The Past, Present, and Future of Meliponiculture in Mexico



Accounts on ancient meliponiculture are not abundant for the Americas. Most pre-Columbian evidence comes from Mexico, in particular from the Yucatan Península. Early accounts from Spaniards indicate that outstanding levels of husbandry and large concentrations of colonies of Melipona beecheii (‘Xunan kab’ in Mayan) were present in the region. An extensive and probably monopolized trade of honey and cerumen with distant territories may have supported the economy and the development of Mayan civilization. Rich manifestations of the intricate bond between the Maya and Xunan kab are still found in the complex cosmogony and mythology associated with the cultivation of these bees (Jax et al. Ecol Econ 93:260–268, 2013). The cultivation of M. beecheii still played a crucial role in the Yucatan Peninsula and southern Mexico by the end of the nineteenth century, being important in folk medicine, economy, and cosmology (Velednitsky. Transforming the colony: decolonial processes and outcomes in Melipona bee restoration. University of California, 2011). However, recent changes in the economic system, accelerated a loss of indigenous knowledge and practices, including traditional stingless beekeeping. Meliponiculture, considered obsolete and non-profitable, gradually started to disappear (Stearman et al. Hum Ecol 36:149–159, 2008). Nonetheless, in recent decades there has been renewed interest in stingless bees and their conservation, coupled with important efforts by beekeepers, academics, and general public aiming at restoring meliponiculture (Quezada-Euán et al. Bee World 82:160–167, 2001; Venturieri. Criação de abelhas indígenas sem ferrão. Embrapa Amazônia Oriental, 2008; Reyes-González et al. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed 10:47, 2014).


Mesoamerica Yucatan Peninsula Maya Jobon Nahil-kab Ah-mucen-kab Madrid Codex Xunan-kab Colel-kab Henequén Sugarcane Taxkat 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Apicultura Tropical, Campus de Ciencias Biológicas y AgropecuariasUniversidad Autónoma de YucatánMéridaMexico

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