among Mayan communities for its medicinal properties.
Its qualities were used by ancient Mayan priests for healing and therapeutic purposes. The wisdom they had about bees and their value was recorded in numerous ancient codices, such as the Trocortesian codex, or Madrid Codex.
Today, Mexico is among the top 10 places in honey production and exportation. In fact, beekeeping is a fundamental activity in the Yucatan Peninsula. According to SIACON data, in 2016, According to SIACON data, in 2016, Yucatán ranked first nationally in honey production.
Yucatán has at least, 87 producers dedicated to meliponiculture, including 40 women and 47 men distributed in 24 municipalities.
Something about bees
There are approximately 400 different species of stingless bees in the Americas. In Mexico there are 46 types, of which 30.4% are endemic. Of these species, Melipona beecheii (Yucatan Peninsula), Scaptotrigona mexicana (Gulf and Central Mexico) and Scaptotrigona hellwegeri (Guerrero) stand out.
Bees play an important role in the maintenance of biodiversity, as they pollinate 30 to 40% of the plant species in the ecosystems where they live. They are responsible for the pollination of plants such as: Achiote, Botoncillo, Framboyan, Habanero chile, among others.
Currently, these insects face various risk factors such as: pollution, agrochemicals, habitat fragmentation, climate change, invasion of secondary vegetation, just to mention a few. In the case of the Yucatan Peninsula, more than 80% of the melipona species has disappeared.
Meliponines are docile bees that live in colonies composed of a queen and several tens or thousands of workers and drones.
Life of the Melipona bee inside the hive
They are therefore highly social bees. Their nests are formed in holes in tree trunks and even in abandoned beetle shelters or in the living lairs of termites and ants. One of their main characteristics is the absence of a stinger.
Ecotour: Taste of Honey and Coconut
Honey and coconut are the perfect combinations! That is why we chose the tour “Sabor a miel y coco” (Flavor of honey and coconut) so that travelers can get to know Yucatecan beekeeping and enjoy the beaches and mangroves of the Yucatecan coast. This tour starts in Sinanché, to arrive there, travelers have to travel one hour from Mérida. Here, a family promotes beekeeping tourism to revalue and raise awareness of the care of bees. There are five cabins where visitors learn about the history of Sinanché and the tools and techniques for collecting honey, pollen, and propolis. In addition, visitors can participate in honey-tasting wax candle workshops. Finally, for the adventurous, there is the option of putting on a beekeeper’s suit and visiting the beehives to interact with the bees.
The most renowned honey is the product of the characteristic tree of the region, Dzidzilché, which results in honey with a thick and aromatic consistency. Multi-flower honey is also produced, each with different characteristics in color, flavor, and thickness. Therefore, the different types and flavors of honey depend on the flower.
The tour continues to San Crisanto, characterized by its coconut trees. There you can eat, drink and buy accessories made from coconuts. In addition, the cooperative offers mangrove tours, visits to the Dzonot Tzik waterhole, and beachfront cabins.
In conclusion, we cannot allow the Melipona bee and its honey to be used without an immediate benefit for the meliponiculturists. Travelers can support socially responsible projects that benefit the Mayan communities. Above all, at Rutopia, we firmly believe that we can continue to learn from the local communities.