Decreasing bee populations have lead to a major reduction in honey production all over the peninsula.
“Less than a decade ago, Yucatán produced between 10,000 and 13,000 tons of honey a year but is currently only able to produce less than half of that,” says apiculturist Nelly Ortiz.
Scientists believe that the main reasons for bee colony collapse include habitat loss and drastic changes in climate.
Colony collapse disorder occurs when the majority of worker bees in a honey bee colony disappear, leaving behind a queen, plenty of food, and a few nurse bees to care for the remaining immature bees.
The use of certain agricultural pesticides has been linked to the phenomena of colony collapse and is now considered one of the main causes of the problem.
“For years Yucatán was a major exporter of honey to Europe, but climate change and deforestation have changed all that,” said Ortiz.
Honey produced in Yucatán has long been considered among the best in the world and is able to fetch high prices on the international market.
Of the 47 bee species existing on the Yucatán Peninsula, the Melipona beecheii is most used for Mayan honey production.
The history of beekeeping in the Yucatán dates back to the ancient Maya. The Maya of antiquity consumed honey as a regular part of their diet, as well as for medicinal purposes and religious ceremonies.
Last year, Leydy Pech, a 55-year-old apiculturist from Campeche, won a historic legal victory against the agricultural giant Monsanto for its use of bee-killing pesticides.
Mexico’s supreme court ruled in favor of Pech — also known as the “bee lady” — who argued that genetically modified soybean crops were adversely affecting the livelihoods of indigenous peoples and the ecosystem of southern Mexico.