Sateré-Mawé Native Bees Honey Brazil
An ancient native legend relates that when Anumaré Hit went to heaven, transformed into the sun, he invited his sister to follow him. She initially hesitated, but eventually decided to stay on earth in the form of a bee so she could look after the sacred forests of guaranà together with the Sateré-Mawé people. The legend was handed down over the generations, describing what the ancient Mawé already knew and what we are now rediscovering: the wild stingless bees (Meliponinae belonging to dozens of species, classified in two large genera, the Melipona and the Trigona) are responsible for pollinating at least 80% of the plant species of Amazonia. Without their patient work, the forest would risk disappearing. A risk exists because the colonies have always been targeted for their valuable honey—its liquidity not only makes it easier to use but also enables it to retain a large array of flavors and aromas from the original plant species together with metabolization products from each bee species. The honey is rare (many of these bee species do not even produce one liter per year) and very sought after, also for medicinal purposes. But if even half a liter of wild honey is indiscriminately removed it means the destruction of an entire colony.
Many years ago the Sateré-Mawé decided to follow the ancient traditions of Mayan meliponiculture, though using some more modern techniques. The Mayans protected the bees by raising them in tree trunks, while the Sateré-Mawé keep them in hives of stacked drawers made of local wood. Their area is home to a variety of canudo bee (scientific name Scaptotrigona, but not yet officially catalogued) which is very hardy and relatively productive: it can achieve up to 8 liters per year of an extraordinary honey with a strong wild flavor. It produces a particularly digestible acidic pollen, and also (fairly uncommonly for Meliponinae bees), accumulates a significant amount of propolis obtained from the resin of dozens of tree species in the virgin forest. This product has various therapeutic properties of great importance where there is no medical assistance available.
Honey from the canudo bee (called “nectar” in Europe for legal reasons) is produced by the Sateré-Mawé Indians, who already had a Presidium for waraná set up by the Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity several years ago. There is a very close link between the two projects since the honey is mainly obtained from Waranà flowers.
About twenty villages are involved in keeping canudo bees but it is aimed to expand the practice to all eighty Sateré-Mawé villages. Current production is still nearly exclusively used for family and community consumption.
The Presidium was created to safeguard the canudo bee and Amazonian forest, but also to give the Sateré people a new economic resource. The main problem with this product is its high moisture content, which makes it hard to keep. The Slow Food Foundation has therefore enlisted the help of experts like Remy Vandame, who have developed feasible solutions such as reducing the moisture content and refrigerating the honey. The main aim now is to promote legislation in Brazil and Europe which covers these products and can facilitate its production and commercialization.
Andirá-Marau Indigenous Area, in the basin of the Andirá and Marau rivers, straddling the Brazilian states of Amazonas and Pará.
40 families belonging to the Sateré-Mawé tribe in the Andirá-Marau Indigenous Area
Tel. +55 9232137368 - 9291405728