Melipona honey is becoming extinct

Melipona bee

The melipona bee, which produces raw honey like the melliferous raw honey, is the native bee of America. Meliponic bees, like their sister bees, are suffering a great deal of damage to their survival.

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Melipona bee or stingless bee

In the city of El Saber, a town located in Panama, Central America, there are numerous hives of honey bees or stingless 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, like European honey bees, 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 for their personal consumption from the Melipona bee, a wild, harmless, stingless bee.

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.

Honey abundance:

In Panama, the European honey bee is a domesticated species capable of producing honey in sufficient quantities for commercial exploration. The national production in Panama of honey from the European honey bee between 1977 and 1981 exceeded 750,000 liters of honey, as Hermógenes Fernández, a researcher for the newspaper “La Estrella de Panamá”, indicated.

However, this pattern changed in the early 1980s with the arrival of the African bee from Brazil, a very productive but extremely aggressive species of bee native to Africa. The Africanized bee was brought to Brazil years ago to study it and increase honey production in the Americas, but in an oversight in the laboratory, it escaped and managed to settle without difficulty in South, Central and Southern North America.

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

This year’s production has been more than 150,000 liters of honey, that is, since 1991 approximately 80% of the annual production of honey in Panama has been requested, according to Fernández.

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

A few decades ago, the collection of “stick honey”, known as honey produced by honey bees, was an ancestral custom in the rural areas of Central America. This honey is harvested in small quantities, extracting it from the hives that are built in the hollows of the trunks of the largest trees.

Honey from melipona bees is a scarcer honey, composed of a greater variety of flowers, with a lighter body and color. Its taste is much richer than honey from honey bees, according to the locals of Panama who consume it.

Melipona bee on the hand

Picture 1: Melipona bee poses on one hand

Bees in danger

Meliponic bees are threatened by the following factors: deforestation, the increase occupied by cities, agricultural fields and livestock, leaving them less and less natural spaces for their natural development; and secondly, by the arrival of the African bee.

According to Carlos DiTrani, beekeeping specialist from Indicasat: African bees leave early for pecoreo and return later than meliponas, destroying the nectar resources of the flowers and displacing the others.

Another doctor specializing in beekeeping and honey, Dr. Roubik, also adds that meliponic bees are more common within tropical forests than outside them. In the case of African honey bees, it costs them less to manage outside the forests than inside them. That is to say, the natural space of the melipona is the forest, and the more it is destroyed, the easier it is for the African bee to colonize the territory.

Young people leave the honey sector

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

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



The Star of Panama newspaper:

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