Honey And The Paraná Delta Region - Rosario, Argentina

Christina From La Casona De Don Jaime II Hostel in Rosario

Christina From La Casona De Don Jaime II Hostel in Rosario

Christina, the friendly manager of the Rosario hostel where we stayed during a recent trip to Argentina, highly recommended the Kayak tour of the Paraná River. “Everyone I’ve sent has loved it!”, she said. We did too, but as often happens, it was the unexpected discoveries that made it especially sweet.

We thought it would be a great way to see the Paraná. The tour was supposed to be 2 to 3 hours long and an early morning start left us plenty of time to kayak and still catch our late afternoon bus to Puerto Iguazu. We were curious to learn more about the river that connected the mighty Iguazu Falls to Buenos Aires and is also the second longest river in South America after the Amazon.

Our first surprise was to learn that our Kayak trip would not be on the Paraná river at all, but on a tiny channel running parallel to the Paraná on the edge of a vast delta of islands, lagoons and wetlands that runs from about 100 miles north of Rosario south to Buenos Aries.

Rosario seen over the low island from the delta

Rosario seen over a low island from the delta channel

Rosario to Victoria Bridge that spans the delta just north of Rosario.

Rosario to Victoria Bridge that spans the Parana river and the delta just north of Rosario. Urban growth and large-scale livestock ranches are upsetting the natural balance of the delta wetlands.


Map of the Parana Delta Near Rosario

Map of the Parana Delta Near Rosario. Shows area of trip and location of the honey

It is difficult to see the outlines of the channels and islands of the delta on a map, even with Google Satellite, because the sediment-rich brown water is so similar to the land, but click on the map to the right for a clearer example of the extent of the delta across from Rosario, where we kayaked and for the location of the honey.

This is the only delta in the world that is formed upon entry to another river rather than a standing body of water like a lake or ocean. It is one of the largest coastal wetland areas in Argentina with an ecosystem rich in plant and animal life.

This delta is approximately 17,000 sq. kilometers and 300 km. long, yet it has only about 3,000 permanent residents. Living conditions are challenging with transportation only by boat and shifting sedimentary islands eroding properties and frequent flooding requiring homes to be built on stilts. On the islands near Rosario there are literally only a few dozen families, while in the southern delta area of Tigre near Buenos Aries there are hundreds of vacation homes ranging from cottages to substantial summer homes and the population increases by ten-fold in the summer.

Beekeeping on the Delta

Beehives on the Parana Delta channel outside Rosario

Beehives on the Parana Delta channel outside Rosario

As we rounded the bend off the Parana river into the beginning of our delta channel, I was surprised to see beehives on the island to the west.

Miel For Sale

Miel For Sale

A few minutes later we saw a house with a sign that declared “Miel” (Honey) out front! “That’s the home of Luis Sainz,” we were informed by Sebastian, our guide, “He is the beekeeper who lives on the island, would you like to see if he is home?” Sebastian explained he often buys honey from Luis. Later, while sharing a Mate he told us he was happy we bought some honey because it meant in a small way his kayak business was helping the local economy.

The delta supports a wide diversity of plants, animals and birds. Unlike much of the agricultural areas of Argentina which focus on single crops such as soy and rice, the diversity of plants and additive-free environment support organic beekeeping. Honey is produced in the delta along with other production such river fishing (surubí and sábalo), wicker and rattan (for place-mats, baskets and curtains), some lumbering and tourism.

Luis and daughter watch as Sebastian inspects his newly acquired honey and pollen

Beekeeping is actually Luis’ second profession, he works as a psychologist in the city of Rosario. He also speaks English quite well, thanks to attending high school in Connecticut. Incidentally, upon graduation he was offered a four year scholarship to Yale which he declined to return home to Argentina. He has about 300 hives and produces between three and six tons of honey per year, selling it directly from his home and in Rosario, with the balance sold in bulk wholesale.

From Luis’ observations and testing, the predominate plants that contribute to this honey are:

  • Willow (Salix humboldtiana)
  • Sage (Salvia spp.)
  • Caa Tay – Knotweed (Polygonum acuminatum)
  • Camalote – Common Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes)
  • Lily (Crinum spp.)

We bought two jars of honey from Luis and he also gave us a bottle of propolis tincture for skin irritations.

Tasting Parana Honey

Tasting Parana Honey. Both were delicious! The honey on the left was about 10 months old and was slightly crystallized, moderately sweet and full flavored; the honey on the right was sweeter and milder tasting.

Willow blooms three times per year so this may be the predominate blossom. Winter sees no nectar production, honey is harvested in late summer and autumn.

After a pleasant kayak trip we relax with a Yerba Mate (tea) and pastries.

After the kayaking adventure we anchor river-side on Sebastian’s boat and relax with a Yerba Mate (South American tea) and pastries. Sebastian explained the Argentinian tradition of drinking a Mate with close friends and family and we chatted about life on the delta. I was especially pleased that his favorite use of honey was with his Mate. We enjoyed our honey-sweetened Mate and day-dreamed about living on the delta channel.

Paddling down the channel

Paddling down the channel

Home on the channel

Home on the channel

Luis and his daughter pose with the honey

Luis and his daughter pose in front of their house on the channel.

Further reading and resources
Kayak and Bike Tours with Sebastian in Rosario
La Casona De Don Jaime II Hostel in Rosario
Fellowship of Yerba Mate
Beekeeping in the Paraná Delta Region (.pdf – Spanish translated to English)
The Bee Photographer – Paraná Delta
Pollen Characteristics of Paraná Delta Honey (.pdf)
Wetlands International – Paraná Delta
Paraná River

New Honey Cookbook by U of I Entomology Professor, May Berenbaum

Honey I'm Homemade by May Berenbaum

A collection of recipes from around the world featuring honey by May Berenbaum, Swanlund Chair and Professor of Entomology and head of the Entomology Department of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Proclaiming only modest cooking skills herself, she relies on her husband’s late cousin and gifted cook, Hermilda Listeman of Illinois, as the inspiration of the book and the source for many of the recipes. She includes recipes from the Illinois State beekeepers archives and from Entomologist colleagues from around the world.

Berenbaum begins with a short history of honey, beekeeping and cooking with honey, touching on health and an interesting explanation of why honey is considered Kosher even though it breaks the normal rule of being the product of a non-kosher animal. She assembles a world-wide collection of traditional and family recipes for cookies, brownies, breads, muffins, pancakes, fried desserts, pies, puddings and cakes. Many of the recipes include the history and background of a particular recipe which makes for good reading and appreciation of the incredible depth of honey recipes in our human culture.

There are two distinct recipes for Baklava and a wide variety of American and traditional ethnic delights such as; 1st prize winning Staten Island Honey Cookies, German Pfeffernüsse, Swedish and Swiss Leckerli, German Aachener Printen, Polish Ciastka Miodowe, Jewish Hamentaschen, French Pain d’épices, Yemen Bint al-Sahn, Greek Loukoumades, eight types of honey pies and many more—142 recipes in total!

As a final tribute to honey and the plants and bees that produce it, sales of this book will contribute to the maintenance of the University of Illinois Pollinatarium, the first free-standing science center in the nation devoted to flowering plants and their pollinators.

Bon Apis-treat!

Author: May Berenbaum
Illustrated by: Nils Cordes
Published by: University of Illinois Press 2010, 163 pages, paperback.
ISBN: 978-0-252-07744-9

Available from the University of Illinois Press.

Other books by May Berenbaum: Ninety-Nine Gnats, Nits, and Nibblers; Ninety-Nine More Maggots, Mites, and Munchers; Bugs in the System: Insects and Their Impact on Human Affairs; Buzzwords: A Scientist Muses on Sex, Bugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll; and the Earwig’s Tail: A Modern Bestiary of Multi-legged Legends.

Pictures of selected Honey, I’m Homemade recipes from a U of I student bake-off

Parasitic Fly Implicated in Honey Bee Colony Collapse Disorder - CCD

Phorid Fly on Honey Bee

The parasitic Phorid fly may hold the key to understanding the sudden loss of honey bees around the world. Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) is the name given to the mysterious cause of bees disappearing from their hive. Part of the difficulty in pinning it down is the wide variety of conditions that affect bees. Fungus, mites, stomach bacteria have been killing bees for decades. Many of these have been misdiagnosed as CCD.

One of the key symptoms is the disappearance of entire colonies of bees, leaving few if any workers, empty hives with combs filled with honey and young larvae still encapsulated, and yet no significant signs of dead bees in or around the hive.

As CCD has spread around the world, so has research to find a cause for this perplexing phenomenon. Suspected causes range from viruses, fungus, pesticides, and bee management techniques to queen breeding and many more possible CCD causes.

New research describing how Apocephalus borealis, a phorid fly, affects honey bees in a manner that may explain their sudden disappearance. Published in PLoS ONE, January 3, 2012

This particular species is native to North America where it usually targets bumble bees, yellowjacket wasps, and a even black widow spiders as its hosts. But since honey bees are not native to North America, it seems to have adapted to these new hosts.

One of the primary symptoms of bees attacked by the parasite is a change of behavior which cause them to leave the hive at night and subsequently die. The phorid fly larvae were found in bees attracted to lights at night in the San Francisco area where the study was performed. Unlike other insects attracted to the light, the bees were disoriented; walking in circles or unable to stand and eventually died. Whether the parasite changes the behavior of the bee to cause it to fly out at night or whether the parasitized bee leaves in an attempt to protect the hive is unknown and further study is needed to understand the process.

A serious concern is that with the honey bee host, the phorid fly has a new vector that may enable it to spread throughout the world. Nevertheless, understanding the life cycle and exactly how the phorid fly affects the bee, and how to prevent the attack is the goal of this research.

Image Credit: Image provided with original paper.
Further reading

Dr. Andrew Core’s fly blog

Temporal Analysis of the Honey Bee Microbiome Reveals Four Novel Viruses and Seasonal Prevalence of Known Viruses, Nosema, and Crithidia (PDF)

Author, Jamie Ellis (2007). Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in Honey Bees (Publication #ENY-150). Gainesville: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Retrieved 12 January 2012, from https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/DLN.

Agricultural Research Service. Questions and Answers: Colony Collapse Disorder. Retrieved 12 January 2012, from https://www.ars.usda.gov/News/docs.htm?docid=15572