Beekeepers expressed their hope for support in safeguarding Malta’s unique pollinator species as the country marked the first global World Bee Day yesterday.

The Malta Beekeepers’ Association held an exhibition at San Anton Gardens in Attard to raise awareness on bees and their vital importance for local agriculture, food security and the environment.

The event was one of several held around the world as the United Nations marked the first World Bee Day, an initiative to highlight bees’ contribution to sustainable development and generate awareness on the threats bees and other pollinators face as they fight for survival.

Mario Sant, from the Malta Beekeepers’ Association, said that bees in Malta were facing serious threats from the overuse of pest-icides, climate change and unsustainable development practices that slice through wildflower-rich habitats. New diseases and pests compounded the problem, as globalisation allowed for a spread over much wider distances than before.

Bees and other pollinating species are responsible for about 15 per cent of Malta’s total agricultural produce but have been in decline for years. Some experts estimate there are now 60 per cent fewer bee colonies in Malta than there were just 20 years ago.

Mr Sant said Malta’s own endemic bee, the Apis mellifera ruttneri, was facing further threats from imported bee species, putting its continued survival at risk.

“There is no need to import other species when the Maltese bee is perfectly adapted to the local climate and environment and is unique to our islands,” he said.

“If we lose this, it’s lost forever.”

Mr Sant called for greater measures to tackle the threats to bees and other pollinators, as well as support for beekeepers, including help in accessing EU funding streams that were often beyond their reach.

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