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Training in Malta
Beekeepers in Malta and Gozo have received assistance from the UK National Bee Unit. Under funding from the EU and the Maltese Government, Richard Ball, one of the UK Bee Inspectors, provided a training course in October 2005. Dr David Mifsud heads the Apiculture Section within the Maltese Ministry of Rural Affairs. He described the activities with enthusiasm: it was an interesting week. Mr Ball gave daily three-hour lectures, for which 40 local beekeepers attended. We were very satisfied with the outcome as this represents one third of the registered beekeepers.
The training course provided lectures on: good management; exotic pests such as Small Hive Beetle Aethina tumida, and Tropilaelaps clareae; Integrated Pest Management primarily related to Varroa; and honey packaging covering EU Regulations and practical tips.
There were also practical sessions held in the Government's main apiary at Mdina, beneath the mediaeval city walls. Varroa destructor arrived in Malta in 1992 and killed about 80% of honeybee colonies. Dr Mifsud explains that this drastic loss was because local beekeepers were totally unprepared. Prior to the introduction of Varroa, around 250 registered beekeepers managed about 7,000 colonies. Today there are around 2,000 colonies of honeybees, with only six beekeepers having more than 50 colonies. 85% of beekeepers use National frame hives. Clay pot hives known as qolla are illegal but are still used. The picture shows a pot hive in use the wrong way round. At the other end, the pot is closed like a bell end, and has holes of about 1.25 cm in a small collar. This is the correct entrance. Normally they would be housed in a stone house, the migbha, with the collar located in a hole in the wall, thus forming a ring of tiny entrance holes to the outside. The large open end is available to the apiarist working inside the migbha. There is a special knife to cut comb from the qolla. There is an extension pot, equivalent to a super, that fits up against the end of the qolla. It is called a zeida, and is shown in the picture taken in the migbha.
Deaths head hawk moth is a problem for bees and the qolla entrance holes may be just small enough to prevent the moths from gaining entrance. Many beekeepers said that the bees faired better in the pot hives than in frame hives, maybe because they are cooler in the high summer temperatures of 40°C. This is the period of highest loss. The migbhas serve to protect the colonies from summer heat and winter cold.
Source: Richard Ball, Regional Bee Inspector, UK