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Mexican Stingless Bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae): Diversity, Distribution, and Indigenous Knowledge

  • Ricardo AyalaEmail author
  • Victor H. Gonzalez
  • Michael S. Engel


Stingless bees (Apinae: Meliponini) are highly eusocial apine bees commonly encountered in tropical and subtropical areas of the world but are more diverse in the Western Hemisphere. In Mexico, stingless bees represent a relatively small fraction (2.6%) of the large bee fauna of the country, but the economic, social, and cultural impacts they have are like no other in the world. When compared to other countries with more diverse stingless bee faunas, a large percentage (41.3%) of the total number of Mexican stingless bees are exploited by indigenous people in the country at least since pre-Colombian times and possibly well before. Stingless bees played a significant role in Mayan religious views and today they are directly or indirectly used for diverse purposes, including managed pollination, medicine, crafts, and folk art; while honey, wax, and pollen are regularly extracted and sold, thus providing an important source of income for indigenous and non-indigenous populations. Herein, we summarize the diversity, distribution, origin, and traditional uses of the stingless bees in Mexico. We also discuss the challenges and future directions for the study and conservation of this important lineage of bees.


Indigenous Knowledge Cloud Forest Tropical Evergreen Forest North American Lineage Mountain North 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We are indebted to Amy Comfort de Gonzalez, Claus Rasmussen, David W Roubik, Miguel Ortega, and Silvia RM Pedro for constructive comments and suggestions that improved this contribution, to Patricia Vit for inviting us to contribute to the present chapter, and to Carlos Balboa, Jorge Mérida, and Manuel Guzman for the images of Melipona and Scaptotrigona. Partial support was provided by US National Science Foundation grant DBI-1057366 (to MSE). This is a contribution of the Division of Entomology, University of Kansas Natural History Museum.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ricardo Ayala
    • 1
    Email author
  • Victor H. Gonzalez
    • 2
  • Michael S. Engel
    • 3
  1. 1.Estación de Biología Chamela, Instituto de BiologíaUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)San PatricioMexico
  2. 2.Southwestern Oklahoma State University, Biological SciencesWeatherfordUSA
  3. 3.Division of Entomology, Natural History MuseumUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA

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