How are they recognised?

Argyranthemum tenerifae, commonly known as the Teide Daisy, is a thick little bush that measures at most 50cm of height. It is largely ramified and has the shape of a half-sphere. The leaves are long and fuzzy. The petioles, which unify the leaves and the stem, are long and thick.

This plant has actually two types of flowers disposed in groups of 12 flower heads. Each head contains many individual flowers, with small yellow flowers arranged in a central disc and long-petaled white flowers surrounding the disc. The petal flowers are responsible for attracting insects, and the disk flowers are in charge of the reproduction.

The Canary Black Bee is known for its characteristic dark colour. The body, except for the abdomen, is covered by dark feathery hair divided into black and dark brown stripes. The workers have an average wingspan of 22mm, and pollen baskets on their hind legs that allow for transporting pollen.

Model wearing the violet margueride and bee neckwarmer | Giraffa

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Origin of the Canary Black Bee species

Investigations carried out by different Spanish universities, point to an African origin of this species and a close relation to the bees of the southern Iberian Peninsula.

The Canary Black Bee has been officially declared as a native breed, and since the molecular studies highlighted the presence in the Canary Islands of distinctive genetic features, it is currently being discussed whether to propose it as an endemic subspecies. At present there are 26 recognized subspecies of Apis mellifera.

Similar species of Daisies

The Teide Daisy is not the only daisy existing in the Canary Islands. In fact, the whole genus Argyranthemum is native to Macaronesia (Canary Islands, the Savage Islands and Madeira). This genus includes 25 species and more subspecies that can be found in these islands.

Where are they found?

You can only find the Teide Daisy in Tenerife, an island of the Canary Archipelago (Spain). It is endemic to Teide National Park, classified as a World Heritage site by the UNESCO.

The Teide Daisy shares her spot with other endemic species, like the emblematic Echium wildpretii, known as the Red Bugloss. Teide National Park has approximately 168 plant species; 58 are endemic to the Canary Islands, 33 grow exclusively in Tenerife, and 12 are only found in Mount Teide.

The Canary Black Bee is found all over the Canary Archipelago (Spain) throughout the year. It has also been introduced in other countries in order to be commercially exploited.

Teide Daisy in the lava beside the road | Giraffa

Teide Daisy in the lava beside the road

Source: Wikimedia commons

How do bees organize?

The members of a hive are classified in three ‘castes’. On one hand, there is the queen bee, the only reproductive female. Her role is to mate and lay eggs, and it also guides the hive. You can distinguish the queen bee thanks to its major size, that almost doubles the size of the workers.

On the other hand, there are the reproductive males, called drones. They come from unfertilized eggs and their only responsibility is to mate with the queen. You will be able to notice a drone because they do not have stinger and they have larger eyes to help them spot the queens during mating flights.

Lastly, there are the non-reproductive females, the workers. They are responsible for building and cleaning the hive, collecting food, feeding the larvae, and sealing the cells for them to develop.They are the smallest in the hive.

Organization of bees | Giraffa

Bees on a hive

Source: Canarias en hora

Bee sucking nectar | Giraffa

Bee with a full pollen basket

Source: La Casa de la Miel

How do bees mate?

During the warm seasons, virgin queens visit Drone Congregation Areas (DCA) near their hive. They attract drones with pheromones and males pursue themand attempt to mate in flight. Sometimes a cluster of males forms a ‘comet’ around a female. Queens copulate with several drones (from their own hive or from other hives in the area). Drones deposit their sperm in the queens’ oviducts. Most of the queens perform two mating flights, but some fly out more often.

Back in the colony, the received sperm is transferred from the oviducts into a sac within queens’ reproductive system (spermatheca), which allows them to control the eggs fertilization. Queens can lay eggs that are either unfertilized or fertilized. Unfertilized eggs develop into drones, whereas fertilized eggs develop into females, which may be either workers or queens.

Queens use the sperm collected to fertilize eggs for the rest of their life. A particularly fertile queen may lay up to 2,000 eggs per day, and 1,000,000 eggs in her lifetime. Queens lay the eggs into the wax cells built by the workers. Worker bees are bred in horizontal cells, while queen bees develop in bigger cells where they can rest in a vertical position.After three days, larvae are born. They are fed by the workers for about a week, and then the cells are sealed with beeswax. After the cells are sealed, the larvae spin a cocoon around themselves and they enter the pupa stage. A queen bee needs 16 days to become an insect from the day the egg is laid, a worker needs 21 days, and a drone needs 24 days.

When does the Teide Daisy bloom?

The Teide Daisy usually blooms in spring, between April and June.

Why are Canary Black Bee and Teide Daisy important?

The Canary Islands are a hotspot of biodiversity in Europe. The great variety of endemic species like the Teide Daisy living in the Canary Islands archipelago converts it into a tourist attraction. This rich endemic flora was determinant for the declaration of Mount Teide and its natural surroundings, as National Park . In fact, it is the most visited natural area in Spain. With the flowers of this unique endemisms, bees make the excellent honey from Tenerife.

Bees are one of the most important pollinators (perform about 80% of pollination worldwide), and pollination is one of the most important biological processes on our planet.

When a bee lands on a flower to collect nectar, thousands of pollen grains from the anthers (the male part of the flower) stick to the hairs of its legs or body. When it visits the next flower, some of this pollen may be rubbed off onto the stigma (the female part of the flower). When this happens, fertilization is possible, and a fruit, carrying seeds, can develop. Since plants can’t move, most of them have to rely on animal pollination to reproduce. Bees move from flower to flower repeating this procedure hundreds of times each day.

What is their habitat?

The Teide Daisy grows on volcanic rocks and largely un-eroded lava fields at the highest altitudes of Mount Teide. It can be found up to 3,600 m above sea level.
It puts up with hard climate conditions: low humidity and temperature, high insolation, wind, and snow. It is the daisy best adapted to the extreme climatic conditions of the Canarian high mountains.

The Canary Black Bee, like all other honeybees, lives in hives made out of hexagonal cells built by the worker bees from beeswax. Special wax-producing glands in their abdomens allow them to convert the sugar contents of honey into wax. The hexagonal shape enables building the cells with the minimum resources. They use the least amount of material and space to build the biggest and strongest cells. Some of the cells are used by the queen to lay the eggs and others to store honey.

Hives are usually placed near nectar and pollen sources. During winter, honey bees feed on the honey they collected during the warmer months. They form a tight cluster in their hive to keep the queen and themselves warm.

When the hive is too crowded, the queen bee engenders a new queen. Then the old queen will leave the hive with part of the swarm to create a new hive.

The Canary Black Bee is adapted to the Canary Islands environment, coping with its temperate weather and making the most of its rich and singular endemic flora.

How does the Canary Black Bee behave?

Bees are considered the insect with the most complex behaviour, as they are completely organized and maintain a fluent communication.

The Canary Black Bee stands out for its docility. This species of bee is also characterized by being obsessed with the cleanliness of the hive, making  it less vulnerable to illnesses.

Communication and the senses of the bees

Bees communicate through different dances. They use this method to share to the rest of the swarm the direction and distance of nectar and pollen sources. The swarm observes and translates a series of movements to get the information.

Another key element of the bee’s communication are the pheromones, a mixture of chemical substances released by the bees that can cause changes in the physiology and behaviour of the rest. Bees perceive pheromones through their olfactory system, which is placed on the antennas.

Queen bee’s and larva’s pheromones keep workers stimulated to do all their tasks. Honey bees rely on pheromones for nearly all behaviours, including mating, alarm, defence, orientation, kin and colony recognition, food production, and other colony activities.

If there is a lack of pheromones due to aging or illness of the queen bee, workers become demoralized and they can even give up taking care of the hive. When this happens, the swarm usually creates a new queen and replaces the old one.

What do bees eat?

Bees feed on nectar and pollen collected by older worker bees. Some gather nectar, which they store in an elastic pouch in the gut known as ‘honey stomach’; others collect pollen grains, packing them in ‘pollen baskets’ on their rear legs. Loaded to capacity, they return to the colony where nectar-carriers pass their load to ‘receiver bees’ to store as honey, while pollen-bearers offload their hauls into cells to form what’s known as beebread. ‘Nurse bees’employ both to keep the colony fed, and have the job of transforming pollen into royal jelly.

Worker and drone larvae are fed on royal jelly for the first three days of life. After this, only the bees chosen to become queens will keep feeding on royal jelly, while the rest will get pollen and nectar or honey. Drones, have such a short tongue that they are not able to suck the nectar. They feed themselves from the honey and beebread of the hive.

Basic energy requirements are met by nectar, which provides the carbohydrate bees need for activities such as flight. Pollen provides proteins, fats and lipids plus an assortment of vitamins and minerals.

Mount Teide

Source: Obdulio Obduliez

Canary Black Bee on a flower | Giraffa

Canary Black Bee on a flower

Source: Agroinformación

What is their lifespan?

The average lifespan of a queen is two to three years.Instead, workers only live for a few weeks, sometimes a few months if their hive becomes dormant in winter. Finally, drones usually die straight after mating. So, depending on their success, they may live for just a few days or up to two months. The ones who have not reproduced are expelled from hive when winter comes.

Are they endangered?

Canary Islands are one of the regions in Spain with the highest number of threatened plants. There are 247 canary species in the maximum risk category, according to the last Red List of the Threatened Flora of Spain (2008). One of the five most repeated genus of this list is Argyranthemum, but fortunately Argyranthemum tenerifae (Teide Daisy) is not included in it.

The Canary Black Bee has suffered a large number of crossbreeding with foreign bees brought to the Canary Islands. In addition, since 2009 the Canary Black Bee population has strongly decreased due to the attacks of a wasp known as the beewolf.

Crossbreeding

This new hybrid bee species is more aggressive and has put the Canary Black Bee in risk of extinction. In 2001 the Canary Islands Government started a plan for conservation, recovery and selection of this species in La Palma. It was later implemented in Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, and more recently in Gran Canaria. In these islands it is only permitted the beekeeping of this species.

Beewolves

Its natural habitat is in China, India, and Indonesia. It was introduced in Europe through France, and to the Canary Islands through Spain.

Female beewolves, that double the size of the Canary Black Bee, constantly capture Canary Black Bees(or other bees) and put them into cavities that they build on sandy ground areas. In each of them there is an egg, so when it becomes a wasp larva it feeds on the bee captured.A single beewolf can kill up to 10bees per day. This means that an attack of 300 wasps can massacre 3,000 bees.

Moreover, all over the world bees are dying from a variety of factors: pesticides, drought, habitat destruction, nutrition deficit, air pollution, and global warming. Humans are largely responsible for the two most prominent causes: pesticides and habitat loss.

Did you know?

  • The scientific name Apis mellifera means ‘honey-carrying bee’ in Latin.
  • Bees came to the Canary Islands before humans.
  • It is the only insect that produces food eaten by man.
  • Each Canary Black Bee can produce up to 15 kg of honey every year.
  • Except for the queen, all of a colony’s workers are replaced about every few months.
  • They fly at a speed of around 25km/h and beat their wings 200 times per second.
  • The European Commission has set up the ‘Beekeeping and ApisBiodiversity in Europe’ (BABE) project, which aims to conserve local subspecies of Apis mellifera, and to maintain the genetic uniqueness of local populations.