The Importance of Bees to Kayapo Indians of the Brazilian Amazon

Darrell A. Posey


A total of 56 folk species of Apidae are discussed in the classification system of the Kayapo Indians of the Brazilian Amazon; 54 of these are stingless Meliponidae. These folk species correspond to 66 scientifically recognized species, reflecting an 86-percent correlation between scientific and folk taxonomic systems. A highly specialized indigenous knowledge about bee behavior (folk ethology) exists that allows for the semi-domestication of 9 folk species. Folk ethology is a field little appreciated by Western science, yet Kayapo knowledge of bees is evidence that significant information about nature and human-environmental relationships can be gained from analysis of folk taxonomic systems.

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