Mayan history originates in the Yucatan around 2600 B.C. where the Mayan culture grew to bee quite advanced. Along with all their skills in astronomy, architecture, cylindrical systems, and hieroglyphic writing they were also farmers and yes even Bee Keepers. They thought of their bees as pets and as part of nature. Bees were treated as gods with all the powers of Mother Earth. The word for bees is “CAB” which means land, bee-hive, or bee honey. The Mayan deity, Muzen Cab, was The Great Guardian of Honey or the great Lord of Bees. There was also a Bee God, Mok Chi, who could transformed into Bees. The Mayan apiculture is very spiritual and complex and was strongly related to the days of the calendar, as explained in the Madrid Codex.
The beehives in Mayan culture were positioned towards the four cardinal points that hold the universe. Each cardinal point or “Bacab” had its importance. For example the eastern Bacab was in the direction they believed was where honey was produced. The Mayan apiculturists were experts in bee husbandry and collected honey from many of the 500 species of stingless bees. They favored the Melipona Beechei Bonnet, a bee they knew as Xunan Kab. translated as Royal Lady.
The Royal Lady is a stingless bee, whose honey is known for its high nutritional and medicinal values. This honey was used as a sweetener, an antibiotic, and to make the fermented honey drink called ‘balche’ an alcoholic drink used in ritual practices. Today their descendants keep their stingless bees in hollow logs just as their ancestors did before them.
According to ancient Mayan myths, the first inhabitants; called Zayawinicoub, ate up all the royal honey they were harvesting. To avoid facing death as punishment from their gods, Hobin (god of the beehive) turned them into stingless bees so they could restock the honey.
So, you see beekeeping has a long history in many cultures across the world and throughout time. Many people today think of bees as a small group of honey producers that came from Europe. The scientists of today seem to only be concerned with these few bees. I think these are the same scientists, who in the 70’s, said they could prove that a bumble can’t fly. Talk about reveling in one’s ignorance…WOW!!