Urgent call for comprehensive conservation plan to safeguard the Maltese bee

The Foundation for the Conservation of the Maltese Bee is advocating for a comprehensive, long-term Action Plan to safeguard the unique Maltese Bee (A. m. ruttneri). Their primary goal is to establish legislation that prohibits the importation of foreign bees into the Maltese islands. They believe this is crucial to protect the genetic integrity of the local bee population.

The Maltese Bee is an endemic subspecies, exclusive to the Maltese islands, due to their geographical isolation from the continents for thousands of years. This isolation has allowed the Maltese Bee to evolve into a distinct and unique form that is well adapted to the local environment.

However, the introduction of foreign subspecies poses a significant threat to the Maltese Bee. While interbreeding between different species leads to infertile offspring, it’s not the case at the subspecies level. This mixing can result in the loss of the Maltese Bee’s adapted traits, making it less resilient to local conditions and requiring increased human intervention for colony maintenance. This situation not only endangers the local subspecies but also jeopardizes the sustainability of honeybee farming in the region.

The absence of regulations governing honeybee imports is a cause for concern, as it allows for the influx of foreign queens. The Foundation believes that this lack of oversight is a consequence of inadequate protection measures for the Maltese Bee.

Furthermore, the local breeding of honeybees from foreign stock within the Maltese islands also presents a threat. This process introduces traits from foreign bee populations into the local genetic pool, diminishing the distinctive characteristics of the Maltese bee. Unfortunately, there is no legislation in place to prevent this practice.