Bees Bees Bees, So Many Genera!

A short  missive from the land of the Maya:

    We took a little break from the cold and came down to the Yucatan for the holidays.  Of course the first thing I did when we made it to home base in Merida was to hunt down a beekeeper.  According to the one shop owner/beekeeper (apicultor) we spoke with, for genus mellifera bee keepers, their busy season runs from January to May. He has around 200 Langstroth hives and sells a thin, sweet, aromatic, fruity honey in plastic 1 Liter bottles (1400grams) for 150 pesos or around $7.50.

    If his labels are any indication, they have more stringent labeling requirements here than we do in NC as he has full nutrition information, net weight (in grams and ounces), full contact information including business name, phone, address, and email.mayan-honey-label
    I wish I had a refractometer with me to test this honey…It’s hot as blazes here (95F yesterday!), but still, it doesn’t seem like this honey is anywhere close 18.6% water, as it flows like water…A very different honey from raw WNC honey.  What’s really exciting though is that they have several other genus of honey producing bees here that I have spoken with folks about.
Tigona and Melipona!!!
  These are little, stingless bees with small colony size that naturally live in hollow trees, and are kept in hives of hollow logs or clay pots.  The genus Melipona bees have a horizontal brood nest (like a stack of pancakes on a stick) sometimes surrounded by sheets of wax forming a kind of ball around the combs.  They make little wax pots outside (around or beside the brood nest) with openings at the top to store nectar in!  They are just crazy amazing.  I’m trying to schedule a visit to “bee planet” (abeja planet) just South of Merida.  They’ve shipped all their Melipona bees to Valladolid for the ‘winter’ but still have some Trigona bees at the site.  So close to Christmas though, in this Catholic country, it’s not easy getting together with people in the mad holiday rush of pre-Christmas festivals and shopping.
    If anyone has contacts or knows of bee sanctuaries/demonstration apiaries/bee keepers here in the Yucatan near Merida, please let me know, as I’m not sure I’m actually going to be able to pull off a visit with the folks at bee planet (they’re officially on vacation until after we head back to the US).
I’m pretty amazed by these tiny, stingless, honey collecting bees!
    Here’s an image of their little horizontal, pancake-stack style brood chamber:
    Here’s a top view showing the organization of the hive with little pots between the brood nest and entrance:
    A google image search for melipona bee will give you loads more to look at, but this guy has some really beautiful shots (aside from the water mark he uses to copyright the images:

Top Bar Hive Plans

Wasatch Beekeepers Association Top Bar Hive Plans

For the originals go to:

and search for ‘top bar plans’ or see images copied below.

These plans from the Wasatch Beekeepers Association in Utah, by David Bench are extremely well drawn with clear dimensions and steps outlined right on the diagram.  They also take into account using standard sized lumber, and bars that match the length of Langstroth hives–a consideration that can prove very useful in a mixed hive-style apiary or when sharing bees with friends using different equipment.

Though our design has been slightly modified from these, they were a great starting point. We don’t use their legs, feeder, or top bar designs, preferring rather to simply cut a hole in the back of the hive for a standard boardman feeder to slide into (though we no longer feed our bees…see research on regarding feeding issues).  We’ve also modified the window design to create more of a light trap to prevent sunlight from coming into the cracks around the window opening by using glass the full length of the side, also eliminating the need to cut a hole out of one solid piece of wood.  This is easier and allows for smaller lumber to be used just cut two full length boards with grooves to hold the window in place.

For the top bar, we’ve found simply cutting an 1/8″ shallow groove down the center of the top bars is adequate eliminating several passes on the table saw for each bar.

A big thanks to David Bench and the Wasatch Beekeepers Association for publishing these hive plans!


It’s just deer corn, treated seed won’t hurt anybody right?

While it would be easy to draw that conclusion from these inaccurate assumptions:

  • people aren’t going to eat it
  • it doesn’t even have flowers, bees won’t get hurt right?
  • it’s not like we’re spraying anything


Here’s the problem:

What the bigger picture?  Honey bees alone are given credit for pollinating one third of all food consumed by humans.  These insecticides are directly impacting pollinator’s ability to survive.  Without pollination, the global food system is at risk–our ability to feed humanity is at risk.

New York Times:Decline of Pollinators Poses Threat to World Food Supply, Report Says