Interview with Ailton Fontana
Recently I conducted an interview with Brazil’s very well respected stingless bee keeper Ailton Fontana. I asked him his story of how he got started and quizzed him about indigenous stingless bee keeping in Brazil.
As a part of furthering knowledge, I wanted to interview people from other countries and get their take on stingless bees native to their homes and maybe learn a thing or two. The people of Brazil have been keeping stingless bees in boxes many more years than us with a history dating back to the native Poudar people who kept stingless bees for the honey.
Before I start, let’s look at just a few of Brazil’s favourite stingless bees.
Jatai (Tetragonisca angustula)
This bee is also known as the soldier bee. It has a team of protectors that hover out the front of the hive to catch any predators. It is an aggressive bee that will attack any pests. There about 4 different types of Jatai. The bee uses a lot of cerumen in its hive construction and the brood is constructed in flat discs that are covered by an involucrum. They are a favorite to keep in Brazil because of their interesting appearance and behavior.
Mandacaia (Melipona quadrifasciata)
These are one of the larger species of bee in Brazil and favoured for their gentle nature and large honey pots, as well as their beautiful appearance. They build fat discs of brood much the same as Jatai only much larger. They always coexist with small mites which the people of Brazil believe are important for the bee’s health. They use mud mixed with propolis to construct their entrances
This genus of bee contains Brazil’s largest stingless bees, some the size of a honey bee and able to draw blood when provoked. These bees make a spiral in their brood much like our Tetragonula Carbonaria, only much larger. They also use a mud mix for their entrance much like Mandcaia. They produce large honey and pollen pots in comparison with our native Australian stingless bees
How did your interest in bees get started Ailton?
Ailton’s interest in stingless bees
Ailton Fontana preparing a bottle trap. The language is Portuguese so you will just have to watch and learn.
What are your top 3 favorite Brazilian bees?
Tell me about your well known box design – how did it come about?
Ailton’s box allows the brood honey and pollen to be controlled by using separator sheets and small boxes. This can be useful when supporting another hive, doing a split of colonies or extracting honey. Quite cleaver.
Ailton Fontana on divisions
I sent Ailton some pictures of common hives here and asked how we can improve our splitting with our bees.
His reply was;