Conservation initiative seeks national status for Maltese honey bee

The foundation for the conservation of the Maltese bee has launched an initiative aimed at securing official recognition from the Environment and Resource Authority (ERA) for the Maltese honey bee (Apis mellifera ruttneri) as Malta’s national insect. If successful, the Maltese honey bee will join the ranks of five other national species in Malta: the Arar tree, the Blue rock-thrush, the Maltese freshwater crab, the Maltese rock-centaury, and the Mediterranean killifish.

Emphasizing the Maltese honey bee’s endemic status in the Maltese islands, the Foundation underscores its profound ecological and cultural significance. The Foundation’s goal is to elevate awareness of the crucial role played by the Maltese honey bee in the ecosystem and the imperative need for its conservation by obtaining official national recognition.

The Maltese honey bee, unique to Malta, faces threats to its distinctive characteristics due to the introduction of foreign honey bee breeds into the country. Studies reveal that interbreeding with these imported bees, which occurs indiscriminately in mating, results in genetic mixing (hybridization) of the Maltese honey bee—a species that has remained isolated for millennia.

Consequently, the Maltese honey bee is on a trajectory toward indirect extinction, gradually losing its characteristic ‘Maltese’ traits. This process is exacerbated by the adaptation challenges the bee encounters in local habitats and climate due to the genetic mixing.

Click here for further details on this initiative and ways to contribute to the cause.