In the verdant Mayan forests and jungles of Campeche, Mexico, a hidden world thrives. This is the realm of industrious bees, tirelessly pollinating the vibrant flora and producing the liquid gold known as honey.
However, the once-abundant honey harvests of Campeche now face a bitter reality. The dual threats of climate change and relentless logging have left their mark on this cherished tradition. As beekeepers struggle to adapt, the future of honey production in this region hangs in the balance.
As one embarks on the path toward the apiaries, nature greets the senses. The crunching of leaf litter beneath one's feet sets the rhythm for the journey. The air hangs heavy with greenery and humidity, providing a sanctuary for those who venture into these mystical forests.
Truly admirable the work and organization of these remarkable pollinators. The worker bees diligently collect nectar from flowers and plants, storing it in their stomachs. Through the magic of enzymes in their saliva, the saccharin is transformed into glucose and fructose.
Upon returning to the hive, the bees divide the labor. Four to six worker bees regurgitate the nectar, depositing it into honeycomb alveoli. The bees then use their wings to generate the necessary warmth to ripen the nectar inside the cells.
The Art of Harvesting Honey
"When the humidity percentage drops below 20, the nectar can be considered honey," explains Pedro de la Cruz, the operational manager of Apicultores de Champotón, the esteemed supplier of Miel Carlota. It is at this precise moment that the bees seal the hexagonal storage cells with a layer of wax. Once 90 percent of the cells are sealed, the honey is ready for harvesting.
In the enchanting region of Campeche, the honey harvest takes place in spring. Whether the apiaries are 20 or 50 kilometers apart, each honey possesses its unique characteristics shaped by the local flora, humidity levels, and honeycomb locations. Pedro de la Cruz highlights the sweet aroma of dzidzilché and xtabentún flowers as defining attributes of their honey.
Beekeeping in Campeche follows a transhumant pattern, with beekeepers following the abundant flowers and optimal conditions. Consequently, multi-floral honey sweetness permeates almost all the municipalities of Campeche, including Hopelchén, Hecelchakán, Escárcega, Tenabo, Calakmul, Candelaria, and Champotón.
In regions abundant with avocado, oranges, mesquite, and other large acreage crops, monofloral honey—made from the nectar of a single species—can be harvested. However, the varied landscapes of Campeche present a unique scenario, as non-honey crops like soybeans, corn, and wheat dominate certain areas.
The Bitter Present
Sadly, the once-virgin territories that provided ideal settings for apiaries have succumbed to the ravages of climate change and excessive logging. The consequence has been a decline in honey harvests. The abundance of blooms, particularly during the crucial first months of the year, has significantly diminished.
The availability of flowers for the bees to gather nectar from is heavily dependent on rainfall, which has been scarce throughout the state. Pedro de la Cruz, who collaborates with over 2,700 producers and 43 distribution centers in Campeche, laments the decade-long decline in honey harvests and expresses a bleak outlook for the current year.
Beekeeping, like any agricultural endeavor, relies on profitable markets. If beekeepers are unable to secure prices that cover their costs, the activity becomes unsustainable, forcing many to abandon their beekeeping practices. Pedro de la Cruz emphasizes the challenging economic aspect of honey production, underscoring the impact of market conditions on the viability of the industry.
However, it's not just the local challenges that threaten the beekeepers of Campeche. An unexpected international factor looms over their honey sales: the war in Ukraine. The conflict has disrupted the sale of Campeche's honey to its primary market, Germany. The urgency to distribute Ukrainian honey quickly, along with lower taxes, logistics advantages, and reduced import costs, has made Ukrainian honey a more affordable option for German buyers compared to the Mexican competition.
Qualities Under Wax
To ensure the quality of their honey, rigorous sensory, and laboratory tests are conducted. Pedro de la Cruz explains the meticulous process, which involves taking multiple control samples to check for antibiotics and analyze factors such as color and humidity.
Aromas play a vital role in defining the character of honey, influenced by the surrounding blooms. In Campeche, the distinct note of caramelization from dzidzilché flowers lingers, accompanied by the concentrated aroma of smoke acquired over time.
The flavor is another critical parameter in assessing honey quality. Acidity serves as an indicator of potential fermentation caused by microorganisms or excessive heat during processing. Lower acidity levels are associated with higher-quality honey.
Color varies depending on the specific flowering sources. Multifloral honey from the Yucatan Peninsula ranges from amber to dark amber, while storage can further darken the honey's profile.
The texture is typically liquid and viscous, though crystallization tendencies depend on the honey's origin, composition (glucose, fructose, humidity), and temperature.
Conservation is of utmost importance, as high temperatures can alter the composition and properties of honey, even though its flavor may remain unchanged.
The plight of honey production in Campeche, Mexico, serves as a poignant reminder of the far-reaching consequences of climate change and global competition. Beekeepers face the challenges of diminishing flower blooms, unpredictable weather patterns, and economic pressures. Additionally, the unexpected impact of international conflicts threatens their access to vital markets.
As consumers, we must appreciate the efforts of these beekeepers and the remarkable work of the bees themselves. The unique flavors and aromas of Campeche's honey reflect the relationship between nature, climate, and dedicated beekeepers. Let us support their endeavors and savor the golden sweetness that nature offers, recognizing that the future of honey production depends on our collective efforts to address environmental issues and preserve the delicate balance between human activity and the natural world.
In-Text Citation: rupo Reforma, www.elnorte.com/campeche-ruta-hacia-la-colmena/ar2575326?v=2.