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Zooming in on Mexico

Size

1,958,201 km 2   (60,000 square miles).

Population

83.5 million

GNP

US$1880 per capita (Agriculture accounts for 9% of GNP).

Honeybees

No species of Apis are native to Mexico. Apis mellifera of European origin arrived in Mexico around 1520.

Africanized honeybees were first identified in September 1986, in the state of Chiapas, and have now been identified in 16 of Mexico's 29 States. They reached Texas in October 1990. A co-operative plan for the control of Africanized bees was initiated between the Mexican and US governments. This resulted in pheromone treated bait hives being positioned to capture swarms and, if found to be Africanized, the swarms were destroyed. This programme ended in September 1990.

Beekeeping

As in other countries, it is beekeepers Practising on a small-scale who have been most adversely affected by the arrival of Africanized bees. Such beekeepers lack financial resources to deal with the problem. Medium and large-scale producers are more likely to have resources and incentive to deal with the new bees. It is probable that, as happened in Brazil, honey production will decline in the short-term but will recover when new management practices are established.

Hives

Traditional: hollowed-out trunks of palms or softwood trees, wooden crates, baskets, gourds, pottery, timber or whatever is available.

Modern, low-technology: top-bar hives are not widely used.

Modern frame: Dadant hives. Commercial beekeepers, many of whom manage more than 1,000 colonies, often use equipment manufactured in the US.

Melliferous vegetation

Vegetation ranges from wet marshland to desert and from tropical lowland jungle to high alpine vegetation. The dry, high plateau in central Mexico is important for flowers in the summer, when hives are migrated up to this area. The Gulf coast and Yucatan peninsula are areas of high rainfall, while the north-west region is most productive agriculturally.

The rich flora of the Yucatan peninsula has made it a world-famous honey-producing area, and today it supports around 510,000 colonies each yielding 40-45 kg honey. One of the most important melliferous species is tajonal, Viguiera helianthoides, a yellow flower which thrives on land abandoned after slash and burn agriculture. Other important species here are Vitex gaumeri, and Gymnopodium antigonoides.

Number of beekeepers

50,000 plus.

Number of Apis mellifera colonies (kept commercially)

2,400,000.

Recipients of Beekeeping and Development

70

Beekeeping department

Departamento de Apicultura, Mexico

Beekeeping association

Union Nacional de Apicultores, Mexico.

Equipment supplier

Miel Carlota SA, Mexico.

Honeybee diseases

Acarapis woodi, American Foulbrood, Chalkbrood, European Foulbrood, Nosema.

Honey production and export

49,000 tonnes per year of which 80% is exported, mainly to Germany, US and the UK.

Stingless bees

Beekeeping with stingless bees was widely practised before the introduction of A. mellifera, and there has been a resurgence of interest following the arrival of Africanized honeybees.

Journals

General: Apicultura Moderna (Instituto de Investicacién Apicola de México, AC, Apartado Postal 5-855, Guadalajara, Jalisco 45000, Mexico).

Stingless bees: U T’an Yik'el Kab (Calle 25 No 273, entre 26 y 28, Colonia Miguel Aleman, Mérida, Yucatan, 97148, Mexico). A new journal, first edition January 1991.

Further Reading

The honeybees in New Spain and Mexico (1988) Brand, D D. Journal of Cultural Geography 9 (1) 71-82.

Co-operative efforts in genetic control of Africanized honeybees in

Mexico (1989) Iwamoto, R H Jr. In Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Apiculture in Tropical Climates, Cairo, Egypt, 6-10 November 1988.

Migration of Africanized honeybee swarms in Chiapas, Mexico (1989) Ratnieks, F L. In Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Apiculture in Tropical Climates, Cairo, Egypt, 6-10 November 1988.

Important plant species for apiculture in Ejido Plan del Rio, Veracruz, Mexico (1989) Villanueva, GR. in Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Apiculture in Tropical Climates, Cairo, Egypt, 6-10 November 1988.

Usurpation of managed honeybee colonies by migratory swarms in Tabasco, Mexico (1989) Vergara, C; Dietz, A; Perez, A. American Bee Journal 129 (12) 824-825.

Pollination tests with Africanized honeybees in southern Mexico (1991) Loper, G M; Danka, R G. American Bee Journal 131 (3) 191-193.

Many more articles and papers are held in the IBRA library.