The Piemonte da Diamantina area, in the Brazilian state of Bahia, is dominated by the caatinga, literally “gray forest” in the indigenous Tupi-Guaraní language, an ecosystem found only in the country’s semi-arid region.
This ecosystem is home to the Melipona quadrifasciata anthidioides bee which is much larger than other bees from the same family, and can survive very hot temperatures.
Around 10 to 11 millimeters long, the stingless andaçaia bee (also known as amanaçaí, amanaçaia, manaçaia and mandaçaia-grande) has a black head and thorax, rust-colored wings and an abdomen with yellow stripes that are wider than those on other species. The bees build their hives in hollow tree trunks, using a mix of mud and resin extracted from plants to build an entrance. The name mandaçaia means “wonderful guard” in the indigenous language, and indeed if you look carefully at the entrance to their hives, you will always see one bee keeping guard.
The bees’ honey is liquid, with a multifloral, persistent fragrance, typical of the caatinga. It should be stored in the refrigerator to prevent fermentation.
Women and youth are mostly responsible for beekeeping, which is used to supplement the family income. In a good flowering season, each family can produce between 1 and 1.5 liters. Whether consumed at home or sold locally, the honey is used as a medicine as well as food, to treat flu, colds and respiratory problems.
Due to a long drought that has been affecting the ecosystem for the last 10 years, the local biodiversity and traditional food and agriculture have been seriously damaged. As a result, honey production has declined significantly and the mandaçaia bee is at risk of extinction. Long periods of drought and desertification caused by poor use of the soil, as well as other social and ecological problems, have pushed this bee to the brink of extinction.
The Presidium’s objective is to safeguard the Melipona quadrisciata from the risk of extinction and to protect the caatinga ecosystem. The Mandaçaia bee plays an essential role in pollinating native flora, particularly licuri palms. The Presidium has also been established to strengthen the existing Presidium for licuri, promoting the exchange of knowledge about pollinating the palm and sustainable practices for re- producing the bees. The plan is also to promote the use of the honey in local gastro- nomy, with the support of chefs in the network, so that the beekeepers have further incentives to diversify their activities.
The Piemonte da Diamantina Mandaçaia Bee Honey Presidium is a first step towards the strengthening of the network of stingless beekeepers in Brazil’s semi-arid region.
Bacia do Jacuípe and Piemonte da Diamantina areas, Bahia state
Presidium supported by
IFAD - International Fund for Agricultural Development