Mandaçaia Bee Honey (Melipona quadrifasciata anthidiodes)

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There are several species and subspecies of mandaçaia bee, which are found in different environments. Melipona quadrifasciata anthidioides (or MQA) species, which is larger and lives at higher temperatures than other species, is found in northeastern Brazil. Mandaçaia is an indigenous word that means "beautiful guard,” because if you look in the entrance to the hive there is always a bee there, on guard duty. The MQA is a Brazilian social bee with a black head and thorax, an abdomen with broken yellow stripes in the middle of each segment, and rust-coloured wings. It is also known as amanaçaí, amanaçaia, manaçaia and mandaçaia-grande. These bees measure between 10 and 11 mm in length and make their hives in hollow trees. The entrance to the hive is made from geopropolis – a mixture of mud with resins extracted from plants. The honey is liquid due to the high moisture content, which means it has to be stored in a refrigerator to prevent it from fermenting.

The bee species very well suited to rational beekeeping and can be found all along the Atlantic coast, from north to south. Honey from the mandaçaia species is produced sporadically in some local communities of the semi-arid region of Bahia, as an additional source of income. This activity is carried out by women in particular, mainly in the area of the Piemonte da Chapada and the municipalities of Capim Grosso, Serrolândia, Várzea da Roça and Quixabeira. In a good blooming season a single mandaçaia beehive can produce 1 to 1.5 liters of honey per year. Mandaçaia honey is currently produced for consumption at home and/or sold to order. It is used both as honey and as a medicine to treat flu, coughs and breathing problems.

According to reports, a series of dry years in the 2010s have seriously affected local biodiversity and honey production. Another factor that is causing a fall in the numbers of the species has been the practice of destroying hives just to consume the honey, by meleiros. This is the name given to people who are only interested in the product, without sustainable techniques to harvest the honey. This practice has a cultural aspect among foraging activities in the semi-arid region, which is changing with awareness-raising and the introduction of new practices.

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