No bees, no life

Maíz de Vida

Did you know that there are more than 20,000 species of bees around the globe? Their survival is fundamental to ecosystems and food production. Did you know that a bee lives less than 40 days, visits fewer than 1000 flowers, and produces less than a teaspoon of honey? All in a life’s work for a busy bee.

The Guatemalan Department of Alta Verapaz is a region with the greatest diversity of Melipona, a genus of bees. The Q’eqchi’ people have wide knowledge of how to work with these bees. In this region alone, there are 22 different species of Melipona bees.

Melipona are native to Mesoamerica, unlike Apis mellifera, which was introduced by Europeans. Melipona lack stingers and have smaller bodies, but also make honey.

Guillermo Delgado is one of the meliponiculturists who has worked hard to rescue native bees. Q’eqchi’ Mayan Marta Cú from the María Auxiliadora community spoke to us about the medicinal properties of honey produced by Melipona bees.

“Depending on the species of bee, some types of honey are good for your vision, others are perfect for fighting anemia thanks to their high iron content,” she explained, adding that for the honey to be more effective, it’s important to have medicinal plants and flowers close to the hives.

Another meliponiculturist told us that she inherited her bees from her grandma. “I am motivated to take care of these bees so that they don’t disappear. My grandmothers told us that we had to go look for them in the hills and rocks,” she said. The majority of pollinating species rely on biodiversity for their sustenance. Because of this, their
existence is threatened.

Have you tried it?

Maíz de Vida’s project La Dulzura de la Naturaleza (Nature’s Sweetness) promotes meliponiculture in Q’eqchi’ lands by caring for native bees and their ecosystems. The honey produced by these bees has medicinal qualities, so it’s important to preserve and promote efforts to protect them.

Native bees constitute one of the most efficient ways to conserve biodiversity. Their cultural value, including the medicinal and commercial benefits of Melipona honey and wax, has been recognized by the Mayan people since ancestral times.

The project benefits four meliponiculturists from Colonia Las Doncellas, where they rescue and care for bees, selling honey as a part of their work.

If you would like to get some Melipona honey and learn more about these bees, we recommend you visit the Facebook page La Dulzura de la Naturaleza and support efforts to protect native bees.

Meliponiculturists tell us that life force is found in these bees. Bees mean biodiversity. They protest, saying no to deforestation (habitat destruction). No to clear-cutting. No to agrochemicals. No to pollution. But yes to the rescue and growth of bee populations.

Against life

According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food (MAGA) Guatemala is the country that produces the most palm oil in Latin America. In just one year (2020), it produced 411 thousand tons, requiring the use of 183,748 hectares.
Between 2003 and 2020, Guatemala lost 769,248 hectares of forest. The type of forest that saw the greatest loss was broad-leaf humid tropical forests, which lost 1,394,150 hectares.

Petén and Alta Verapaz were the departments where land occupation by the palm oil industry increased the most.

Monocrops like bananas, plantains, sugar cane, and oil palms cause a massive reduction in biodiversity. By destroying biodiversity, we are ending the lives of pollinators.