International Meeting of Young Beekeepers 2023

In July, three young Canadian beekeepers and two chaperones travelled to Slovenia to participate in the 12th annual International Meeting of Young Beekeepers (IMYB).   Gracen Antaya (17) from Fort Erie Ontario, Olivia Wilson (15) from Hiawatha First Nation and Malvina Pavon (16), from Vanderhoof BC, proudly represented Canada and joined young beekeepers from around the world in competitive, cultural and social activities.

Olivia and Gracen had both attended junior beekeeper programs in Ontario, and Malvina is from a beekeeping family (Clover Fields Apiaries), so they all had a good base of beekeeping knowledge.  All three demonstrated a commitment to the team by participating in education sessions via zoom and in person, and fundraising activities such as honey and candle sales and presentations to local organizations and service clubs.   All three were featured in local media (print and tv).  Their parents fully supported their children and were integral to the process as they helped with planning and fundraising. 

During the four day event, the Team had the unique opportunity to test their beekeeping skills and knowledge against young beekeepers from 28 other countries.  Test modules included:  building a nuc after finding and capturing the queen; assembling frames; identifying hive pests and diseases, marking drones, general knowledge (multiple choice test); identifying components of a brood frame; bee anatomy; and honey tasting and identification of flower sources.  They also tested the conductivity of honey and assembled an AZ hive (typical hive used in Slovenia).   They worked on their own and in mixed teams made up of young beekeepers from 5 or 6 different countries.

Team Canada made us proud!  In the competition they placed 4th out of 29 countries … an amazing achievement!    Gracen’s mixed (international team) placed 1st in the mixed team category.   Needless to say, the Team was ecstatic!   All their hard work had paid off.   The closing ceremonies celebrated everyone’s accomplishments and were a fitting end to a memorable experience.

In addition to the competition, the young beekeepers expanded their knowledge with visits to the Carniolan Bee House (, an education centre with interactive and multi-media exhibits about the Carniolan Bee and beekeeping in Slovenia, and the Beekeeping Centre of the Slovenian Beekeepers Association (    They also trecked through the Krska Cave ( and through the treetops at Adventure Park Cukarca (   

In the evenings everyone attended the cultural presentations, where each Team presented their country through song, dance, skits or presentations.  Team Canada’s presentation started with an introduction of the Team by Olivia in Anishinaabemowin (Ojibway) and was followed by a lively dialogue about interesting facts about Canada.  It was a great way for everyone to learn about other countries, with lots of group participation and laughter.

To enhance the cultural experience, Team Canada also had the opportunity to spend two days exploring parts of Slovenia, including Bled and Mount Vogel, and learning more of the host country’s cultural and historical offerings.

For Olivia, participating in the IMYB and being able to meet and interact with so many peers from all over the world who share the same love of bees and beekeeping is something that will always stay with her.

This trip would not have been possible without the generous financial support of many individuals, businesses, beekeepers associations and service clubs in both Ontario and BC.   We’d like to extend our sincere thanks to these supporters:  Central Ontario Beekeepers Association, Durham Region Beekeepers Association, Quinte Beekeepers Association, Beekeepers Association of Niagara, the Kinsmen Clubs of Fort Erie, Niagara on the Lake and Stevensville, the Kinette Clubs of Stephensville and Fort Erie, St. John’s Stevensville, the Central United Church UCW Unit 9, Hunnabees Honey and Co., Kawartha Lakes Honey, Sticky Beesness, Jason McIntosh Auctions, Hiawatha First Nation community members, BC Honey Producers Association, Prince George Beekeepers Association, Caribou Apiaries, Silver Maple Farm, Dr. CW Wong Inc., Eric Allan with Prince George Community Radio and Mike Robertson with Cheslatta Carrier Nation, and the many other individuals who donated via our Gofundme campaign or in person at various events and farmers markets.  

Many thanks also to the Canadian Honey Council, Dominion and Grimm, Dancing Bee Equipment and Miedema Honey.   We’d also like to acknowledge the Ontario Beekeepers Association for their ongoing support.

This is the second time that a team from Canada has participated in this event.   In 2019, Team Canada was represented in Slovakia by Bryn, Tate and Caleb.    We are already thinking ahead to next year.  While the location of the 13th International Meeting of Young Beekeepers hasn’t been announced yet, we are putting the word out to young beekeepers who are interested in taking part in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  Gracen’s advice for another young beekeeper thinking of going to the IMYB is “to absolutely do it. Not only that, but do everything within your power to make it happen! The IMYB is the most significant experience of my life so far and I would do it again in a heartbeat if I could”.

If you are a young beekeeper (aged 12 to 17), willing to take part in education sessions (virtual and in-person if possible) and fundraising activities, and are comfortable travelling to another country, please contact the Team Canada organizers at  by the end of November.  Participants must have the full support of their parents, including a commitment to supporting the whole team by participating in planning meetings and fundraising activities.   

Beekeeper Associations – do you know of a young beekeeper who would be a good candidate for this event?  We’d greatly appreciate your support in sharing this information with your membership.  Please contact us if you have any questions.

We’ll be holding an information session by zoom for anyone interested in learning more about the IMYB and Team Canada requirements at the end of November.   If you are interested, please contact for session details. 

To learn more about the IMYB, visit 


Gracen: “The one thing that stayed with me from the IMYB is the connections I made during the event, our continued contact has given me many perspectives on world issues.” 

Olivia: “I would encourage any youth who’s interested in attending the IMYB to go for it. It might seem scary and out of your element but it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, and you’ll never regret it”.

Malvina:  “One thing that will stay with me is the amount of joy there was every day, the experiences that we all got to have, new friends that we made and the memories that will last a lifetime.  It’s a trip that will help you not only educationally but also socially, you will come back home with a wider view and understanding about the fascinating world of the honey bee, you will have lots and lots of contacts which could be beneficial in the future and you will feel motivated to have other young beekeepers have the same type of experience”.

See photos here:  IMYB 2023 Photos

Here’s some information about Gracen, Olivia and Malvina:

My name is Gracen, I am 17 years old and I am currently in grade 12.  I live in Fort Erie, Ontario. As a child I was interested in many subjects but for a long time one of my fixations was eusocial insects, especially those in the order hymenoptera which includes ants, bees and wasps. So when I was offered a program where I could learn beekeeping through the Niagara Junior Beekeepers Program at Balls Falls conservation area, I decided to give it a shot. During this program I had a very good time learning about beekeeping and putting it into practice. My favorite part of this was learning of the various systems and senses that the bees use to gather, store, and use honey. What I really like about beekeeping is becoming part of the hive and working with the bees towards a common goal.

I am most looking forward to learning about how other cultures practice beekeeping and traveling outside of North America for the first time. I am grateful for the opportunity to, along with my other team members, represent Canada to the best of my ability.

Aaniin, Waabiizhishii N’dodem.  Olivia Zhagaanosh Nooswin, Hiawatha Minoomingaming doonjibaa, Mississaugii Anishinawbee  N’dow,

Hi, my name is Olivia, I am marten clan, from the Mississaugas of Rice Lake. I am 14 years old and in grade 9. I live in my home community of Hiawatha First Nation.  I am entering my 6th year with the Kawartha Junior Beekeepers. I like beekeeping because you get to see into an entirely different world. They are so critical to the maintenance of the environment — they’re responsible for pollinating flowers and crops, encouraging healthy ecosystems, and essentially helping all of creation.

I want to participate in the International Meeting of Young Beekeepers IMYB because it’s youth from across the world, coming together to test our knowledge, but also to learn from our peers, with a common goal to help protect the bee. I am most looking forward to seeing how beekeeping is done all over the world, and how other countries are able to encourage their youth to become beekeepers at IMYB.


My name is Malvina.  I am 16 years old, in grade 11 and from Vanderhoof, British Columbia.  I was born in a beekeeping family, I have worked with bees ever since my childhood. Despite the many things that I enjoy about beekeeping, one of the main reasons that I love about beekeeping is not having the fear of being stung, at the beginning it can be scary and painful but the more it happens, the more the fear fades and the less painful it becomes.

Since the first time I heard about IMYB I have wanted to represent my family and my country and being the first young beekeeper of B.C is a true honor. I want to test my knowledge with other young beekeepers with what we have in common, make friends and learn different cultures and beekeeping methods. Some things that I’m looking forward at IMYB is not only make some friends and gain more knowledge but also have fun and enjoy a wonderful and memorable experience at IMYB and represent Canada the best way possible and I hope that in the years to come many other young beekeepers will have this same opportunity and experience.