Beekeeping in the greater Dublin area
Beekeeping in the greater Dublin area


Bees are Great Survivors

Report Mary Montaut

The volcanic eruption on La Palma, in the Canary Islands, has revealed the extraordinary ability of honey bees to survive even in the most adverse conditions.  You may remember the delight of the beekeeper at Notre Dame in Paris, when he discovered that his hives had survived the tragic fire in the Cathedral.  Equally amazing in the story of the La Palma bees, known locally as the Canary Island Black Bees (A.m.m.). 

The hives belonging to local beekeeper, Antonio Quesada, of the Gran Canaria Beekeepers Association, were covered in volcanic ash during the recent eruptions from the Cumbre Vieja volcano, which began on 19th September 2021.   Fifty days after the eruptions began, Quesada went to search for his hives, some of which were completely covered in volcanic ash.  He discovered that five hives were alive, in spite of the ash blanket and the poisionous gases which the volcano had spewed out.  Only one hive was dead, and he believed it was the weakest one.  He also said that the ash was comparatively light and could let air through, whereas the hive covered in lava had perished.  He and his fellow beekeepers were quite delighted to be stung by the bees when they went to find the hives!

Quesada considers that the bees had used propolis to prevent the poisonous gases from killing the colonies and to protect them from the extreme heat of the eruption.  Furthermore, the bees had kept themselves alive by eating the stores of honey which the beekeeper had not harvested – a striking example of the importance of adequate stores for colony survival.

You may also be interested to know that these survivor bees are ‘black bees’ (A.m.m.) known locally as Canary Island Black Bees.  The beekeepers on La Palma have established a conservation area for their black bees, protected by a law in 2001, prohibiting the introduction of foreign subspecies into a mating area at the northeast party of the island.

[Based on reports in NYTimes, BBCNewsround and Journal of Apicultural Research]