Gwen of the Bug Girl’s Blog has written a neat little story in Wired Science about the native Mexican stingless bee, Melipona beecheii.
“Women Work to Save Native Bees of Mexico” is about a group of women intent upon resurrecting the ancient art of stingless beekeeping in Central America. Their work is helping to save the bees and, at the same time, is supplementing the family income.
Once upon a time, stingless bees were common in Central America and average families kept them for their honey.
But stingless bees produce only a fraction of the honey that European honey bees produce. So with the introduction of Apis mellifera, stingless bees were abandoned in favor of greater honey returns.
Since that time, the stingless natives have encountered trouble. Pesticides, loss of their favorite forest habitats, and competition for pollen and nectar with European and Africanized honey bees have hurt the native bee population.
But now they are getting a boost. I urge you to read the article. It includes great photos and a short video of the women tending their bees.
I’ve heard many times that the honey of stingless bees tastes like nothing else on Earth. Whenever I read about them, I want to pack my bags and head south in search of just one little taste.
Do you know of a way to get started with these bees? Are there queens or packages you can buy? I wonder if they are more for dry desert climate or humid tropical one?
About 500 species of stingless bees are found in tropical and sub-tropical areas of the world. However, I don’t know if they can be imported to the US or not (you could read the Honey Bee Act of 1922) and, in any case, I don’t know if they would survive here.
Thanks so much for this post! I KNEW there were honey bees in America before the Europeans arrived, but I could not prove it. Now I can show doubters the proof. Thanks again!
Interesting. Here’s another you might enjoy:
Actual meliponas definately can survive in the usa. When de soto came to nc and tn appalachain mountains he vistited the mound builder the chiaha people. He had several foods with stingless bee honey in it.
Also unc university in nc have hived located in the pedimont of nc in chapel hill.
It is said there old range used to be southern ca, central south america the caribbean the southeastern usa up to PA.
I have heard of some private keepers in texas who sell them
Interesting. Would you share your sources?
Katie, I am very interested in the stingless bees in Texas from private beekeepers. I live in Gonzales Texas. Your help would greatly appreciated.
Yes, I would also like to get a hive for my greenhouse here in Bastrop (next to Austin, Tx). I would be very happy if you could introduce me to a few, or leads.
De sotos accounts of the chiaha culture. Nc state university keeps a hives of meliponas as well.
Certain species of Meliponas can survive in various regions they exist in the andes mountains where it does get cold. Lamas, alpaca, and vicuna trive up there.
Several of my relatives say they know people who keep hives in texas and southern california.
When talking amoung other native anericans of north america there was rumored to be meliponas as far north as pa at one point in time.