Xunán Kab, the Maya bee in danger of extinction
Xunáan kaab is the name given in the Yucatec Maya language to the stingless bees of the genus Melipona and / or to the honey of them obtained that gathers certain distinguishing organoleptic characteristics. The people from Yucatec Maya descent in Belize might known them also as “Viejas”.
The breeding (of the bees) or the production of (the honey) xunán kab (lady bee or lady honey) in Maya, is a pre-Columbian ancestral cultural tradition still current in some Yucatec Maya communities.
The Maya domesticated the stingless bee (Melipona beecheii) from which they obtained honey and wax, both products used in the religious ceremonies of the Mesoamerican people. The wax was used for the production of candles and the sweetener, among other uses, for the production of Balché, a sacred wine among the Yucatec Maya.
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 keeping is going extinct, there were scant data to examine direct impact of competition from feral African Bee Apis mellifera, deforestation, hurricane damage and lack of instruction and incentive for new stingless bee keepers.
Photograph by Belize Yucatec Maya
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