I’m not long back from a holiday on Malta, staying in a massive sea front hotel in Bugibba on St Paul’s Bay at the north of the island. It’s called St Paul’s Bay because that’s where he was shipwrecked getting on for 2,000 years ago!
It was an organised tour with daily bus trips and guides to explore the island and also the smaller island of Gozo, a little to the north. The wild life is strange and scarce. There are lots of flocking house sparrows and also pigeons but, apart from them, we saw no other birds except 2 pied wagtails, a black headed gull, a couple of distant unidentified gulls and some tame waterfowl and peacocks during the whole week! There were more small lizards than I have seen in my life and I even got a picture of a pair of geckos copulating!
There were plenty of bee-friendly flowers but no bees to be seen and, despite keeping a keen look out, no hives, except one apiary on Gozo.
There was some time to spare so, with a friend, I went geocaching. We looked for one to the south of Bugibba opposite and to the west of some salt pans installed by the Knights of St John a few centuries ago and soon to be brought back into use. The map showed the site of the cache to be opposite the 5th salt pan down, with a large wooden shed beyond. It was on the way to the Kennedy Memorial Garden.
We left the road and rambled down a path a few yards from the water’s edge. From the scale of the map and the size of the blob thereon I wasn’t able to tell which side of the path it was on but had seen a ‘spoiler’ photograph showing it between 2 large blocks of stone (Malta is full of blocks of stone!). I saw one stone that had a Union flag roughly scratched on it and wondered whether it had been done as a clue, so I entered the scrub beyond it.
Then I saw bees! There was a swarm inside an old car tyre, half buried in the stony rubble. I could see only bees and no comb so it must have been a swarm of this year rather than an established colony, however they were taking in plenty of pollen so they must have been there long enough to have brood to feed. I took photos, including (on a later visit) a short video, but would need guidance from a 14 year old to discover how to paste them here!
The bees were of various colour patterns, ranging from very dark to yellow striped abdomens. Their size seemed fairly standard and they were docile enough, ignoring me although I was a few inches away and in their flight line.
The geocache wasn’t there but at the water’s edge about 10 yards away.
A local passed by and we asked her whether there was a beekeeper thereabouts. She didn’t know of one close by, the nearest she knew of living several miles away across the Bay. I couldn’t get much of an internet signal at the hotel and so wasn’t able to search for a local BKA but if you happen to know somebody there, please pass on this information.
Malta had it’s wettest year on record last year but has now dried up and they had had no rain since mid December and so were praying in the Churches for rain. It worked! There were a couple of light showers after dark on our last evening.