Stingless Bees Meliponinae in the Tropics

In the Old World tropics, much more honey could be obtained from honey bees than from stingless bees, and the latter were seldom used for beekeeping. But in the Americas, where there were no honey bees, hive beekeeping was developed especially with the stingless bee, Melipona beecheii, a fairly large species well suited for the purpose. It builds a horizontal nest with brood in the center and irregular cells at the extremities, where honey and pollen are stored. The Maya people in the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico still do much beekeeping with this bee. The hive is made from a hollowed wooden log, its ends being closed by a wooden or stone disk. To harvest honey, one of the disks is removed to provide access to honey cells; these are broken off with a blunt object, and a basket is placed underneath the opening to strain the honey into a receptacle below. Many similar stone disks from the 300s B.C. and later were excavated from Yucatan and from the island of Cozumel, suggesting that the practice existed in Mexico at least from that time.

FIGURE 3 Sir George Wheler's drawing of a Greek top-bar hive. [After Wheler, G. (1682). "A Journey into Greece." W. Cademan and others, London.]

Nogueira-Neto in Brazil developed a more rational form of beekeeping with stingless bees. In Australia the native peoples did not do hive beekeeping with stingless bees, but this has recently been started.

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