Cozumel Mexico Vacation Guide
Traditional Mayan Beekeeper

Cozumel Mexico .net presents the history of Mayan Beekeeping.

Meliponiculture is the Mayan beekeeping tradition which is preserved and can be seen at Xel-Há's Park nature preserve.

The Mayas believed bees had cardinal virtues (traditionally, there are four cardinal virtues: *Prudence – the ability to judge betweenThe four cardinal virtues. actions with regard to appropriate actions at a given time *Justice - proper moderation between self-interest and the rights and needs of others *Temperance - practicing self-control and *Fortitude - forbearance, endurance, and ability to confront fear and uncertainty, or intimidation), and were also treated as a deity associated with all powers that come from earth.

The beautiful sunny days with warm temperatures at Xel-Ha's Park nature preserve are the perfect scenario for bees to enjoy daily dances as they leave their nest in search of food. Eager to make the best for their community, they set out to visit blooming flowers that inhabit the tropical forest of the Yucatan Peninsula. They collect nectar and pollen to produce the most delicious natural sweetener known to humankind; honey!

HoneyHoney has been used for centuries because of its healing properties as a natural remedy to cure eyes (fleshy, conjunctivitis, cataracts), ears (infection of ears), respiratory tract treatment (pharyngitis, laryngitis), intestinal treatment (gastritis, typhoid), and skin treatment (liver and sun marks, skin ulcers). The Yucatan Peninsula is one of the richest bee faunas in the world, and for thousands of years bees were extensively cultured by the Maya for honey, and were honored as sacred creatures. Honey was so precious to the Mayas that it was used for many purposes such as food and medicine, for ceremonial practices, and as a form of exchange for other valuable goods.

Bees were also treated as deity associated with all powers that come from earth. Bees were known in Maya as “Cab”, which means land, bee-hive, bee and honey. One of the mostBee God Mok Chi venerated Mayan deities was “Muzen Cab”; that means Great Guardian of Honey or the Great Lord of Bees. And the Mayan Bee God Mok Chi; transformed into a Bee depicted in the ancient mural to the right. The Madrid Codex (Maya Literature, shown on the lower right side of this page) is a great source that explains the complex spiritual meaning of Mayan apiculture, and their devotion towards bees, honey and beekeeping, which was strongly related to the days of the calendar.

Eastern BacabIt is said that Mayan beehives were positioned towards the four cardinal points that hold the universe. Each cardinal point was known in Maya as “Bacab,” and the Eastern Bacab was the direction they believed honey was produced. As great apiculturists and expert practitioners of bee husbandry, the Mayas collected honey from many species of bees, and out of over 500 species of tropical stingless bees, they favored the Melipona Beechei Bonnet. According to ancient Mayan myths, the first inhabitants; called zayawinicoub, ate up all the royal honey they were harvesting. To avoid facing death as punishment from their gods, Hobin (god of the beehive) turned them into stingless bees so they could restock the honey.

The distinctive characteristic of the Melipona bee also known as the “Mayan bee” or “Xunan kab” (Royal Lady) is that it lacks a stinger and the honey produced has a high nutritional and medical value. The Maya people used the stingless bee honey as a sweetener, and antibiotic and to make the fermented honey drink called “balché,” a ritual alcoholic beverage. They kept their stingless bees in hollow logs (depicted above) just as their descendants do today. Although Mexico is one of the most important honey producers, apiculture of the Mayan bee referred to as meliponiculture, is an activity that has lost its strength in recent years. Deforestation and introduction of Africanized bees to the Yucatan, which produce greater amounts of honey have also caused meliponiculture toMadrid Codex decline and gradually disappear together with the population of Melipona bees, now considered an endangered species.

The work carried out by Xel-Há at the Melponary won an award in 2007 given by he Mexican Centre for Philanthropy which considered it one of the best socially responsible programs carried out. All the activities related to the Meliponary are supervised and supported by the popular Cultures Direction of the National Advice for the Culture and the Arts. Don’t miss the opportunity to encounter and learn more about the Mayan bee during your next visit to Xel- Há!

I hope that you have enjoyed this fascinating feature. The best part about it is that you can experience it first hand! For more information about Xel-Há and how you can make arrangements to visit during your next vacation to Cozumel; simply lick on the "Mayan Ruins" hyperlink below and you will be taken to the site that will allow you to take the tour! We look forward to the opportunity of having you as our guest.

Warm Regards,
Bob Rodriguez
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