Busy Bees on Tenerife

Fri, August 30th, 2013 - By Andrea Montgomery

“What’s that noise?” Jack asked, suddenly looking up from his laptop screen with a slightly worried expression. We both held our breath and listened as the low hum grew louder and took on the distinct tenor of buzzing. With the volume increasing at an alarming rate we were both on our feet and outside in an instant. We were back inside half an instant later, hurtling around the house closing every door, window and skylight. The house was surrounded by a swarm of bees.

 

Swarm black bees

 

In the middle of a heatwave, despite the suffocating heat, we stayed inside with all the doors and windows closed and watched with dismay as the bees moved in a black cloud to the back terrace and then to the garden where they began to cluster around a branch of the peach tree.

“No!” I shouted through the glass. “You can’t nest there!” But the bees weren’t listening and quickly formed themselves into a hive of such classic bee hive shape that you’d think it was a joke one, except that it was a living, writhing reality.

The Tenerife wild black bee doesn’t resemble a British bumble bee at all. For one thing, as its name suggests, it’s black. It’s also very small, more like a small wasp than a bee. Now prized by the island’s bee-keepers, the black bee has been producing excellent honey in Tenerife since the earliest known writings about the island. With 140 endemic plant species the bees have a great deal of variety in their diet on Tenerife, at least, they do as long as the flowers produce pollen. With the low levels of rainfall the island has experienced over the past two winters, pollen levels are worryingly low and consequently there is a shortage of Tenerife honey at the moment.

 

Black bees on tajinaste

 

Traditionally, bee-keepers have transported their bees to various parts of the island during springtime to allow them to feed from particular flowers – Teide National Park for the flowering retama; Arafo and Arico for the flowering crimson spikes of tajinaste; Candelaria for chestnut flowers. The bees are transported in mobile hives made from hollowed out palm tree, called ‘corchos‘ and if you’re out walking in spring and early summer you might come across a sign alerting you to the fact that there are mobile hives in the area.

 

Beehives

 

Tenerife honey comes in two main types, single flower and multi-flower. Single flower honeys are produced from single flower varieties such as avocado flowers (aguacate) and chestnut (castaño). The multi-flower honey is produced from a mix of pollens gathered by altitude from areas above 1200 metres above sea level (Miel de Cumbre), those at 450 to 1200 metres (Miel de Monte) and those below 450 metres (Miel de Costas). The honey is 100% natural and organic, delicious and exceedingly good for you. You can buy it at the South Airport on your way home, in artisan outlets such as Casas de los Balcones and at the Honey Museum in El Sauzal.

 

Bee-keeper

 

After our bees had taken up residence in the peach tree we phoned the honey museum and they arranged for a local bee-keeper to come to collect them. The bee-keeper got a new colony of black bees, the bees got a new home and we got a jar of honey in exchange – a good deal all round.

Posted : Friday, August 30th, 2013 at 12:08 pm
Category : about tenerife
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