Extinction of Melipona beecheii and traditional beekeeping in the Yucatan peninsula
Rogel Villanueva-G, David W Roubik and Wilberto Colli-Ucan
Rearing of the ‘xunan-kab’ bee (Melipona beecheii) had been practised widely by the Mayans of the Yucatan peninsula long before arrival of the Spanish in the New World, and had been a culturally and economically important activity in that region. Melipona beecheii is kept almost exclusively in traditional log hives. Beekeepers using this bee, from the Maya zone in Quintana Roo state, Mexico, testify to a 93% decrease in hives during the past one-quarter century. Despite concern that stingless bee beekeeping is going extinct, there were scant data to examine direct impact of competition from feral African Apis mellifera, deforestation, hurricane damage and lack of instruction and incentive for new stingless bee beekeepers. We therefore made a survey of beekeepers constituting 20% of the largest traditional beekeeping group in the Americas. These data combined with our field studies, taken over 24 years, suggest that bees are threatened both by environmental changes and by inappropriate management and conservation efforts. Overharvest and failure to transfer colonies to hives or divide them are serious impediments. The major tactics to confront these problems are presented.
Melipona beecheii, stingless bees, Mexico, Maya, Yucatan, traditional beekeeping, meliponiculture