The tenth Mesoamerican Conference on Native Bees was held at the Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala. The Conference was organized by the University of San Carlos of Guatemala (USAC) and the Center for Conservation Studies (CECON) which is a scientific research institute of USAC.
Inaugural speech by the Conference Principal Coordinator Dr. Eunice Enríquez
The conference was divided into two parts: three days of classes and two days of lectures, poster exhibit, and vendors. I attended the class ‘Bee genetics’ instructed by Michelle Duennes (University of California Riverside) and Oscar Martinez (ECOSUR).
The Conference had so many exciting lectures, but sadly like in any other conference, sadly I couldn´t materialize myself into several Melinas through time and space at the same time! Or did I…
However, I will highlight and share with you the most critical information and data that can be compared with native bee fauna we have in Atlanta. Furthermore, I will tell you how GAPP was received at the Conference!
Bee Genetics class! With participants from Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, Chile, and the US.
At this point in the game against time trying to help animal and plant species to survive anthropogenic changes to the environment, we know that fauna studies are vital to understanding relationships and interactions between species and their distribution patterns. Most plant and animal species are population indicators on ecosystems health, especially insects. But we also know that at some point we have to stop taking and start conserving by protecting species.
This particular Conference has a unique characteristic that not many scientific oriented conferences have; it encourages and has a specific space for community projects, citizen science and rural and local knowledge on the management of the stingless bee. Stingless bees or commonly known as Meliponinos are native social bee species from southern Mexico, Central America and South America, Southeast Asia, Africa and Australia. Notably, in the Mesoamerican region (a cultural area that goes from central Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Northern Costa Rica), management of meliponinos has a robust prehispanic heritage and importance. It has roots in the prehispanic cultures that thrived before the Spanish conquest. One of those Civilizations were the Mayan, who had an intrinsic and spiritual connection to the management of this bee species.
Madrid Mayan Codex
Terry Griswold, the first lecturer, opened the Conference talking about the “idea” that bee species increases if you go to the tropics, saying its a myth! And it has been proven over the years that bee richness and endemism are more prolific in the cold climate deserts of the world. North America has approximately 5,100 native bee species, with 176 genera, evenly divided among 6 families. Several other lecturers mentioned the importance of museum collections that should be open to the public, and how researchers have an obligation of reviewing these collections before starting a new research project.
Worldwide, several solitary bee species have been managed for crop pollination. Currently, most of this species have not had any substantial issues like Apis mellifera with CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder). But, the problems have been that some of these solitary bee species are introduced to other countries for greenhouse pollination and end up scaping the greenhouse and becoming naturalized; but it is not known if they can become a pest. One example of this is the introduction of Bombus impatiens. This bumblebee species is native to the US and very common in Georgia. it was introduced to Mexico for tomato pollination, and it escaped. Currently, it can be found naturalized in some areas, and it can become a problem, transmitting pathogens and competing for floral resources with native bee species.
||Alkali bee, solitary native bee
||Leafcutter Solitary bee from Eurasia
||Alfalfa and greenhouse crop pollination like tomatoes
||Native from North America
||Introduce from Europe
||Apple, pear orchards
||Red mason bee
||Horned-face bee, a native of Northern Asia, diurnal species.
||Native of Dominican Republic
||Native of Brasil
||Pecan and maracuya
||Native of Philipines
||Sugarbag bee, Native of Australia
The State of Veracruz in Mexico is the third state with the highest floristic richness in the Mountain Mesophyll Forest (oak-pine and acahual humid forest). This habitat has approximately 65 hectares (160.6 acres) left in the state. A native bee survey was conducted in two zones of this habitat. 743 specimens were collected with 71 species identified into 5 families. Several sampling techniques were used. So, this blew my mind! Let me tell you why. In 2011 one of the 16 units that encompasses the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area. 937 specimens were collected and 79 species identified, with 8 new State records, using only one sampling technique. Can you see what I see?!!! The Cochran Shoals unit is surrounded by metro Atlanta, and we know this city is one of the fastest growing cities in the US. Nevertheless, we have an incredible native bee fauna richness that needs to be protected.
Another project that was really interesting was done at the José Celestino Mutis Botanical Garden in Bogotá, Colombia. They did a bee inventory of the garden and found 98 native bee species. This Botanical Garden serves as a recreation and research center, especially for Andean and Páramo ecosystems. This is really interesting because it gives us an opportunity to make a future comparison with the Atlanta Botanical Garden, where we will be doing a survey this Spring!
Last but not least, GAPP was received very enthusiastically by the people who attended the lecture. At the end of the Conference, there was a type of roundtable discussion with three researchers at the table and all attendees listening and ready to participate. Two people mentioned we needed to expand our horizons and follow the lead of the GAPP lecture! Chills!
It was discussed that a platform like GAPP is a good idea to reach and educate about Meliponinos management and culture, but also for the rest of the native bee species. Furthermore, as the Mesoamerican Conference, we needed to change the name to something more representative because we had participants from all over the world. We will be keeping in touch with our counterparts in Guatemala and making the world a better and safer place for bees and all pollinators.