Mexico has a long history of honey (miel) production. Honey was important in Maya culture, a fact reflected in some place names found in the Yucatán Peninsula, such as Cobá (“place of the bees”).
Faced by the arrival of Africanized bees – The diffusion of the Africanized honey bee in North America – Mexico’s modern commercial beekeepers initially feared the worst. With time, they became less antagonistic to Africanized bees, since, whatever their faults, they proved to be good honey producers.
Honey production has been on the rise in the past decade. In 2014, Mexican hives yielded about 57,000 tons of honey a year, making Mexico the world’s sixth largest honey producing country. Mexico is also the world’s third leading exporter, with annual exports of 39,000 tons, worth 150 million dollars, of both conventional and organic honey. Most exports go to the USA or Europe (Germany, U.K., Austria, Hungary, Netherlands, France and Switzerland).
There are 45,000 beekeepers nationwide; the main producing area remains the southeast, especially the states of Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo. Jalisco, Chiapas, Veracruz, Oaxaca, Guerrero, Puebla and Michoacán are also important for honey production.The domestic consumption of honey in Mexico has risen from under 200 grams per person in the 1990s to more than 300 grams in 2010. This is mainly due to the use of honey in processed foods such as cereals, yogurts and pastries.
The major value of bees in an ecosystem is not for their honey production, but on account of their vital role in the pollination of trees and food crops, a contribution valued in the US alone at more than 10 billion dollars.
Views about the pollinating ability of Africanized bees, compared to European or native bees, are mixed. Some farmers dislike having to cope with potentially aggressive bees. Others claim that Africanized bees are far more efficient pollinators than European bees since they forage more often and at greater distances than their European counterparts. The available evidence does not appear to suggest that the arrival of Africanized bees had any impact on crop yields in Mexico.
(a) La producción apícola en México by Carlos Angeles Toriz and Ana María Román de Carlos. (date unknown)
(b) “Mexico ranks sixth in honey production” (reprinted from El Economista on mexicanbusinessweek.com) , 2011.
This post was updated in October 2015.