To get through our frigid Canadian winter, we usually slip down to Mexico for a few days. This year, we ended up in Acumel, north of the Belize border. When I was young, I knew a gentleman in Florida who owned a couple thousand hives in Central America. The Yucatan Peninsula is honey-heaven for tens of thousands of colonies of Apis mellifera. The neighbouring nominally English-speaking country of Belize (formerly British Honduras) shares the nectar-rich Yucatan with Mexico, so it would not be surprising to learn that an enterprising young American might set up a honey farm there. The thing that surprised me, though, was the beekeeper would routinely leave his Florida ranch and drive down to Central America in his truck to check on his more southerly bees. That’s about 3500 kilometres (2300 miles) – the same distance I was hauling my bees from Lake County, Florida, to Saskatchewan, Canada at that time. His trip seemed a lot more exotic to me than mine…. But that was a long time ago – I doubt he’s making that trek any more. (And my long-haul own adventure ended thirty years ago.)
At an open-air market in Mexico this winter, I was approached by a Mayan couple who had a few jars of fresh pollen in hand. Not all Mayans speak Spanish, but these folks did, so I learned that the pollen was from the city of Merida. They had bought it from a beekeeper, repacked it, and wanted to sell a small jar to me for twenty dollars. Ten dollars. Five? They quickly bartered downwards while I waited silently in my wheelchair. I was impressed by their courage – they were wandering around the market, had no booth, so they could be evicted at any moment. They approached this Gringo in a wheelchair without apparent trepidation. I wish I could have helped them out, but I wouldn’t take any raw food products from Mexico to Canada – raw bee pollen can carry exotic bee pathogens. I left them, but wanted to suggest they change their sales pitch. Not mention buying the pollen from a commercial beekeeper a hundred miles away. Without that honest information, a tourist such as I might imagine that they hand-picked the stuff themselves, in a forest where huge parrots and tiny monkeys watched them plucking the pollen from wild comb while killer Africanized bees hovered around their faces.