"In Peru, a Mission to Save the Stingless Bee"

"Native to the tropics, these pollinators are taking a lead role in one of the latest efforts to conserve the Amazon rainforest."

"As a child, Heriberto Vela, an Indigenous resident of Loreto, Peru, watched his father pull nests of wild stingless bees from trees in the Amazon forest. Together, the two then extracted honey from the nests to help cure colds and other ailments.

Stingless bees are native to the Amazon, unlike the more familiar but invasive honey bees from Africa and Europe that have spread through the Americas. The most obvious difference, perhaps, is that stingless bees don’t sting. Their honey, which is runny enough to be drunk like a liquid and is said to have a citrusy aftertaste, is used by many Indigenous Peruvians as a natural medicine.

Mr. Vela’s father didn’t know how to salvage the bees — they would fly away, or even die. “We would take the nests out and leave them lying on the ground in the forest,” Mr. Vela said. “Those bees were lost.”

Today, Mr. Vela’s methods are more sophisticated. His family keeps 76 nests of stingless bees in square wooden boxes perched on sticks and scattered around his home. Each artificial nest has multiple drawers, but Mr. Vela only harvests honey from one, which he calls the mielera, or honey pot, leaving the rest for the bees. “They need it to live,” he explained. “If I take it away from them, they may flee.”"

Katrina Miller and Rosa Chávez Yacila report for the New York Times January 30, 2024.

Source: NYTimes, 02/02/2024