Earlier this summer I was fortunate enough to be asked to shoot a story for National Geographic Traveler magazine in the beautiful Caribbean town of Tulum, Mexico. I was paired with the talented writer, Melina Bellows, for a feature on the Mayan tradition of bee keeping and how locals are trying to revive ancient cultural practices. The honey from the Melipona bee is quite different from it’s American and African counterparts, with the taste having more of a tangy citrus zing. It’s also quite rare as compared to other honey as the Melipona bee is endangered, only builds hives inside the trunks of trees, only pollinates one or two types of flowers, and is “stingless”. I learned very quickly while photographing this story, covered in these little guys, that even though they don’t sting, they do bite! We were able to visit several Mayan villages with an ambassador and translator from the Secretary of Agriculture (the Mayan language is quite different from Spanish) and experience first hand how honey has been a trade commodity in this region for hundreds of years all the way to the present. In fact, the Mayans considered bees to be the “messenger of the gods” and included them in many of their hieroglyphs. With the surge in eco-tourism and sustainable living in many parts of the world, the Mayan art of bee keeping and the Melipona bee itself is making a come back, which brings awareness and a whole new market to tourists. Tulum itself is a nature’s paradise sprinkled with yoga studios, artisans’ shops, organic bistros, and sun worshippers, not to mention some of the most historically significant and intact Mayan archaeological sites yet discovered. To read more about the Melipona bee, Mayan culture, and the beautiful Caribbean region known as the Riviera Maya, pick up the January issue of National Geographic Traveler.