SBEES is one of the chosen One Health Network Funds 2021/2022 projects, led by Dr. Mario Castro.
Stingless bees (Apidae: Meliponini) play a substantial role in the ecology, economy, and culture of many communities, especially in South America. They act as the main pollinators for many native florae and cultivated tropical plants. Their products such as honey, pollen, propolis and cerumen have also been used as a source of income for generations while creating an imprint on the culture of native communities.
Nevertheless, in recent decades, stingless bees currently face several environmental threats including the extensive deforestation of native forests, accelerated expansion of urban areas, excessive use of pesticides and fertilizers, agriculture intensification and the introduction/spread of exotic competing bee species.
In this context, meliponiculture – i.e., keeping stingless bees for their products – is becoming more important for research not only as an optimal strategy for the conservation of bees and their environment but also for their economic value. In general, meliponiculture also promotes a variety of good environmental practices from different viewpoints in the society, maintains the traditional knowledge of native beekeeping and generates a link with innovation and scientific development. In Bolivia, meliponiculture remains an incipient activity although many indigenous communities have an ancient relationship with stingless bees. In Guatemala, the Maya tribe have also practiced meliponiculture for many years. Nevertheless, traditional knowledge is getting lost over time which must be recovered and supported by new techniques to generate a successful practice of beekeeping.
Considering this, the project, therefore, aims to optimize the sustainable development of meliponiculture. This is to be achieved by documenting its traditional use in health while promoting good practices and commercialization to have a positive, direct impact over ecosystems as well as human health in cultural landscapes in indigenous communities in Bolivia and Guatemala.
For this, an interdisciplinary methodology is to be designed, which consists of a research component and educational interventions at the various processes of the production chain of meliponiculture: from the producers to consumers. Ultimately, the SBEES project is relevant, taking into account the One Health vision, as it seeks to promote a sustainable interaction between stingless bees, humans and the environment.