Forgot your password?

We just sent you an email, containing instructions for how to reset your password.

Sign in

  • In the heart of the Mayan jungle on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico lives a tiny, stingless bee known as Melipona beecheii and they are purposely committing suicide. Long before Europeans brought honey bees (Apis mellifera) to the Americas, native Mayan bee keepers harvested honey from the log nests of stingless bees native to the Yucatan jungle.

    These tiny bees are endangered as beekeeping is becoming a global monoculture and Africanized honey bees produce more honey. In the Mayan tradition, a priest harvests the stingless bee honey as part of a religious ceremony two times a year. These native bees are already starving due to deforestation, forest fragmentation, and hurricanes reducing the availability of the floral resources they need.

    This particular bee colony is located in Xel-Ha, an astounding eco-park along the Mayan Riviera coast. There is a full-time employee who is the beekeeper. She is of Mayan descent and explained that because of modernization, many of the beekeeping ways in her community are being lost. She protects the bees.

    On the ground surrounding the supports which hold the bee pyramid aloft are pools of water. This keeps the Tiger Ants, a vicious predator, away from the bee logs. According to the beekeeper, she has noticed that during years where there are more hurricanes on the Yucatan peninsula, the little bees practice an interesting behavior. They kill themselves.

    Bees will crawl out of the entrance to the log, step gingerly to the edge of the wooden support, then throw themselves into the pools of water below the pyramid to die. Sometimes hundreds of them, sometimes only one. While I am interviewing this woman, a tiny bee does just that. She forgets about me, the cameras, and what we are doing.

    Knocking me aside, the slight beekeeper dives for the bee that cruelly threw himself into the waters below. She scoops him up in her hand, cradling him carefully. Gently, she blows on his wings to dry them, then plops the bee on the ceremonial table in front of us.

    We lean in closely and hold our breath as she whispers, “Vivir!” The bee shakes himself off, crawls around for a bit, then flies back to his log. She looks at me and smiles. I say, “He’s not going to die on your shift is he?”

    She laughs and says in her thick accent, “NO! NO! NO!” There are so few of these bees left in the world, that saving only a one is a gift to the Mayan people, who treasure them. More importantly, the bees are critical for plant pollination on the Yucatan Peninsula.

    In the 1980’s there was over 1,000 bee hives for this rare bee, in 1990 only 400 hives, and in 2004 only 90 hives were found. It seems to me that the bee is a treasure for all of us – protecting and preserving the oxygen producing jungles that give our earth an atmosphere by pollinating the plants within.
    • Share

    Connected stories:


Collections let you gather your favorite stories into shareable groups.

To collect stories, please become a Citizen.

    Copy and paste this embed code into your web page:

    px wide
    px tall
    Send this story to a friend:
    Would you like to send another?

      To retell stories, please .

        Sprouting stories lets you respond with a story of your own — like telling stories ’round a campfire.

        To sprout stories, please .

            Better browser, please.

            To view Cowbird, please use the latest version of Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera, or Internet Explorer.