Maltese honey bee
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|Maltese honey bee|
|Maltese honey bees on frame with queen cells|
A. m. ruttneri
|Apis mellifera ruttneri|
Sheppard, Arias, Grech & Meixner, 1997
The bee is a subspecies of the western honey bee that has naturalized and adapted to the environment of the Maltese Islands. It evolved as a different subspecies when the Maltese islands were cut off from mainland Europe. The Maltese bee likely contributed to the islands name as the ancient Greeks called the island Μελίτη (Melitē) meaning "honey-sweet".
Character and behavior
The bee is of relatively black colour. It is well adapted for high temperatures and dry summers and cool winters. Colonies have brood all year round and with good response to the seasons on the islands. They clean the hive well. They tend to swarm or supersede the queen when there are enough stores (generally swarms in Spring and supersedes in Autumn). It is a very defensive subspecies against wasps, mice and beetles and can be very aggressive against beekeepers and trespassing people. Colonies also have some resistance to Varroa.
History of subspecies
The subspecies is considered as making a comeback after Varroa was introduced to Malta in 1992. At that time colonies of bees from abroad were imported to compensate for the loss of native colonies. In 1997 it was identified as a subspecies. It breeds well with the Italian subspecies making a strain that defends well against Varroa, having a good honey yield and is less aggressive, although this is somewhat endangering the Maltese subspecies as a genetically distinct entity; however after some generations it reverts back to its natural aggressive state.