They Decided to Reproduce Them, Before Letting Them Die

FECCEG ecoagricultures producers of Guatemala are saving the bees

CSF I San José I 05 jun 2019

We are suffering the worst climate change and environmental crisis of history. It is a crisis in which everybody participates in a conscious way or not. Scientists call this crisis the Sixth mass extinction, which is a crisis that is affecting around 1millon species like bees and other pollinators.

But in the middle of this crisis, there are people who are saving the bees and their habitats. The honey bees (Apis Mellifera), and stingless bees (Apidae meliponini), and other pollinators are being protected by thousands of rural families, around the world, dedicated to the harvest of organic foods, and Guatemala is not an exception.

Called Mayan or Royal Melipona (Melipona Beecheei)

melipona segunda

The Big Ally: Organic Farming

Through their free agrochemicals cultural practices; eco-agriculture farmers are nourishing the soils, and saving the bees and other pollinators habitats. They applied organic matter and vegetation coverage over the crops so that they can add minerals to the plants, which is going to make them stronger and keep them free of biocides, that alter their immune system and central nervous system of the bees. This practice increases food variety (flowers pollen) in other way bees would not have food because of the urban growth, deforestation, and the expansión con monoculture.

Ecoagricultures do biological pest control that helps with the wellbeing and sustainability of bees and other pollinators. They grow flowers around the main crops, to attract predators or beneficial insects that stop the plagues in the other crops.  Also, farmers use trap crops, which attracts insects that cause damage and keeps them away from the main crops. Another practice is the use of mixed cropping that nourishes the soil and maintains soil fertility. All of these procedures enhance biodiversity and diversify the bees' diet. It also fortifies bees health and habitat sustainability. But it also helps with the plant reproductivity, that later it will become in food.

The Royal Lady Bee of Guatemala

The stingless bee is one of the 20 thousand bee species in the world. It is a native bee from America, and it is the first one to be domesticated by the older Maya civilization and other ancestral civilizations from Mexico and the Amazonian. It is usually located in subtropical and tropical regions. Meliponinos exist since the Cretaceous period, 120 millions of years ago. This tiny bee is in charge of pollinate around 40% and 90% of native trees, this is why it is vital for the agriculture of Central America and South America.

In the south occident of Guatemala, eliponinos tend to forage in coffee plantations in the areas called Boca de Costa, Quiche, Colola, San Marcos, Chimaltenango, and Huehuetenango.

PHOTO 2019 05 08 15 57 35 Called Doncellita(Tetragonisca angustula)

Sticking to trees and house walls that are next to the plant spacing; their docility is what gave them the name of angels (Little Angeles), but is also made them an easy target for searching and taking out their honey and causing the death. This is a type a threat that seems less harmful than monoculture agriculture, or climate changing, but is also risks bees species.

Producers Decided to Reproduce Them Instead of Letting Them Die

In 2015 this situation was observed by the technicians of the Federacion Comercializadora de Cafes Especiales, FECCEG, and it was shared to the community, causing the decisions to rescue and safeguard bees. It is not possible to protect what it is not well known, so learning more about their growth and reproduction, they went to the communities to share the knowledge. The objective: save the species and safeguard the magnificent pollinator service that these bees give to the exportation coffee crops. “We made the decision to reproduce them, and now we can enjoy their honey for consuming instead of letting them die, people used to destroy their nest in order to extract the honey, and bees died during this procedure. Now, after we trained ourselves and share the proper guidance to the producers in the communities, the angelitas population is denser”, said the technician of the FECCEG, Emilio Godinez.

The producers started giving workshops and coaching in the communities. They began with five producers, but the voice was spread up to 70 families of beekeepers. 20 woman and 50 men families heads, administrate 350 hives in 22 communities, and 6 occidental areas of Guatemala. Some of them have 5 to 10 hives, and others have up to a hundred hives. Also, some of them prefer to work with the angelitas, doncellitas (tetragonisca angustula);others, with the Congo Alazan (scaptotrigona pectoralis); or with the Black Congos bees (Scaptotrigona Mexican); Tinsuca bee (melipona yucatanica); but the more risk takers work with the  Royal  Lady bee(melipona Beecheei), which is considered the biggest of all of the bees.

 “Four years later of the intervention, we arrived at the communities, and it is possible to see the reproduction of doncellitas, you can see them on the interior of the hive and as well in the avocados, and coffee crops”, said Emilio. He also added that the honey has more curative properties furthermore they started to recommend the consuming of it to the family, which is attracting new families.

67melipona

Melipona Kishé is one of the products of the small scale producers of the FECCEG.

A Win-Win Relationship

According to Emilio, the producers started to have 5 liters of excedent per harvest, and the FECCEG had to start looking for a new space on the market, and buying the honey from the families, that right now they get 750 kilos of honey per year.

Meliponas honey production is less compared to the production of the Apis Melliferas. Due to their tiny size, investigations show that Meliponas can reach approximately 2 kilos of honey of each hive, meanwhile, Europeans get 40 kilos on each hive per year. According to Emilio: in the case of FECCEG producers, the estimations are very promising; the smallest native bee it gets to produce around 5 to 10 pounds of honey, with a capability of 2 pounds per hive. On the other hand, Big Melipona bee (meliponino Beecheei), it gets to produce up to 20 pounds of honey per hives.

What started as an altruistic acción, it ended up being an opportunity to diversify producers income, and improve the food and nourishment of the families. Commercial Manager of the FECCEG, Juan Francisco Gonzales, said “when we began, we did it with the objective of conserving the species, and to guard coffee crops pollination. It was never aimed to be a commercial matter. But the enthusiasm of the families for the growth and bees reproduction it took them to have an extra production, that it does not represent massive amounts for exportation, but it is valuable in cultural terms because we have made it available in national markets for a lot of people who need, looks for it, and know its curative properties.”

Written By Natalia López

This article is based on the author´s impressions;it does nor represent the views or opinions of CSF

Translated By Débora Solis