Melipona honey is becoming extinct

Melipona bee

The melipona bee, a native bee from Central America, produces melipona raw honey. A honey that is very scarce and sought after in Europe for different issues. Similarly, the melipona bee, as our melifera bee, is dying out in their origin countries for unclear reasons. Also, in these American countries, each year fewer people want to be beekeeper. They prefer the oportunities of the city with better paid jobs. In other hand, this honey has such fantastic characteristics that in many American countries it is used as a medicinal product.

In addition, we have contacted a beekeeper in Cuba. This beekeeper is giving us first hand information and making us discover the fantastic melipona bees. He has also given us the opportunity to taste this honey by bringing us some jars directly from his hives. So, if you would like to discover first hand our experience with this honey, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Index:

  1. The melipona bee or stingless bee
  2. Characteristics of melipona bee honey
  3.  Endangered bees in South America
  4. Young people abandon beekeeping
  5. Melipona honey in Spain

Summary: The melipona or stingless bee is a very characteristic bee that lives in Central America. However, its population is indecline, because each year there are less beakeepeers and young people no longer want to take up beekeeping and replace others beekeepers. As a result, melipona honey is becoming increasingly scarce on the market. However, with our shop in Las Rozas de Madrid we want to support the producers of this honey. Furthermore, you will also find here the largest variety of raw honeys in Spain: heather, eucalyptus, thyme, lavender, rosemary, manuka, acacia…

Related articles: Raw unpasteurised honey.  Where to buy raw honey. Types of bees in the world. Melipona bee proteins may be more potent than antibiotics.

1. Melipona bee or stingless bee

In the city of El Saber, a town located in Panama, Central America, there are numerous hives of stingless bees, the melipona bees. Exactly in Patios, outside the Institute of Clinical Research and High Technology Services (Indicasat) in Panama.

Some of these bee colonies have settled inside hollow tree trunks. Others have been moved by beekeepers inside specially designed wooden boxes inside hives.

These meliponic bees are the native bees of Panama and they also produce high quality honey.

Before the Spaniards came to these lands and brought the European honey bee, the natives of Panama also collected honey from these melipona bees. They collected its honey for their personal consumption nand health uses.

However, with the introduction of the European honey bee and other crops such as sugar cane, the natural environment of Panama has been modified. At the same time, traditional wisdom was lost, such as knowledge about the bee without a hole, the melipon bee. These are some of the reasons of the decline of melipona bee.

quote about honeybees

Photo 1: Quote about honeybees

2. Characteristics of melipona bee honey

Honey from melipona bees has its own characteristics, different to melifera honey:

  1. It is more fluid
  2. Its colour can range from brown to a clear almost transparent, although the colour will depend on its floral source.

These would be the differences at first sight. However, in the laboratory we could measure others different characteristics.

  1. Higher acidity
  2. Higher humidity, which can reach 30 %.
  3. Sometimes this honey ferments, and when it does, it increases some of its beneficial properties for health.
  4. They have a large amount of flavonoids.

Melipona bee on the hand

Photo 2: Melipona bee poses on one hand

3. Endangered bees in South America

In Panama, the European honeybee is a domesticated species capable of producing honey in sufficient quantities for commercial exploration. Between 1977 and 1981, Panama’s national production of honey from the European honeybee exceeded 750,000 litres of honey, as Hermógenes Fernández, Indicasat researcher, reported in the newspaper “La Estrella de Panamá”.

However, this pattern changed at the beginning of the 1980s with the arrival of the African bee from Brazil, a highly productive but extremely aggressive bee species native to Africa. The Africanised bee was brought to Brazil years ago in order to study it and increase honey production in the Americas. However, due to an oversight in the laboratory, some afrian bees escaped and managed to settle without difficulty in South America, Central America and southern North America.

The arrival of the African bee caused devastating damage to the European and Melipona bee, reducing honey production in Panama very considerably. Production fell from 750 000 litres to 70 000 litres in 1986. Subsequently, the situation for European bees improved only slightly.

a) Production in Panama

This year’s production amounted to more than 150,000 litres of honey, i.e. approximately 80 % of Panama’s annual honey production has been ordered since 1991, according to Fernández.

Regardless of the situation of the European honey bees in Panama, the native melipona bees are currently becoming extinct without the international echo that other species have.

A few decades ago, the collection of “miel de palo”, so called honey produced by melipona bees, was an ancestral custom in rural areas of Central America. This honey is collected in small quantities, extracted from their hives, which are built in the hollows of the trunks of large trees.

Furthermore, honey from melipona bees is a scarcer honey. These bees made its honey with a greater variety of flowers, producing a lighter colour honey. Its flavour is much richer than melifera bee honey, according to Panamanian locals who consume it.

Melipona bees are threatened by the following factors:

  1. Firstly, for deforestation, the increasing occupation of cities, agricultural fields and livestock, leaving less and less natural space for their natural development
  2. Secondly, by the arrival of the African honey bee.

According to Carlos DiTrani, a specialist in beekeeping at Indicasat: African bees leave earlier to forage and return later than melipona bees, taking away the nectar resources of flowers and displacing the others.

Another doctor specialising in beekeeping and honey, Dr Roubik, also adds that melipona bees are more common inside tropical forests than outside them. In the case of African honey bees, they are less difficult to manage outside forests than inside them. In other words, the melipona’s natural home is the forest. Furthermore, the more the forest is destroyed, the easier it is for the African honey bee to colonise the territory.

4. Young people are abandoning beekeeping

It is becoming increasingly difficult to find free hives in the wild. Furthermore, at the same time, there is less and less interest in collecting honey, especially among the younger generations, who value natural products and nature less and less.

On the other hand, if the reintroduction of the melipona bee is encouraged, it would help to develop the rural territory, reinforcing native species, promoting the pollination of wild flowers and ensuring the maintenance of an ancestral knowledge acquired over centuries.

5. Melipona honey in Spain

We currently have no Melipona honey available in Spain. However, we are looking for suppliers to supply it to us. At the moment we have several import problems and legal problems. One of the main problems is the high costs and customs clearance. The second is that Europe does not recognise melipona honey, considering it only as a syrup.

Also, due to the great success of this honey, we are thinking of going to visit a producer country to get this honey. We have also been contacted by small beekeepers, but we are looking for ways to sell them.

 

Source:

The Star of Panama newspaper:  http://laestrella.com.pa

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