In the ancient Chinese pseudoscience of feng shui, energy forces are used to harmonize people with their environments. In the heart of Yucatán, Queen Bee Honey has set out to create a new kind of feng shui—one that harnesses the powerful and sacred energy of the Mayan melipona bee.
In 2014, Begonia Quijano found her calling. On a field trip to the biosphere of Calakmul with a local NGO, Quijano experienced the sensation of real organic honey from Calakmul, through a family living just outside the boundary of the reserve. Forced to switch from agriculture to apiculture due to legislation, the family had established a hive on their land, and it was this honey, presented on a simple Mayan pancake of homemade tortilla, that awakened Quijano to the possibilities of apiculture. “I had never tasted honey like this,” she said about the experience, “and I knew immediately that the honey and the culture of the bees was something worth sharing with the Yucatán people. I also knew I had to learn everything I could about apiculture, including how to speak Mayan.”
Over the next year and a half, Quijano lived and worked in Calakmul, developing relationships with over 50 families engaged in apiculture. With a priority towards teaching the communities best practices in production, quality and sustainability, Quijano was able to positively affect social and economic change while building the brand and a loyal clientele in the Yucatán peninsula for Queen Bee Honey. And then she discovered melipona.
“I have something special to show you,” the beekeeper said, as he walked Quijano toward a 200-year-old zapote tree. “In here you will find the elixir of the Mayan gods, the melipona.”
The stingless melipona bee is indigenous to the Yucatán peninsula, producing a honey that has superpowers both medicinally and nutritionally. Each wild hive is different in terms of its environment, with unique flavor profiles that take on the flora it inhabits. The melipona produce far less honey than it’s domesticated counterpart, which is partly what makes the bees and their honey so valuable. However, it is the energy the melipona bring to their environment, their feng shui, that has the new breed of architects, landscape and urban designers so excited.
As an agricultural entrepreneur, Quijano is challenging architects and landscape designers to broaden their perspective on how best to create ecological harmony, and in her mind, incorporating a meliponario is a great place to start.
“I come from a family of architects so I understand the thoughtfulness that goes into designing a space that blends natural materials with the function required of it,” Quijano shared. “In a way, the meliponario is an excellent example of form and function working together in the best possible way. So integrating them into garden environments in all manner of projects is the next logical step in protecting the species and creating ecological harmony.”
As passionate as Quijano is about melipona, her new focus is on helping urban designers create spaces that will help the meliponario thrive. “Melipona are very sensitive to their surroundings, even picking up on negative energy,” said Quijano. “If they’re not happy, they will leave, so our job is to assess the project and the environment, and help the architect or designer create a space the bees will do well in.
Having a meliponario in your home, hacienda or hotel is the next ‘cool’ thing but it takes a lot of planning and careful execution to be successful. “Melipona are my babies,” Quijano said, “requiring water, food and care. Mostly you have to pay attention to them—to make sure they’re protected from rain, that they have adequate space to thrive in and that they are safe from predators.” Quijano has developed a checklist to help with the assessment process and is excited about the creative possibilities in designing the structure that holds the hive. “I bring the hive to the environment, but the architect or designer can bring their imagination to the structure that supports the hive,” said Quijano.
“The hive is like a piece of art that needs a frame, and this is where I see the magical qualities of the melipona meeting the inventive minds of creatives here in Merida.”