Living on Tenerife can involve having to deal with all sorts of unexpected situations, like last week when a swarm of bees decided to set up home in our garden.
I was sitting typing happily away on my laptop when the sun sort of simply went out. At first I thought it was a cloud but an increasingly loud drone gave away exactly what it was. As the light bulb went on in both our heads at the same time we were up and closing doors and windows rapido.
This is summer, this is Tenerife. We don’t have air conditioning, the doors and windows are air conditioning. Having to close them isn’t fun. But then it’s a better option than having a swarm of bees in the house.
It’s not the first time that this has happened. Normally the black, swirling cloud moves slowly over us and after 10/15 minutes we can relax as they buzz off into the distance.
Not this time. This time we watched fascinated as, for some reason, they took a liking to our peach tree. Within minutes the swarm had become a compact hive clinging to one of the branches. The fascination turned to more of a ‘how do we deal with this?’
We live not too far from the Honey Museum in El Sauzal and as we’d interviewed the director there a few years ago, we knew it was also the place where a lot of the apicultores (bee-keepers) in the north of Tenerife brought their honey. It seemed like a good place to start.
At 8.30am the following morning I gave them a call. It was a short conversation. I told them we had a swarm of bees; they asked for my name and number and told me a bee-keeper would be in touch.
Half an hour later Alejandro, a bee-keeper from Tacoronte, phoned. By midday we had a man in full bee suit, carrying a cardboard box, climbing up a ladder to deal with our little problem.
It was compelling viewing. Alejandro’s cardboard box acted as a temporary beehive, complete with brood frames (I had to Google that). He held it under the branch and basically shook a good chunk of the hive into the box before putting the lid on.
Then he joined us on the terrace to watch what happened next. The sealed box had a little hole. Alejandro had no way of knowing if he’d managed to shake the queen into the box. If bees started to go into the hole, she was in there. But if they all started coming back out, then…
It took about five minutes and then a couple of bees tentatively crawled through the hole, followed by a few more and a few more. He’d got the girl.
Whilst we waited for the rest of the swarm to take up residence in their new home, Alejandro told us quite a bit about the world of bees on Tenerife.
Our swarm was hungry and on the look out for new digs which came with full board. Why they chose our garden which has been neglected during our travels over the last couple of months and had barely a flower to its name, who knows.
The thing that was most interesting and surprising was that despite this being a bumper year for wild flowers on Tenerife, they’ve been pretty useless as far as keeping the bees in pollen. Another too-dry springtime has resulted in the flowers lacking pollen. The impressive spring displays were like pretty but empty shop windows.
It is going to be another bad year for honey.
It took about another half hour before most of the bees had joined their queen. Alejandro was able to seal the box and take the bees to a new home where they would be looked after and fed and, as a reward, produce honey for Alejandro.
It cost us nothing to have the swarm removed. Bees are a valuable commodity so it was a win win situation. Alejandro had acquired a new hive and we didn’t have to share the garden with a swarm, benign though it was.
In fact we ended up with a jar of Alejandro’s smooth and very tasty mountain honey.
All in all it was a painless and educational experience.
The only sad thing is that the life of bees involves some of the swarm being out and about at various times so some little guys were left behind. Even after a couple of days they were still at the tree, looking for their queen.
Not a happy ending for them I’m afraid.
If anyone else finds themselves with a swarm of bees moving in, the Casa de la Miel is beside the Casa del Vino in El Sauzal. Telephone: 922 562 711
Alejandro Hernández Cáceres’ honey is produced under the label ‘El Productor’ and carries a ‘Miel de Tenerife’ denomination label.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to lots of other places. Follow Jack on Google+