A four-year collaborative study by researchers from the University of Malta, Germany, and Macedonia has revealed the remarkable resilience and adaptability of the native Maltese honey bee in comparison to the imported Italian bee within the Maltese environment. This study found that the Maltese bee, distinguished by its black coloration, thrives in the local climate and maintains superior overall health.
The research involved monitoring bee colonies at the University of Malta and Siġġiewi, using small bee boxes accommodating up to 40,000 bees each. Foreign bee experts conducted regular examinations to assess various parameters between the two bee species. Over time, it became evident that the Italian bees dwindled within a year, while the Maltese bees thrived for up to four years in their natural habitat.
The study examined various parameters including growth patterns, colony structures, and reproductive rates of Maltese and Italian honey bees. The Maltese bees displayed a 30 percent higher rate of offspring production, adapted better to the local environment by foraging during adverse weather, and were more active in honey collection during the season.
In contrast, Italian bees tended to return to their hives during dry conditions and depleted their stored honey, leading to starvation. Additionally, Italian bees had lower resistance to varroa mites, which posed a significant threat to their colonies.
The research study that was published in June 2023, can be found in the international bee journal Apidologie.