The bees and the humans

The bees, a mysterious insect. Like the ants, the bees make organized colonies where each individual has a well definite task. The males called the drone bees have to fertilize the keen. In addition to come back with nectar, pollen, water and propolis, the worker bees do also many tasks into the hive while the keen is laying many eggs to grow the colony size. Running around the honeycomb, we could compare the bees to the human movement in the megacities. Mysterious by the fact of its structured organization but also for the benefits of its production.

Since the prehistory, the human has always wanted to collect the precious liquid. The 19th century was the golden age for the apiculture. A huge number of books were achieved, about the bees and the hives.

Currently, the bees are endangered.  The monocultures, the loss of territory, as well as the intense use of agrochemicals and pesticides have contributed at the significant drop of the bee colonies in the world. Between 2014 and 2015, The North American beekeepers lost 42 % of their colonies. Even worst in China, in the Sichuan province, where people are obliged to pollinate the flowers with a brush.  The excessive use of pesticides has reduced the colonies to dust. The bees continue to disappear, however, they are indispensable for the humanity. Without bees, the fruit and vegetable productions would be in free fall. It is not necessary to precise that replacing the work performance of the bees by a brush is a huge utopia.

It is in the Yungas, in Chulumani, that we have a meeting with the engineer in apiculture, Marco A. Camacho.

Julien met him four years ago, when he did his thesis in regard to the apiculture in Bolivia. This time, we meet Marcos to make a video report : The bees and the humans.

The yungas, is a unique ecosystem in the world. Localized between the Andeans cordillera and the amazon, the yungas offers a rainy and sunny subtropical climate promoting abundant vegetation and crops. We can meet numerous species of mangoes, bananas, avocados , citrus fruits ( oranges, mandarins, lemons)… the paradise on earth.

The nectariferous  and  polleniferous plants are in abundance. All these plants represent a huge apiculture potential. Unfortunately, the yungas does not escape to the monoculture. Here, there are the coca fields which contribute to the deforestation.

Representing an important economical resource for the farmers, they started to deforest and to plant. The coca leaf, used as medicinal plant by the inca is now imbibed of pesticides, insecticides and other agrochemicals. This is true than the coca is a sacred plant since centuries, but a small quantity is used for the local consumption. A good portion of the crops is intended to the production of cocaine. All this business compromise the future of the apiculture in the yungas region.

However, the honey price is more advantageous than the coca price. The problem is that the farmers are not really specialized in apiculture. Result that the honey production is not optimal and the losses are sometimes important. The second “problem” is that the honey consumption is too low in Bolivia, which does not ease the rapid sale of the honey crops.

It is with Marco, that we visit the several beekeepers, all of them are coca producers ( However, they do it on a responsible way : without any pesticide and without deforesting acres of forest). Marco, engineer in apiculture , is here to suggest and to help to the good maintenance of the several hives into the municipality. He is working with more than a hundred beekeepers, all of them happies to work with the nature and not against it.

During three days, we attend to the apiculture work.

In the goal to understand better this article, here are some important information.

  • The nectar from the flowers is collected by the worker bees. The nectar is foraged by the bees. After various state of regurgitation, the nectar is converted into honey. The honey is used as aliment for the colony and is indispensable for its survival.
  • The polen comes from the stamens. The bee turns around the flower to accumulate the pollen on its legs. Once into the hive, the pollen is converted into a liquid called the royal jelly. Indispensable aliment for the keen and the larvae.

  • The propolis comes from the tree resins. The resins are transported by the bees and converted into propolis. This one is used to disinfect, to seal the hive and to prevent the entry of cold.

First, we review the new colonies. There are young hives, where the keen was introduced few times ago. To know if the hive is in a good health, it is necessary to look the number of bees transporting pollen on its legs. If there is an important entry of pollen, used as food for the keen and the larvae, it means that the hive is in a positive growth. Another positive factor is the number of worker bee eggs (Bees that bring the honey, pollen into the hive) into the hive. Then, the quantity of food. If it is too down, the number of individuals will decrease. For this reason, it is sometimes necessary to feed the bees with syrup, sugar or honey (This help provides food reserves for the bees. In no case, this honey has to be harvested. Unfortunately, in numerous supermarket, we can find very cheap honey said altered. Indeed, some producers give frequently sugar to the bees)

Step by step the colony grows. Thus, it is necessary to transfer it in a larger box. Then, come the harvest to which we have the luck to participate.  The harvest can just be made in the superior boxes. It is very important to leave enough honey for the colony. Once the honeycombs out of the hive, we place it in a centrifuge. You just need to turn the handle to extract the tasty liquid from the honeycombs. Once extracted and decanted, it is just necessary to open the tap and to pack the honey.

In addition to be an excellent pollinizer, the bee produces several products with medicinal properties. The honey, the propolis, the pollen, the royal jelly are nutritive products. Marco tells us : ” various studies were done in regards to the bee products. It is clearly demonstrated that the kids who consume on a regular basis the products from the apiculture have a better concentration. Result that they have better results at school. Furthermore, the beekeepers life expectancy beekeepers is higher. By the way, the different products contain an impressive quantity of vitamins. They also have a function of natural antibiotics and would also have anticancer virtues

In Bolivia, we mainly work with two different bee species. The well known : Mellifera.  This is the most common bee that we can also meet in Europe and all around the world. The second one, is the melipona also called native or wild bee. These bees, sometimes having the size of a mosquito do not have any sting. It results easier to handle these bees as they cannot sting you.  In Bolivia, there are approximately two hundred species and there are a lot which are unknown. It is possible to meet it everywhere: in the tree trunks, house facades etc…. the interest to raise this type of bee is in the honey quality. A honey four times more energetic and vitaminized than the honey produced by the mellifera. Furthermore, each subspecie produces a honey with different flavors and properties.


Honeys with unknown properties that fascinate us.

To end this report, we discuss about apiculture around the lakes of ” El Encanto” where Don Nelson, the owner, get for us some delicious Pacus that we enjoy with cooked bananas and manioc. The beekeepers tell us ” it hurts us when we see the forest burning, we are scared for our bees. We really need to raise awareness about replanting trees. We have to stop to burn the forest because without bees, we are nothing. We would like that our kids could enjoy these rich lands”