Saturday, March 16, 2013

Stingless Bees of Costa Rica

Kathy and I recently returned from a wonderful trip to Costa Rica.  It was basically an eco-tour, arranged by a former classmate of mine who has retired from Iowa State University and has taken groups to Central America for more than a decade.  We saw beautiful scenery, many wonderful birds, reptiles and mammals, ate terrific food and made new friends.  It was a great time, and with the slow emergence of spring I'm wishing I were right back there!
One side trip we took was to a huge pineapple plantation.  It was very interesting learning how they are planted, harvested and selected for either fresh pineapple, juice, or what have you.  As we were enjoying our treats at the end of the tour, I noticed some small insects very busy, coming and going, at the base of a column that supported the open serving area.  I looked closer, and noticed many small insects flying in and out of a small tube going into a crack.

My guess was they were some type of bee.  Jim, my friend and our guide, who also keeps bees at his home near Ames, concurred that they were likely a type of bee.  When we got back to our resort, I went online and did a little research.  There are many species of the stingless bees in Costa Rica, Apidae Meliponinae, and a little research will show similar bees to these little golden ones shown above.  Many will create the tube entrance to their hive.  Though stingless, they will ward off intruders by massively flying at the intruder, getting into eyes, hair, ears, etc.
One site indicated that though small, and unable to produce the quantities of honey when compared with the European honey bee, the ease of working with them makes them very attractive in Costa Rican apiaries.  Partly this is also because of the strains of Africanized bees they would work with otherwise.
I found them very interesting, especially discovering that they are actually kept for their honey production.  A couple of interesting links follow:


Costa Rica Apiaries

10 Degrees Above

Adios!

4 comments:

  1. Did you bring a hive back' if so I will buy a swarm if you let me

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  2. Hi, no, we didn't bring any back. I'm sure that would have taken an act of Congress or something. The only insects we were afraid we might have accidentally brought back were bed bugs, which we encountered on our last night's stay. They are AWFUL!

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  3. We have a group of stingless bees currently building a beautiful "cone" on the front of our house as I type. I didn't know what they were and removed their contruction numerous times. They just keep coming back. I have never been stung and they haven't come at me in droves. Not sure what to do with them. Like I say, I have removered their cone about 5 times. Each time I do they return.

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  4. Hi, Dean. Where are you and what is the size of the bees? Those we saw in Costa Rica were very small, only about half a cm. long. Be interesting to see a photo of the cone they produced. The ones we saw created a kind of tube entrance.

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