Wild and domesticated bees are an integral part of thriving ecosystems. Changes in farming practices, such as the use of agrochemicals, have hugely changed the dynamics of ecosystems. There are policies at a European and National level that can influence agricultural practices to support the beekeepers and the bee population. Two main policies are the National Agricultural Policy for the Maltese Islands and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), which both mention the importance to steer towards sustainable farming practices. Friends of the Earth Malta, with the support of the Malta Beekeepers Association, have designed a course focusing on bees and their vital role in a healthy environment.
BeeAware is a 7-session course which intends to give people the opportunity to appreciate the role of bees and pollinators and their contribution to biodiversity, agriculture and food production. This course is designed to give a better understanding of the role of bees as keystone creatures for the environment. It will focus both on the role of wild bees and also honey bees, and how beekeeping can be done in a sustainable way. The seven-session course will start in February and will take place at the Friends of the Earth Office in Floriana, whilst the practical sessions will take place at other locations around Malta. Click the hyperlinks in the schedule below to see their exact location on Google Maps.
A selection of lecture topics and practical sessions have been set up to give participants’ tips on how the participant can practise sustainable agriculture and apiculture. Emphasis is placed on the well-being of the honeybee colony, not on the quantity of products harvested. At the end of the course, some participants may be given the opportunity to continue their collaboration with Friends of the Earth Malta through the upkeep of the apiary at the CEER Centre/ Floriana. Different lecturers shall be delivering the sessions listed hereunder. Each lecturer is well experienced in his own field through practice and research.
|1||The honeybee keeping- calendar – Friends of the Earth Malta and Alexei Pace||Introduction to the BeeAware course and the Act4CAP project. The theoretical side of beekeeping, including history, laws, development of the honeybee, the beekeeper calendar, and different types of hives.||Wed 19th February||17:30 – 19:30||Floriana|
|2||Urban Gardens as Green Lungs – Fernando Mifsud||Visit at the garden of Villa Frere. The importance of urban gardens for pollinators will be explained with an emphasis on good practices. Plants one can grow easily as an excellent source of food for pollinators will be shown. Potted plants in the absence of a garden will also be presented.||Sat 22nd February||10.00- 12.00||Villa Frere|
|3||Honeybees, honey and beekeepers in Malta – Dr Paul Portelli||This presentation focuses on the role of honeybees in Maltese culture and tradition through the ages. Honeybees are part of the Maltese identity a role which was reinforced by the discovery of the endemic Maltese honeybee.
During this presentation, participants will discover the links that exist between beekeepers and their bees and how these insects are intimately linked with humans and their environment and will be able to discuss the future of bees and beekeeping in Malta.
|Wed 26th February||17:30-19:30||Floriana|
|4||Pollinators as part of the ecology – Dr Mario Balzan||The diversity of wild bees, plants used by honey bees and wild bees, interactions between wild bees and honey bees, pollination, including crop and wildflower pollination and the values of pollination.||Wed 11 March||17:30-19:30||Floriana|
|5||Plants and Flora for honeybees through the seasons- Victor Busuttil & Jorge Spiteri||Explanation of the main honey flows in Malta and honey properties/uses. Visiting the garden, observing melliferous/ usable specimens. Inspection of the hive (lighting smoker, using hive tool, handling frames, identifying eggs, larvae, pollen, royal jelly, honey and the queen. If possible, harvesting.||Sat 14th March||10:00-12:00||Argotti Botanic Garden|
|6||Discover Ecology – Nature Walk – Analise Falzon||A walk-in a rural area. The importance of preservation of the rural environment will be explained while walking.||Sat 21st March||10:00-12:00||Gnien il-Gibjun Zurrieq
|7||Permaculture – Fr Mark Ciantar||The concept of permaculture will be explained. Hands-on experience in the required work during this period of time.||Sat 28st March||10:00-12:00||Rabat – Franciscan Friars’ Quarters
All participants are required to attend all the training scheduled for them. Participants will be provided with a course certificate after successfully completing all sessions. The course will be conducted in both Maltese and English based on the participant’s needs.
Recommended reading list
Sheppard, W.S., Arias, M.C., Grech, A., & Meixner, M.D.(1997). Apis mellifera ruttneri, a new honey bee subspecies from Malta. Apidologie, 28, 287–293. doi: 10.1051/ apido:19970505
Marion Zammit-Mangion, Marina Meixner, David Mifsud, Sheryl Sammut & Liberato Camilleri (2017) Thorough morphological and genetic evidence confirm the existence of the endemic honey bee of the Maltese Islands Apis mellifera ruttneri: recommendations for conservation, Journal of Apicultural Research, 56:5, 514-522, DOI: 10.1080/00218839.2017.1371522
We are currently working on a project, ACT4CAP, highlighting the importance of citizen involvement in agricultural policy to ensure healthy food and protection of our agricultural land. This activity is part of that project.
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This article reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.
This project is co-financed by the Ministry for Education and Employment (MEDE) and the Parliamentary Secretary for Youth, Sport and Voluntary Organisations.