Beekeepers in La Palma, in the Spanish Canary Islands, had reason to celebrate amidst the general devastation caused by the Cumbre Vieja Volcano, which started to erupt on September 19, 2021.

Thousands of bees were buried under volcanic ash at the edge of the volcano for over 50 days, a mere 600 meters from the volcano, and were thought to have perished. Instead, they survived in what is a miraculous turn of events.

Despite extreme conditions, the hives survived for 50 days. Last Saturday, officers from El Paso’s Local Police, the Military Emergency Unit and the Guardia Civil rescued the bees by going under the ash to save the beehives.

There were six hives, of which five were still intact despite several eruptions. The sixth one did not make it. Three of the hives were completely buried in ash, while three others were partly visible.

This unrelated 0:26-second video by Mother Nature shows the semi-submerged hives during the dig out:



Hives can hold 30,000 to 40,000 bees in spring, and fewer bees when the flowers stop growing in colder weather, when there may be as few as 20,000 to 25,000 bees per hive. Hundreds of thousands of bees were involved in the rescue.

One of the local police officers is also a beekeeper. Elías González is president of the Agrupación de Defensa Sanitaria (ADS) Apicultores de La Palma. He suggested that the bees in the sixth hive may have died because they were already weak, rather than from the volcano.

According to González, the bees could survive because of the type of ash that fell on them, and since the beekeeper who owns them had not harvested the summer honey, so they were able to live on their food reserves while buried.

Some officers were stung during the rescue due to having to dig to locate the hives.

One beekeeper who owns several hives that were affected by lava revealed that when in danger, bees can defend themselves by creating a layer of propolis that is like a sealant, filling in any cracks, gaps or openings, and leaving only a small hold to enter and exit. Propolis is like hard glue and is extremely difficult to remove.

In the three fully buried hives, it is unlikely the bees were able to exit the hive at all.