Recovering native bee populations, improving rural livelihoods, and empowering women
What is meliponiculture?
The ancient practice of managing native stingless bee hives
Bee populations worldwide have been threatened by massive deforestation, climate change, and other factors. Indigenous bees, especially, are under threat when traditional agriculture gives way to clearcutting, monoculture, and pesticides. Fewer bees mean fewer pollinators, fewer crops, and more poverty.
In Nicaragua, we're protecting biodiversity by reviving the ancient tradition of meliponiculture, the management of native Melipona and Trigona bees, as practiced by the Mayans. Native bees, which nest in hollow trees and ground cavities, provide valuable ecosystem services, pollinating native flora in dry tropical forests as well as valuable cash crops.
Native beekeeping alleviates poverty and benefits communities. Wild bees are brought home by beekeepers who help restore and maintain healthy bee colonies, and harvest honey and other hive products. Honey provides a steady source of calories and a means of income for the beekeeper and his or her family.
To train meliponiculturists to restore bee populations, revive a rich cultural history, and help individuals and local cooperatives save local ecosystems and launch new business ventures.
Participating rural households are working together to improve hivekeeping for native stingless bees. Our meliponiculture coordinator has helped establish cooperatives to share resources and best practices, and is helping both cooperatives and independent producers find new markets for their honey and other hive products.
We work with three groups of producers in the La Flor and Ostayo watersheds to:
Improved livelihoods: Meliponiculture will help improve livelihoods through honey harvests and sales. Our meliponiculture program empowers women as entrepreneurs, provides food security and income from hive products, and helps gather and disseminate traditional medicinal uses of honey.
Ecosystem Services: Recovering native bee populations will help restore biodiversity in the La Flor and Ostayo watersheds, and provide increased ecosystem services in terms of pollinating cash crops.
Advancing Science: Working in clearly defined areas (we have chosen the La Flor and Ostayo watersheds) will allow us to conduct valid scientific studies of the ecosystem services provided by the bees. Increasing the scientific study of native bees (important indicator species) will also help us gauge biodiversity in the regions where we work.
Local beekeepers use a variety of structures for cultivating their bees. Many containers are wild bee nests burrowed in hollow logs or tree branches. Typically these hives, called troncos, are unmodified once they are removed from the wild, but the ends are stoppered with dried earth, wooden boards and nails, or plastic bottles surrounded by earth. However, sometimes the logs are altered with wooden boards to enable an easier harvest of honey.
In Southern Mexico, clay cooking pots have been adapted for hives and Paso Pacífico plans to experiment with this approach in Nicaragua.
The Future of Bees
We are working to expand our workshops to additional communities. You can follow bee updates on our blog.
Support our efforts to restore native bee populations. Donate today.
PO Box 1244 • Ventura, CA 93002-1244
Carretera a Masaya Km 12.4
Residencial Villas del Prado, Casa No. 7
© 2006 Paso Pacífico