A person holding two plastic bags filled with dried herbs and seeds, with trees in the background.

Mayan Bees Face Extinction: The Devastating Impact of Deforestation

Over the past two years, Mayan beekeepers in the Yucatán Peninsula have lost a staggering 5,000 apiaries. This alarming rate of loss is primarily due to the harmful effects of agricultural toxins, a byproduct of industrial farming. Large-scale ranches and landowners, including the Mennonite community, have significantly escalated forest destruction to cultivate export crops and feed for livestock such as chickens, pigs, and cattle.

This combination of deforestation, agricultural toxins, intentional fires, and government neglect is fueling an environmental catastrophe that is spreading unchecked across the Yucatán Peninsula: the mass death of bees. The main culprits are large agribusinesses and their industrial crops, supported by a production model that has been endorsed and protected by political and judicial entities for years.

Government programs that encourage intensive production through deforestation funding, coupled with a lack of penalties for those who disrupt the traditional economic practices of Mayan communities, pose a serious threat to the region's biodiversity. This situation jeopardizes beekeeping, a globally recognized practice carried out by indigenous populations in Campeche, Yucatán, and Quintana Roo, pushing it towards extinction.

In the past two years alone, Mayan honey producers in municipalities like Hopelchén and Tizimín have suffered the loss of at least 5,000 apiaries due to the extensive use of insecticides such as fipronil. This environmental disaster is as devastating as the economic hardship faced by these communities, which have historically relied on honey production as a crucial source of income.

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Beyond the loss of a culturally significant activity passed down through generations, the Mayan communities of the Peninsula are being bombarded with agricultural toxins that often cause irreversible health damage, contaminate water, and decimate local wildlife. This devastation is not happening without the complicity of government agencies at the municipal, state, and federal levels, as well as the official departments responsible for enforcing environmental laws.

On the recent World Bee Day, members of Kabnalo’on, the Mayan Alliance for Bees in the Yucatán Peninsula, convened in Mérida to discuss the catastrophe caused by the expansion of the agro-industrial frontier and how it threatens traditional beekeeping with extinction.