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Volume 28, Number 5, 1997
Intra-specific variation in the honeybee
Page(s) 287 - 293
Apidologie 28 (1997) 287-293
DOI: 10.1051/apido:19970505

Apis mellifera ruttneri, a new honey bee subspecies from Malta

W.S. Shepparda, M.C. Ariasb, A. Grechc and M.D. Meixnera, d

a  Department of Entomology, 166 FSHN Building, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-6382, USA
b  Department of Biology, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Brasil
c  Xehda Ghasel, Triq il-Ferrovija, Attard, BZN 02, Malta
d  Institut für Bienenkunde, 2 Karl von Frisch Weg, 61440 Oberursel, Germany

Abstract - Endemic honey bees of the island nation of Malta are described as a distinct geographic race, Apis mellifera ruttneri, based on discriminant morphological analysis. Mitochondrial DNA and behavioral characteristics support a closer relationship of A m ruttneri to A m intermissa of North Africa than to European subspecies, similar to the situation with endemic island honey bees of Sicily (A m sicula). These findings suggest a shared evolutionary history among bees populating the islands of the central Mediterranean region. Recent importations of non-native honey bee subspecies present a clear threat to conservation of this unique honey bee of limited distribution. The subspecies is named after Professor Friedrich Ruttner, who has contributed so much to the understanding of intra-specific taxonomy in the honey bee.

Key words: Apis mellifera ruttneri / taxonomy / subspecies / Malta / evolution