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Maltese honey bee

Maltese honey bee

The Maltese honey bee was only discovered in 1997 by Prof. F. Rutner, whose name it now bears.  At present it is not predominant in Malta and is being replaced by imported Italian bees.


The Maltese bee (Apis mellifera ruttneri) is a subspecies of the Mediterranean bees. The Maltese bee is the result of mixing the Sicilian bee (Apis mellifera siciliana) with the African bee (Apis mellifera intermissa). The bees evolved in the natural conditions of the island of Malta when the Maltese Islands, as a result of geological changes, were cut off from Sicily.

Malta has a subtropical climate, very warm. In winter the temperature does not go below 1-2 degrees Celsius. There is almost never snow. In summer the weather is usually hot. The climate in Malta is similar to that of North Africa, which is also favored by the prevailing winds blowing from Africa


The Maltese bee is very similar to the Sicilian bee, but unlike it has shorter legs and wings, and the wings are narrower. The Maltese bee has an even wider abdomen than the Sicilian, African or Russian bee. Therefore, Maltese bees are the widest bees. It also has longer hair cover than the Sicilian and African bees. It is much more resistant to disease and is very active. The bee is dark in color.


This bee seals the honeycomb with honey in dark caps like Caucasian bees. Maltese beekeepers claim that even in unfavorable years they have collected 20 kg of honey from a single colony of local bees. Italian bees, despite their peacefulness, lose to the local bee in terms of productivity. Maltese bees fly actively in windy and hot weather. When the temperature is above 40C, the bees work in the morning and in the afternoon.

Swarming tendency

Maltese bees differ from European bees in their biology. They are prone to swarming, laying up to 80 queen cells before swarming. The swarm comes out after a new queen has emerged. And there can be up to 7 queens in the swarm at once.


The Maltese bee is not a peaceful bee. It can be aggressive and protects the hive well from pests, including wasps and hornets. This is why beekeepers who keep their apiaries on flat roofs in urban areas prefer Italian bees to local bees.

How they tolerate the winter

Maltese bees are used to warm weather. Therefore, they are not suitable for long and cold winters. Because of the warm weather the bees do not form a winter club, the queen lays eggs all year round with two peaks in spring and fall.

Protection against extinction of the Maltese bee

In 2022, a foundation was established to assist in the conservation and promotion of the Maltese honeybee. The organization aims to ensure that the Maltese honey bee is recognized as significant to the development of sustainable beekeeping, ecology and Malta’s natural heritage.

 The Foundation encourages various organizations interested in the conservation of the Maltese honey bee. They oppose the importation of other bees into Malta. The foundation is currently putting pressure on the local environmental authorities to declare the Maltese honeybee as Malta’s national insect.


The Maltese bee has specific characteristics that it has developed through evolution. Its ability to work in dry, hot climates and collect nectar distinguishes it from other species. But unfortunately such characteristics as lack of peacefulness and tendency to swarm have not allowed it to gain popularity outside Malta. Today, the Maltese bees are experiencing serious competition from Italian bees. Therefore, they are on the verge of extinction.

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