Saturday, March 04, 2006

The Colonizers Become the Colonized

casa montejo bee coloniesYou may wonder why this bee blog is showing you a picture of a building. Well, it's like this: We just took a midwinter break, a quick run down to Merida, Mexico – a city in the Yucatan, and I look for bees everywhere. I thought the most exciting bee-attraction in Merida would be it's large open market (the biggest on the whole peninsula), a place I'd *surely* find interesting honey and bee products. However, as we were walking along the zocalo (the central square and park for the city), I noticed bees flying behind and around giant crests on an impressive old building.

The facade was stone, which means that no one in their right mind is ever going to try to cut those bees out (standard operating procedure for bees nesting in most houses). But what is MORE interesting is that the building was the home of the conquistador who first took Merida from the Mayans, a guy named Francisco de Montejo (not to be confused with his cousin, also Francisco de Montejo... but we shouldn't pick on the unusually close family ties of the Spanish nobility, should we?)

So the colonizers are now the colonized! But let me share one more thing with you.

The Mayans kept stingless native bees before the Spanish arrived, but these have gradually been replaced by European races of honeybees (which I understand to be somewhat more honey-producing than the stingless ones – there are projects to try to save them). But most, meaning perhaps 100%, of the Apis mellifera bees in the Yucatan are now Africanized: the killer bees we have been taught to fear by mindless moviemakers.

In case you wanna know, not 10 feet above the heads of the people passing through the busiest square of the largest city in the Yucatan are 4 colonies of Africanized honeybees, buzzing in and out with much better things to do than to bother anybody else.

1 comment:

Steve Middleton said...

I thought South America was awash with killer bees - or just an urban myth. Here in England we are having problems with viruses killing our domesticated bees, and many of our unique species or varieties of bumble bees are close to extinction. I love sitting in an old fashioned English country garden watching the enormous bumble bees working happily away at the flowers - especially lavender.