The Coalition for the Conservation of Maltese Bees has called on the Environment and Resources Authority (ERA) to address the hornets problem, saying there has been a dramatic increase in its population in recent years. 

In a letter to the authority, the coalition said that despite the "alarming" growth of the oriental hornet (vespa orientalis) population in recent years, there has only been one preliminary study on the indigenous insect. 

While in the past, the insect was rare, the coalition wrote, its presence on the island has now grown significantly. 

"This is a threat to the local beekeeping sector as well as people in general," the coalition said. 

It blamed the increase on urbanisation, the rise in population and climate change. The latter, the group said, can also be seen in the increase in jellyfish in recent years.     

The coalition said that because of the hornets, beekeepers are struggling with young nests as these are being attacked by the insect.

This directly impacts the sustainability of the sector as there will not be enough new colonies from one year to the next, the coalition told ERA. 

This also translated to less honey being produced, again negatively impacting the sector. 

According to the coalition, while the local bee can adapt to protect itself from the hornets, the problem has escalated to the point that the bees' can no longer protect themselves. 

The coalition ended the letter by calling on the authority to draft a "serious plan of action" in coordination with government entities and the relevant NGOs. 

A farm in Siġġiewi, It-Turretta Farm, recently complained about the issue, saying that bees are not pollinating and not getting out of their hives because of the hornets.

"If no action is taken by the authorities we are going to lose more than half of the Maltese bees," the farm said. 

Meanwhile, reacting to the letter, the Nationalist Party said it echoed the coalition's concerns and called on the authorities to come up with a "holistic plan".

What is an oriental hornet? 

The oriental hornet (or bagħal taż-żunżan in Maltese) is an indigenous insect that nests in walls, bricks and air vents.

Like other insects, the hornet stings when it attacks. Anyone stung multiple times by a hornet should seek medical assistance. 

When spotting a hornet, people should back away slowly and calmly. Pets should also be kept away from hornets as they can also be stung. 

Several hornets in one area suggest there could be a nest in the vicinity. 

The hornet feeds on soft and wet food and, therefore, leftover take-away food, as well as soft cat food, tend to attract it, as do open organic rubbish bags. 




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