In July 2019, three members of the Kawartha Junior Beekeepers travelled to Banska Bystrica, Slovakia to represent Canada at the 10th annual International Meeting of Young Bee Keepers (IMYB). This was the first time that any group from North America attended this event. Our team of young beekeepers – Bryn, Tate and Kaleb, along with participants from other countries learned about beekeeping around the world and tested their beekeeping knowledge. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for these young beekeepers to represent their country at an international event. The following article about the trip appeared in the Ontario Bee Journal (Jan/Feb 2020)
International Meeting of Young Beekeepers – Team From Kawartha First Canadians to Take Part. By Bryn Goodwin, John MacFarlane and Lenka Petric
In July 2019, three participants of the Kawartha Junior Beekeepers Program – Bryn Goodwin (16), Tate Goodwin (13) and Kaleb Gildon Cormier (13) attended the International Meeting of Young Beekeepers in Slovakia. This is Bryn Goodwin’s account of the event.
We had the opportunity of a life time to go to the International Meeting of Young Beekeepers, which was held in Slovakia this year. It was the first time that a team from North America was invited to attend. We were all very proud to represent Canada. We started preparing in the fall and preparations weren’t complete until just before the IMYB started. Some of the preparations we did were several advanced sessions about beekeeping and fundraising for the costs of the trip.
To get to Banska Bistrica, Slovakia where the meeting was held, we took an 8 hour plane ride to Vienna and then caught a bus that was provided for the teams to travel to Banska Bistrica. On the first day at the IMYB not all of the teams were there so it was mainly registration activities and introductions to the other teams that had also arrived. The next morning there was an opening ceremony with all the participants walking in carrying their country flags, followed by speeches by the people running the event.
The competition portion of the IMYB spanned the second half of the second day as well as all of the third day. For the competition, the competitors were divided into 16 teams that had 5 or 6 participants from different countries. Each team also had one or two facilitators who had already been through the IMYB and could help with various aspects of the meeting. They divided the countries up so that participants had more opportunity to interact with people from different countries, for example my team had people from Scotland, Israel, France, and Slovenia with a facilitator from Britain. The 16 teams all participated in various beekeeping skills tests including several sessions working directly with bees, some about beekeeping equipment, a general knowledge test, and some honey production and tasting tests. The bees there were very docile so for the tests where we worked with bees we worked without gloves. The event that I found the hardest was the honey tasting because there were lots of European honeys including honeydew honey and acacia honey which were not familiar to me. All the skills tests included written instructions in all the official competition languages and our skills were evaluated by local beekeepers. There were several activities that involved European tools and techniques, which led us to learn about different tools including some different ways to identify honey and several designs for queen rearing hives.
There were many social activities throughout the meeting including a falconry show and all the countries painted their flags on large rocks. There was also some time each day for the various countries to give presentations about what makes their country unique. My favorite presentation was Finland’s short play to show how they have to deal with bears.
The last full day at the IMYB was spent sight-seeing around Slovakia, including a cave and some traditional food. After the sightseeing there was a closing ceremony where awards were given to the top three individuals (Scotland, Czech Republic, Denmark), countries (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany), and teams. My team won second place. Gift bags were handed out with the awards. Canada, Egypt and Tasmania received recognition for attending the event for the first time!
Several teams from farther away, including our team, stayed a little longer to do more sight-seeing. We spent two extra days in Slovakia and saw Spiš Castle, “Evil Hole” cave, and a few other sights. The trip back was another bus ride back to Vienna and then another 8 hour flight home.
The IMYB was an amazing experience that allowed us to learn about beekeeping in Europe as well as meet people from different cultures. The most interesting beekeeping technique I learned about in Europe was the different ways they deal with pests. The hardest part of this trip was sitting in the plane for 8 hours straight and anticipating all the fun we would have. I appreciated the volunteers at the IMYB because they helped make sure the competition ran smoothly. John and Lenka were very helpful in setting up this opportunity for us and training us so we could do our best. It was a great opportunity!!
What is the IMYB?
The International Centre for Young Beekeepers, headquartered in the Czech Republic, was founded in the early 2000’s with a mission to “provide international support and co-ordination to young and starting beekeepers”. Its work is centered primarily around the activities of the International Meeting of Young Beekeepers (IMYB), which is an annual gathering of young beekeepers from around the world.
First held in 2010, the IMYB provides an opportunity for international participants to compare their knowledge and skills, establish new friendships, learn about beekeeping practices in other countries and experience some of the cultures represented. The event includes cultural and social events, and centers around a competition designed to test beekeeping knowledge and skills of participants.
How we ended up in Slovakia in 2019
Started in 2017, 4 beekeepers had a vision to establish a program for children/youth 8 to 12 interested in learning about beekeeping. As no other year long programs were available, and most education consisted of workshops in schools and community groups, a more in-depth program was seen as beneficial to educate young people in beekeeping. A hands-on approach was developed to give participants practical experience in an apiary combined with theory and workshops. The program meets monthly and follows the typical beekeeper’s year, from equipment preparation to winterizing the hives. In 2019 there are three programs running – Kawartha Junior Beekeepers (KJB), Durham Region Junior Beekeepers and Niagara Junior Beekeepers.
In 2018 KJB mentors Lenka Petric and John MacFarlane travelled to Slovenia to participate in the celebrations of the first ever World Bee Day, as declared by the United Nations. The President of the ICYB gave a presentation about the IMYB annual competition around the theme of encouraging young beekeepers to become involved and passionate about beekeeping.
Through subsequent conversations and discussions about the Kawartha Junior Beekeepers program, an invitation was extended to the KJB to attend the competition in 2019 in Slovakia. – the first ever invitation to a North American program!
Getting to the IMYB was a team effort and was almost a year in planning. Once we had commitment from our three young beekeepers and their parents, we started fundraising and organized additional education opportunities for the boys. Lucky for us, we had lots of support from the beekeeping community. The Central Ontario Beekeepers Association (COBA) and Dancing Bee Equipment have been supporters of the Kawartha Junior Beekeepers Program from the start. Their continued support, along with financial contributions from Durham Region Beekeepers, Quinte Beekeepers, Lanark County Beekeepers, Toronto District Beekeepers, Middlesex Oxford Elgin Beekeepers and Huronia District Beekeepers Associations helped us with our fundraising efforts. Generous beekeepers and beekeeping business (Sunderland Coop, Nature’s Taste, Warner Apiaries, Dare2Dream Farm, Innisfil Creek Honey, Blossom Hill Nursery, Dickey Bee Honey, Valley View B&B, Deer Run Services, OBA TTP, Jason McIntosh Auctioneer) supported our fundraising auction and/or made financial contributions. The boys gave presentations to local service clubs, which resulted in financial contributions, and made and sold candles. Additional funds were raised through the sale of honey gift packs generously contributed by Dare2Dream Farm. In total we raised $9000 which covered the airfare for the three participants and two mentors as well as the team registration fee.
To help prepare the boys for the competition, we called on local experts to help with specialized sessions – Jerry Jerrard (Kawartha Lakes Honey) mentored the boys as they inspected his nucs; Joe and Hazel Cook (Blossom Hill Nursery) provided hands on learning about queen rearing; and Susan Chan taught them about plant biology and pollination. The final session was held at Honey Bee Research Centre in Guelph where Dan Borges from the Tech Transfer Program provided a great overview of bee biology and development, pests and diseases.
The IMYB was a fantastic opportunity to meet other leaders of beekeeping programs and learn about young beekeeper education programs around the world. It is evident that Canada has some work to do to catch up to countries like Slovenia that has over 2500 youth involved in beekeeping clubs, or the Czech Republic, where there are 212 beekeeping clubs and over 1800 young beekeepers.
The next International Meeting of Young Beekeepers will be held in Slovenia in July 2020. We’ve been invited to attend again, and are just starting our recruitment activities. NOTE: IMYB meetings in 2020 and 2021 were cancelled due to COVID.
If you are interested in learning more about the Junior Beekeepers Program or the IMYB, please contact Lenka Petric at email@example.com. You can also visit the IMYB website: www.icyb.cz