Beekeeping and Honey in Belize

Out of Belize where all around you could find green, lush rainforest, comes nature's own healthy product - "Rainforest Honey".

To produce this delicious treat, beekeepers have joined efforts with the conservations groups in preserving the fragile rainforest while reaping the sweet nectar from a wide range of flowering plants to produce quality honey. Using the appropriate management and techniques, beekeepers have greatly reduced the chemicals used in the hive management which eliminates the possibility of pesticide residues in the honey harvest or any of the other bee products produced.

 Along with the MIF/IDB 'Trade Promotion and Business Development' Project, the Ministry of Agriculture has been pooling efforts together to revitalize the honey industry. They have trained 50 beekeepers in basic beekeeping; facilitate financing for the expansion of the beekeeping operation; trained beekeepers in production of other bee products. They also brought in a consultant to develop the standards of honey for Belize and advise beekeepers on the improvement of hive management. Also the Ministry has partially financed the upgrade of the honey processing plant to ensure that beekeepers meet the standards for export.

The creation of the National Honey Council that will be the responsible unit to gear the honey industry in the right direction and increase the income to the producers, has become one of the milestones achieved since the industry has been recuperating from the invasion of the Africanized bees.


Numerous ruins indicate that for hundreds of years Belize was heavily populated by the Maya Indians, whose relatively advanced civilization reached its height between A.D. 250 and 900. Eventually the civilization declined leaving behind small groups whose offspring still exist in Belize contributing positively to the culturally diverse population.

In 1502, Columbus sailed through parts of the Caribbean, but did not actually visit the area later known as British Honduras.

The first reference to European settlement in the colony was in 1638. These were later augmented by disbanded British soldiers and sailors after the capture of Jamaica from Spain in 1655. The settlement, whose main activity was logwood cutting (logwood was used in the past to produce dye), had a troubled history during the next 150 years. It was subjected to numerous attacks from neighbouring Spanish settlements (Spain claimed sovereignty over the entire New World except for regions in South America assigned to Portugal).

It was not until 1763 that Spain in the Treaty of Paris allowed the British settlers to engage in the logwood industry. The Treaty of Versailles in 1783 reaffirmed those boundaries and logwood concession was extended by the Convention of London in 1786. But Spanish attacks continued until a decisive victory was won by settlers, with British naval support, in the Battle of St. George's Caye in 1798. After that, British control over the settlement gradually increased and in 1871 British Honduras was formally declared a British Colony.

From an early date the settlers had governed themselves under a system of primitive democracy by Public Meeting. A set of regulations referred to as Burnaby's Code was effected in 1765 and this, with some modification, continued until 1840 when an Executive Council was created.

In 1853 the Public Meeting was replaced by a Legislative Assembly (partly elected, on a restrictive franchise), with the British Superintendent, an office created in 1786 at the settlers' request, as Chairman. When the settlement became a colony in 1871 the Superintendent was replaced by a Lieutenant Governor under the Governor of Jamaica.

The Crown Colony System of Government was introduced in 1871, and the Legislative Assembly by its own vote was replaced by a nominated Legislative Council with an official majority presided over by the Lieutenant Governor.
An unofficial majority was created in 1892, and this constitution, with minor changes, continued until 1935 when the elective principle was once again introduced on the basis of adult suffrage with a low-income qualification. The administrative connection with Jamaica was severed in 1884, when the title of Lieutenant Governor was changed and a Governor was appointed.

Further constitutional advances came in 1954 with the introduction of Universal Adult Suffrage and an elected majority in the Legislature, the Ministerial System was adopted in 1961 leading up to Self Government in 1964. The country's name was changed on 1st June, 1973, from British Honduras to Belize.

Independence was achieved on September 21, 1981 and a new independence constitution introduced. Belize was then admitted as a member of the United Nations, the Non-Alligned Movement and the Commonwealth of Nations.


Belize's partners in development consist of a number of government and international development agencies. These include multilateral agencies such as the International Bank of Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the European Economic Community (EEC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB); bilateral agencies such as the the United Kingdom Government, Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) the Taiwan and Mexican Governments. The economic cooperation programme which complement and form an integral part of Belize's National Development Plan assists in guiding Belize's development efforts from year to year.

The economy of Belize was traditionally based on forestry, mainly the export of logwood, mahogany and chicle. The country's economy is now based on agricultural development. But in recent years there has been a resurgence in forestry. The main exports are sugar, citrus, bananas, fish products (mainly lobster), timber and garments.

Dairy farming is growing in importance and the livestock industry continues to grow.

Several oil companies hold exploration or prospecting licences. Oil was discovered in the north of the country in 1981, but not in commercial quantities. Tax concessions and other incentives encourage the development and diversification of manufacturing industries which include clothing and textiles for export, plywood and veneer manufacturing, matches, beer, rum, soft drinks, furniture, boat building and battery assembly.


Agriculture currently provides some 71% of the country's total foreign exchange earnings, and employs approximately 29% of the total labour force.

Although about 1,998,230 acres or 38% of the total land area are considered potentially suitable for agricultural use, only perhaps 10 to 15% is in use in any one year. About half of this is under pasture, with the remainder in a variety of permanent and annual crops. The traditional system of "milpa" (shifting cultivation) involves the annual clearing of new land for crop production, however, there is an increasing number of farmers making permanent use of cleared land by mechanical means. A tax is levied on the unimproved "value" of the land.

The expansion and improvement of agriculture is one of the principal aims of national development planning. The Department of Agriculture of the Ministry of Agriculture & Fisheries maintains an Extension Service with officers posted in all districts. Agricultural research is conducted at the Central Farm Research Station into a variety of tropical crops, livestock and pasture. Agricultural research is also done by other non-governmental bodies, such as the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the Taiwanese Mission, within the country. The Ministry provides mechanical, veterinary and quarantine services to farmers and an agricultural training college at Central Farm. Other government services include the Belize Marketing Board, which operates in the buying and selling of producers' rice from the Toledo District, and the Development Finance Corporation, which offers credit to farmers, among others.

Fisheries and Forestry

Belize has a viable fishing industry. During 1996, Bz $24.3 million of marine products were exported. There are laws to protect the rock or spiney lobster to avoid over fishing. There is a closed season between March and July. Export markets for scale fish are mainly in the United States, Mexico and Jamaica.

There has been a resurgence in forestry. Reforestation and natural regeneration in the pine forest (mainly in the Cayo, Stann Creek and Toledo Districts) and artificial regeneration of fast-growing tropical hardwood species are in progress.

List of Fisheries Export Products:

  • Lobster
  • Conch
  • Finfish
  • Aquarium Fish (NOS)
  • Stone Crab Claws
  • Shrimp
  • Shark
  • Dry Sea Farine
  • Smoked Fish

Belize fishing industry - The road to zxpansion

The Belize Fisheries Department was established in 1965 and has been mandated to manage a sector that has been in existence for several generations - the Fisheries Sector. Belize's fisheries are exploited for commercial, as well as for subsistence purposes, and are one of the most heavily exploited natural resources. In an effort to maximize the benefits obtained from the fishing industry, while ensuring its long-term viability, fisheries managers are promoting an expansion in production through diversification of this resource base.

Belize's fishing industry is small and growing; it is an industry with great potential for development.


Up to 1998, population estimates put Belize's population at approximately 238,500.

In 1991, Population and Housing Census showed the main ethnic groups as Mestizo, Creole, Maya and Garifuna. Each other ethnic groups at the time accounted for a small percentage of the population East Indian; German/Dutch and Mennonite. The ethnic groups, however, are heavily intermixed. The multi-racial make-up of the Belizean society includes Chinese and Arabs, and other ethnic groups. Up to Jan. 1997, some 8,672 registered refugees had settled in Belize.

English is the official language and the language of instruction in the schools. Spanish is also widely spoken. It is taught in primary and secondary schools in order to further develop bi-lingualism.

In certain areas of the country, such as the Orange Walk and Corozal Districts in the north and the Cayo District in the west, Spanish is spoken as a mother tongue by the majority of the people.

In the southern Districts of Stann Creek and Toledo, there are people whose first language is Garifuna or Maya.

National Flower

 The Black Orchid (Encyclia Cochleatum) is the National Flower of Belize. This orchid grows on trees in damp areas, and flowers nearly all year round.

Its clustered bulblike stems vary in size up to six inches long and carry two or three leaves.

The black orchid flower has greenish-yellow petals and sepals with purple blotches near the base. The "lip" (one petal of special construction, which is the flower's showiest) is shaped like a valve of a clam shell (hence the name Encyclia Cochleatum) and is deep purple-brown, almost black, with conspicuous radiating purple veins.

National Tree

The Mahogany Tree (Swietenia Macrophilla) is one of the magnificent giants of the forest. Rising straight and tall to over a hundred feet from great buttresses at the roots, it emerges above the canopy of the surrounding trees with a crown of large, shining green leaves.

In the early months of the year, when the leaves fall and new red-brown growth appears, the tree can be spotted from a great distance.

The tree puts out a great flush of small whitish flowers - the blossom for dark fruits, which are pear-shaped capsules about six inches long.

When the fruits mature they split into five valves, freeing large winged seeds which are carried away by the wind. They fall on the shaded protection of the forest floor and germinate to begin a new life cycle. The mahogany tree matures in 60 to 80 years.

British settlers exploited the forest for mahogany, beginning around the middle of the 17th century. It was originally exported to the United Kingdom in the form of squared logs, but shipment now consits mainly of sawn lumber.

The mahogany tree forms part of Belize's Coat of Arms. The motto "Sub Umbra Florero" means: Under the shade (of the mahogany tree) I flourish.

National Bird

 The Keel Billed Toucan (Ramphastos Solfurantus) is the National Bird of Belize. It is noted for its great, canoe-shaped bill, brightly colored green, blue, red and orange feathers.

The bird is about 20 inches in overall length. It is mostly black with bright yellow cheeks and chest, red under the tail and a distinctive white patch at the base of the tail.

Toucans are found in open areas of the country with large trees. They make a monotonous frog-like croak. Toucans like fruits, and eat by cutting with the serrated edge of their bills.

Toucans nest in holes in trees, using natural holes or holes made by woodpeckers, often enlarging the cavity by removing soft, rotten wood.

They lay two to four eggs which are incubated by both parents. The nesting stage lasts from six to seven weeks.

National Animal

The Tapir or Mountain Cow (Tapirello Bairdii) is the largest land mammal of the American tropics.

The tapir is a stoutly built animal with short legs, about the size of a donkey and weighs up to 600 pounds.

Its general color is dusty brown with a white fringe around the eyes and lips, white tipped ears and occasional white patches of fur on the throat and chest.

In spite of it's local name, the tapir is not a cow. It is closely related to the horse and is also kin to the rhinosceros.

The tapir is a vegetarian. It spends much of its time in water or mud shallows, and is a strong swimmer.

The National Animal is protected under the wÀildlife protection laws of Belize, thus the hunting of the tapir is illegal.


The cayes(pronouced keys), the offshore atolls, and the barrier reef are the main attraction to Belize. The barrier reef, which is 185 miles long, is the longest barrier reef in the Western Hemisphere.  The cayes are islands and/or mangroves, that are located between the mainland and the barrier reef, on the barrier reef, and on or within the barrier reef perimeters of the offshore atolls. Although the mangrove cayes are normally uninhabitable by humans, they do provide a superior habitat for birds and marine life. Many birds, fish, shellfish, and marine organisms begin their lives within the protection of the mangrove. On the other hand, the island cayes, which are distinguishable by their palm trees, have provided the foundation for the development of many fine resorts to serve the water sports enthusiasts and the marine naturalists. the cayes and atolls provide superior opportunity for SCUBA diving, snorkeling, fishing, boating, sailing, sailboarding, and sea kayaking, as well as habitat for both nesting birds and turtles.

Victoria Peak

The northern half of the mainland of Belize is a plain that was once the bed of a sea. The land is covered with a thin layer of soil, that supports scrub vegetation and dense hardwood tropical forest. The coastal area is neither land nor sea, but a sodden, swampy transition between the two. It consists of mangrove and grasses, and it is bordered by tussock grasses, cypress, and sycamore where the land separates the water.

Halfmoon Caye

The central part of Belize consists of sandy soil that supports large savannas. Approximately thirty miles southwest of Belize City, the land begins to rise dramatically to between 1,500 and 3,680 feet above sea level into the enchanting Mountain Pine Ridge Area and the Maya Mountains. Abundant rainfall runs off the northwest from the highlands in a number of streams which flow into the Macal River. Ultimately, the Macal River and the Mopan River converge to provide the headwaters of the Belize River.

The southern part of Belize, with its watershed to the southeast from the Maya Mountains, consists of short rivers that rush through slopes combed with overhanging ledges and caves. The rivers, carrying sand, clay and silt, have enriched the coastal belt over the years, allowing Belize to develop significant agricultural products such as citrus and bananas. Along with an annual rainfall of some 170 inches, southern Belize has a true tropical rain forest that is rich with ferns, palms, lianas, and tropical hardwoods.


The climate is subtropical, with a brisk prevailing wind from the Caribbean Sea. The country has an annual mean temperature of 79 degrees Fahrenheit, and the humidity is nicely tempered by the Sea breezes.

Variation in weather features, emphasizes the interesting difference in elevation, geology, plant and animal life. A summer high temperature, usually never exceeds 96 degrees Fahrenheit, and winter lows are seldom below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, even at night.

Saltwater temperature varies between 75 degrees Fahrenheit and 84 degrees Fahrenheit.

Annual rainfall ranges from 50 inches in the North to 170 inches in the South. Although the rainy season is usually between June and August and the dry season is between February and May, global weather changes are making historical predictions somewhat invalid. At the end of October, the weather does become cooler, and from November to February, it is pleasant with showers of rain. Average humidity is 85 percent.


Some 86 percent of Belize is covered by forests. Deciduous trees are found in the north; tropical hardwood trees predominate in the south. Principal species include the commercially important mahogany, cedar, and rosewood, as well as pine, oak, and palms. Mangrove swamp vegetation is found along the coast.


  • Total lands: 5,617,700 acres
  • Arable lands: 851,160 acres (15% of the total)
  • Cultivated lands: 265,000 acres
  • Average farm size: 5,83 acres (11,000 full time farmers)
  • Major products: rice, sugar canes, Citrus spp., bananas, corn & beans


In 1959 Apis mellifera was brought into Belize from Mexico as pollinators for the sugar cane industry. In 1987 Apis mellifera scutellata was detected in Belize. It is believed that presently the only race of Apis in Belize is an hybrid of the Apis mellifera scutellata and original European races.

Other species of bees (stingless bees) also found in Belize are the Melliponas and Trigonas but not on a widespread basis and not for commercial beekeeping.

Distribution and density

In 2001, an official estimate placed the number of hives at 1,791 throughout Belize, the equivalent of an average density of 1 hive / 3,000 acres (soit un chiffre réellement très bas indiquant des potentialités de développement énormes). It must be remembered that, as already mentioned in the foreword, hives from the informal sector (for family use only) have not been counted.

belize map 2000

Hives repartition / Districts
Districts Beekeepers Beehives


Honey lbs.
Belize 6 51 8.50 952
Cayo 41 506 12.34 62 000
Corozal 22 361 16.40 46 875
Orange Walk 35 772 22.05 84 375
Stann Creek 15 55 3.66 3 000
Toledo 10 46 4,60 5 750
Total 129 1 791 13.88 202 952

0% of the bee population is migratory. The most dense concentration of apiaries as well as hives per apiary is found in the Orange Walk District. The average number of hives per apiary is 15.


Highly suitable in the Belizean context, the Langstroth Standard 10 frames, with straight frames (no Hoffmann types were observed), is the only hive used for Apis mellifera. The degree of standardization is practically 100%, a situation, which is both excellent and rare.


The Belize Honey Producer's Federation of Cooperative Societies Limited was formed and registered in 1977 and was comprised of four cooperatives. Three other cooperatives were formed and were working individually. The honey was exported in 55-gallon drums to U.K., Canada, Saudi Arabia and the USA.

As the production of the honeybee was approximately 46 -102 lbs./hive/yr., which is more than the stingless bees, honey production with honeybees became popular with beekeepers and also farmers willing to earn extra income. In a year's time, there were beekeepers throughout the country with approximately 978 hives.

Yield per beehive between 1956 and 2000 (lbs.)

More farmers and entrepreneurs are seeing the potential of beekeeping and are integrating it with agriculture. Environmental NGO's like The Belize Audubon Society and Programme for Belize have become interested in beekeeping and have funded projects that use the natural reserve area for the production of honey due to its positive environmental effects.

There are different ways to divide your colony to obtain new ones, however it is important that when dividing the colonies, you remember to.

Choose a colony that has a good queen (that store honey, compact laying, good layer, and without disease). This will be your mother colony.

Use sterile equipment that is free from disease. From your mother colony, remove 5 frames. Three frames with eggs (B), one sealed (SB), and two frames with pollen (P). This new colony is called a nucleus. The queen will remain in the mother colony. Add adult bees to the box.

Refer the manual "Basic Guide to Beekeeping - Good management of the Africanized Bees makes a Beekeeper Successful." 

Price: US$ 15. Order:

Margar Leiva
Local Consultant
10 Sapodilla
St. Orange Walk Town
Tel.: (501) 302 2617
Mobile: (501)621 4357
Email. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.








Cercropia spp.

All year round

Cottontree, Ceiba

Cotton tree

Ceiba pentandra



Star Apple

Chrysophyllum mexicanum


Pear, aguacate


Persea americana


Ruda de monte

Wild ruda

Diphysa carthagenensis

March - April

Flor de wano, Botan


Sabal mauritiiformis

March - April

Che chem

Black Poison wood

Metopium brownen

March - April



Cassia grandis

March - April



Syzygium cumini

March - April



Cupania schippii

March - April

Mohom, majagua


Hampea spp.

March - April


Salm wood

Cordia alliodora

March - April


Red Gumbolimbo

Bursera simaruba

March - Mayo

Wild craboo

Wild craboo

Malpighia glabra

March - June



Cordia dodecandra

March, April, December



Haematoxylon campechianum




Aspidosperma cruentum


Bay Cedar, Pixoy

Bay Cedar

Guazuma ulmifolia


Allspice, pimienta


Pimenta dioica




Psidium guajava


Hog Plum

Hog Plum

Spondias mombin

June, July

Warrey wood


Caesalpinia guameri

June - August

Governor Plum


Ziziphus mauritiana

June - August

Pica Pica

Cow -itch

Urera baccifera

October - March

Madre cacao


Gliricidia sepium

November - April



Magnifera indica

November - February

Tajonal, flor amarillo


Tabebuia ochracea

November - February



Citrus spp.

November - June

Flor de naranja


Citrus spp.

November - June


Official website of Belize Government

Belize Animal Health Authority

Catch the adventure

All contact persons can be reached by email at:: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Margar Leiva
Local Consultant
10 Sapodilla
St. Orange Walk Town
Tel.: (501) 302 2617
Mobile: (501)621 4357
Email. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Nazario KU
Indian Church Association
Orange Walk District
Tel: 501-31-2075
Pablo CAL
Southern Beekeepers Cooperative
c/o Ministry of Agriculture
Toledo District
Tel: 501-72-2698
Pascual CHUN
Maya Mopan Beekeepers
c/o Ministry of Agriculture
Stann Creek District
Tel: 501-52-2514
Margarito LEIVA
Northern Beekeepers
Tel: 501-32-2617
Orange Walk Beekeepers
Tel: 501-33-2005
The Belize Institute of Management
2090 Chancellor
St. Belize City
Tel.: (501) 223-3305
Fax: (501) 223-3060
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.