Beekeeping in Rancho Las Milpas:
Del Maguey’s beekeeping team continued its work this year in Rancho Las Milpas. The prospect of beekeeping has been welcomed warmly by our partner producer and his family. Don Anastasio, Del Maguey’s maestro mezcalero, his three sons, Rigoberto, Abel, and Pedro are each active participants in the project.
The family’s interest is piqued and it is a wonderful teaching tool. They have come to better understand the important role the bees have in maintaining a healthy ecosystem among the flowering plants in the region.
Although there are commercial methods to cultivate bee colonies, our team, led by Master Beekeeper Elvia Del Refugio Vasquez Salvidar and Jose Mendoza Martinez, is accustomed to rescuing beehives that present danger or fear in urban settings.
Bees are diurnal creatures and each night all scout bees and drone bees return to their hive around sunset. In order not to disturb them, when they are moved they must be transported at night or early morning hours, before sunrise.
For one family that our program helped the risks were real from being stung without proper equipment. In fact, their dog had been killed months earlier for getting too close and not having enough space inside the small patio to escape the bees defense of their home.
A Learning Moment
In Rancho Las Milpas, Don Anastasio identified a colony that lived in a nearby oak tree. This attempted hive capture presented an important learning moment.
Rather than fell this oak tree to gain access to the colony, Elvia and Jose advised that the tree would be injured but would not die if a section of its trunk were exposed to locate the colony.
This process can take days or weeks, depending how skillfully the transfer is done, and that the queen and her nucleus are not scared off to form a new colony.
As the three generations of mezcaleros looked on and participated through the glow of headlamps, Rigoberto, the eldest, skillfully brandished a chainsaw and opened up a section of the tree. The vibration and agitation of the colony was palpable. As they swarmed around furiously, protecting their queen and honey, the protective equipment that everyone was wearing kept the bees at bay.
The following week, we returned and performed some more minor surgery on the tree trunk. The queen it was decided, was living with her nucleus further below the trunk. It was an easy decision to leave the tree and colony be, wherein we can return on our scheduled visits to review how the colony is doing.
Through this process Elvia was able to explain to Juan Uriel, the eldest son of Rigoberto, the anatomy of a wild beehive, while around five honeycomb panels were collected dripping with honey and seen by all as a blessing.