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The Beekeeping family got back together

Updated: Sep 6, 2022

Apimondia, the biggest international beekeeping conference in the world, is a key anchor for the global beekeeping community, bringing together beekeeping enthusiasts, industry experts, and world-renowned scientists. The 47th biannual Conference was held this year in Istanbul, Turkey, after being disrupted first by the pandemic and then necessary relocation from Ufa, Russia, to Istanbul due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In his opening remarks, Apimondia president Jeff Pettis highlighted the difficult decisions Apimondia had to make and what a remarkable effort it was to organize a conference on such short notice. There were standing ovations for the delegation from Ukraine, who had come in large numbers. Some of them have their apiaries within minutes of the front. There were long applauses for fellow Apimondia delegates who had passed away from COVID and the praising of our common language: the bees.

For anybody who hasn’t attended an Apimondia, the conference has a pleasingly unpolished feel. English is spoken with an inspiring diversity of accents. Industry experts and scientists mingle with beekeepers, sharing their knowledge with one another. It feels like a big family.

There are different components to Apimondia: the official opening and closing ceremonies, the world honey award, and the official delegate meetings and votes. Then, there is the scientific program with hundreds of fascinating talks and posters. Binding it all together is the exposition floor, where hundreds of vendors display their honey extractors, pollen samples, bee suits, smokers, hive scales, and honey varieties.

The exposition feels like the entrance of a bee hive. A gentle humming in the background, disrupted by bits and pieces of conversations in all thinkable languages. Within a few steps, you can walk from the Tanzania Forest Services booth, pass the Korean Honey Cooperative, and arrive at the Georgian booth, where you are offered honey. It feels like traveling the world.

Part of each conference is the process of electing the host of the conference venue four years out. In 2023, Apimondia will take place in Chile, but for 2025 both Budapest, Hungary, and Copenhagen, Denmark (backed by the Scandinavian beekeeping associations of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden) were in the race. Proud beekeepers searching for votes from the Apimondia delegates wore Viking hats and traditional Hungarian folk dresses and sang tunes throughout the conference. In the end, Copenhagen was selected as the next venue during the closing ceremony, and a Viking-like roar filled the conference hall.

Throughout the conference, I was able to meet with many of our partners whom we work with closely in our AID-CSB project. LARI in Lebanon, icipe, and the Holeta bee research center were just some of the meetings I had. I was used to seeing the faces, some of them for years, through a 13-inch Zoom meeting window. Meeting in person, finally, was a phenomenal opportunity, which paved the way for a successful continuation and planned extension of our work in the years to come.

The posters HiveTracks presented at the virtual poster walk spanned our AID-CSB projects in Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, and Lebanon, our Agricultural extension work in Minnesota, and our traceability work on Sourwood honey, which sparked many interesting conversations.

The biggest learning from the conference, on a personal level, was the reaffirmation of bee magic and how much we humans longed for an in-person encounter with fellow bee-enthusiasts following this long break from Apimondia.

On the technical side, I was pleased to see that the effects of climate change and pesticides on beekeeping, as well as honey adulteration, were front and center. Also, the importance of including indigenous knowledge in beekeeping and nurturing our food systems was underscored, which is well aligned with our work in Ethiopia and Uzbekistan.

Equipped with dozens of honey samples and business cards from all over the world, I happily boarded the airplane back home. See you soon, beekeeping family, nos vemos en Chile!

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