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Yucatan Honey!

By: Isla Mujeres News

AS YOU ARE TANNING in the sweltering sun of North Beach, thirst inevitably takes over and an ice cold beer sounds perfect. Just then you are relieved to see a vendor approaching you on the beach carrying a bottle filled with amber colored liquid, and he stops to offer you a bottle of ...Honey?

You are not likely to find a honey vendor on many other beaches around the world, but honey and the Yucatan Peninsula have a history that goes way back long before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadores when the Mayan civilization reigned in Mexico and parts of Central America. Honey was an important product for the Mayas who not only consumed it as a sweetener but also used it for medicines and alcoholic beverages.

DETAILS OF BEEKEEPING are described at length in Mayan Codices which tell of ceremonies worshipping Ah Mucen Cab, the god of honey, where a honey wine called balch� was consumed in excess by men only, while women drank sac honey wine of a lower alcohol content. In addition, the byproducts, wax and vinegar, were among the most valued trading commodities throughout Mesoamerica.

The honey sold by the modern beach vendor, however, differs from the ancient honey because the Mayan bees were a stingless species native to tropical and subtropical America called Melipona beecheii. The European honey bees, Apis melifera, arrived with the Spanish conquest, and eventually they became the favored species, because they produced greater quantities of honey in less time making beekeeping more profitable.

Although the honey of the Mayan bees is less sweet and loaded with more protein, each colony yields only about one and a half liters per year. The honey is produced in small cup shaped cells rather than in honeycombs and can only be extracted twice a year with production dependent on the flowering of specific plants. OF THE 500 SPECIES of stingless bees around the world, about 100 are in danger of extinction. Fortunately conservation groups are now spread from Mexico to Brazil reviving the culture of stingless bees which serve to pollinate from 40% to 90% of the native flora. They are thus enhancing the biodiversity of the ecosystem.

In addition, scientists are testing the chemical content of this honey that may offer new health benefits. Traditional Maya medicine prescribes a dose of Virgin honey (Melipona beecheii honey) for cough, laryngitis or digestive problems as well as recommending honey skin cream for treating sunspots, acne, cuts, scars and even hemorrhoids.

THE EUROPEAN AND MAYAN tradition of beekeeping is kept alive today throughout the Yucatan Peninsula where farmers who have only a small plot of land can generate extra income for their families.

Ask for more information about Melipona beecheii honey at elements of the island Isla Mujeres in Av. Ju�rez 64. or send a mail to [email protected] or you can visit Meliponario Nohyumcab, Calle 35 No. 208 x 46 & 48. Col. Candelaria, Valladolid.

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