A space to protect stingless bees in Loja

The last remnants of rainforest in the township of Puyango are home to the most diverse and abundant stingless bee population in the country. These insects have become an economic alternative for the communities of this lojana area, who have come together to promote their conservation.

Due to its importance, this month the first protection zone for these native bees was created, which, since 2019, are the biological and cultural heritage of the place.

On November 11, the Municipality of Puyango approved 24,523.54 hectares as municipal areas for conservation and sustainable use (Acmus) in addition to the existing 4,461.20 hectares, for a total of 28,984.74 hectares under protection. . Among these, 13,000 ha stand out for the abundance of these insects and the presence of coffee plantations which have integrated sustainable practices. The area extends over the rural parishes of Limo, Ciano, Vicentino, Alamor and Arenal.

Milton Guaycha, technical director of the community of Las Meliponas, says there are around 6,000 bees in this area and it is estimated that there are around 90 species in the southern region of the country. In 2016, members of the different communities came together to motivate the Municipality to declare them as part of the site’s heritage and to implement more important actions for their long-term conservation.

Guaycha, who studied agronomy, was dedicated to spreading the message that these bees are essential for pollination and do not harm humans because they do not have a sting. Before, he says, locals would capture them, extract their honey and leave them. They were attacked and died from this cause.

Through the Commonwealth initiative, the objective is to prevent the extraction of bees from the forest.

The International Foundation for Nature and Culture (NCI), with the support of BOSS +, the Belgian Cooperation and the Andes Amazon Fund, has trained Las Meliponas mancomunidad to properly domesticate bees.
The insects are managed in clinical boxes, which seeks to avoid mortality during their harvest.

Currently, the Commonwealth has 4,600 domesticated honeycombs. The most used species are those called catana, cananambo and bermejo.

Each grower has around 30 specimens in their homes and efforts are now focused on promoting beekeeping tourism. Last year, they received more than 800 tourists, who were able to learn more about the harvest.

The new declaration, Guaycha says, is a big step forward in boosting economic activity and preventing deforestation. In lower areas, locals have shown that corn crops continue to grow, that agrochemicals are used in plantations, and forests are burnt.

Bruno Paladines, NCI Dry Forest Coordinator, says that in addition to habitat loss, native bees are one of the species affected by climate change. For this reason, work began three years ago to identify the abundance of these insects in Puyango.

“Now bees can become a driving force for local communities to engage in conservation,” says Paladines. This new area borders the petrified forest and belongs to the dry forest biosphere reserve.