Meet the Stingless Bees Producing Medicinal Honey


| LAST UPDATE 04/10/2022

By Hayden Katz
stingless bees medicinal honey

In the Peruvian Amazon, there are a species of stingless bees that are able to help beekeepers. The honey they produce has been nicknamed "miracle liquid" thanks to its medicinal properties. "Stingless bees are bringing life back to the Amazon," explained Rosa Vásquez Espinoza, Biochemist, and National Geographic Explorer. Here's what to know about the fascinating discovery.

From being used as a balm to a psychoactive drug, honey has been deployed in ways other than a sweetener since ancient times. More recent publications have studied the sticky substance and found that honey made by stingless bees, or meliponine bees, has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and wound healing properties. This is because honey has a chemical in it that gets rid of microbial and fungal growth so that it doesn't go bad in the tropics.

peru amazon stingless bee
TacioPhilip via Getty Images
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Those living in the Peruvian tropics have utilized honey for its benefits in many ways. Whether it be to treat upper respiratory infections, skin conditions, gastrointestinal problems, or even treat diabetes and cancer, it has many medicinal benefits. "We use the honey for food and medicine," said a beekeeper in San Francisco, Peur, named Heriberto Vela Córdova. "For food, we use it with coffee, bread. For medicine, we use it for bronchitis, pneumonia, burns, skin cuts, colds, arthritis." But still, more research needs to be conducted to understand the substance's full potential. 

Since these insects are unable to sting it makes them much less dangerous to raise. Yet still, they do have that ability to bite with their mandibles, which can be quite painful. At this time there are roughly a hundred families in the Peruvian Amazon raising the golden species. The stingless bees are typically kept in rectangular boxes that provide easy access to the bees' sugary secretions. Honeybees, on the other hand, are raised in globular compartments called honeypots. But not only are these species less harmful to keep, but they also are able to aid the community by providing special honey, income, and even pollination benefits to the area that needs it. The families that learned how to raise stingless bees from Cesar Delgado, with the Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonía Peruana (IIAP), are able to get a steady income. Also, they help pollination, because they no longer depend on getting honey from forest bees, which hurts the important pollinators.

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