These weeks sunny and warmer days are getting more frequent and we can definitely feel that spring is just around the corner. Hiking in the countryside at this time of the year is a great activity to get some sun and fresh air and to rejuvenate our body after the lazier winter months. If we stop for a minute during our walk and listen, we can hear that bees are getting busy after the coldest days are behind them. From late winter through spring a wide variety of wild plants embellish the landscape with their colourful flowers offering bees an abundant forage to fill their hives with precious honey. Some plants seem to be more attractive to bees than others. Dense, indigenous bushes of the Olive leaved germander (Teucrium fruticans) and the White Hedge-nettle (Prasium majus) are all buzzing from myriad of bees, but the pollen of Asphodels, Giant fennels, Mallows, Borages, Cape sorrels and almond flowers are also on the menu.
Being a subspecies of the European honey bee (Apis mellifera), the Maltese honey bees (A. mellifera ruttneri) are special, endemic to the Maltese Islands therefore occur here only. They are greatly adapted to the local conditions, compared to their continental relatives they maintain a bigger population during winter and stay active all year round. Their colour is somewhat darker and they are a bit smaller in appearance, also a little more aggressive in temper. They are not just better honey producers than foreign bee varieties but also show greater resistance to some diseases and the local predatory wasps. Unfortunately, the recent arrival of the oriental hornet (Vespa orientalis) to our islands poses a great threat to the Maltese honey bee colonies: according to a study from 2022, 70% of the local colonies were destroyed by these invasive predators who attack the hives to feed on the bees, their larvae and the honey.
Since our hives are located in the remote hillside of the Dingli Cliffs surrounded and protected by mother nature far away from human habitats where oriental hornets prefer to dwell, they were avoided up until this point and we hope for a good harvest at the end of spring for a superior quality polyflora honey. Who would like to taste some of this liquid gold?