Friday, November 22, 2013

Apimondia 43 Report (Medhat Nasr - Provincial Apiculturist, Alberta Canada)

From Alberta Bee News, November 2013

Apimondia is the International Federation of Beekeepers Associations and other organizations working in the apiculture sector. Apimondia has been holding a biannual International Apiculture Congress since 1895 to promote scientific, technical, ecological, social and economic apicultural developments around the world. This year I attended the 43rd International Apimondia in Ukraine (Kiev) from September 29 till October 4. 2013. About seven thousand visitors from all over the world attended the congress including scientists, beekeepers, apitherapists, and vendors. The program of Apimondia 2013 included scientific, exhibition and tourism activities.

For five days all participants were networking, thinking, breathing, and speaking about bees and honey. The scientific program was lunched with an opening keynote speaker, Professor Robert E. Page Jr., of Arizona State University, USA and the author of new outstanding beekeeping book “The Spirit of the Hive”. He focused his talk on bee genetics and breeding bees. The second keynote speaker was Professor Tom Seeley of Cornell University, USA, author of the recent book “Honeybee Democracy”. He shared his research results on wild honey bee colonies in upstate New York. He showed that European honey bees can survive without chemical treatments for Varroa if they live in an isolated small colony, small cavity size hive with natural swarming and a broodless period. Dr. Seeley ended his presentation with the following statement “The way we keep bees isn't bee friendly”. He was referring to large apiaries where bees can drift and spread diseases.

In the biology section presentations focused on biodiversity, genetics and impacts of diseases and agrochemicals on honey bees. Advances in molecular biology studies and biotechnologies were also discussed. In the honey bee health section presentations included scientific reports to help in solving bee health problems. Many presenters presented results that showed the impact of pesticides’ stress on honey bee health at field relevant doses. This stress was expressed as weakening the immune system of honey bees, effects on gene expression, and decreased development of honey bee populations. Presentations also included results of studies on Varroa virus interaction and impacts on honey bee colony survivorship. Research results were presented on proper use of currently used miticides and efficacy under various conditions. Although too much have been said about the same miticides used for over 25 years, I have not heard of any research on new miticides with different modes of action to be used for management of resistant mites.

There were excellent presentations on pollination and bee flora section. This section also included bumble bees, stingless bees and other bees. Studies to show the impact of bee pollination on yield and productivity of many crops were reported. Presentations at the beekeeping for rural development section focused on how apiculture contributed to the development of sustainable livelihood in many countries around the world.  Several presentations at the beekeeping technology and quality section showed results of studies focused on current issues and trends of honey quality and adulteration in the globe honey market. Advances in technology of breeding bees, production of royal jelly and honey bee bread were also presented. The last section is about the apitherapy. It was full of presentations on honey, royal jelly and venom and the underlying health properties such as antibacterial, antibiofilm, and antioxidants.

Several small roundtable sessions took place during the congress. These roundtable sessions addressed beekeeping in Ukraine, conservation of bee population, organic beekeeping, GMO and global honey market, pesticides and bee health, and honey adulteration. These roundtable sessions were very popular due to that these topics have been of a growing interest around the world.

The 2013 Apimondia exhibition and trade show was spectacular. Many beekeeping, honey and hive products marketing vendors from around the globe brought samples and equipment for display. Participants were able to visit and sample honey, pollen and proplis from various sources and countries.  Many hive, extraction and processing equipment were displayed. The quality of equipment was excellent and prices were comparable to Canadian prices.

One of the most interesting displays was a “Bee Therapy House”. It is a shed with doors that has two benches. Under each bench 5 single bee hives were placed inside with open entrances through the outside wall. Thus, bees can stay active. As described by the exhibitor, a person who is interested in getting the bee relaxing therapy can sit or sleep directly on the benches on the top of bee hives. There is no direct contact with the bees. However, the person is exposed to bee smell, noises, vibrations and heat. To get benefits out of this type of therapy, a person should stay inside for 2 hours or more. A person will pay for this type of therapy service. Who knows what other amazing attributes remain to be discovered about honey bees? Food for thought!

At the end of the congress I stayed few extra days to visit beekeeping operations and the Ukrainian National University of Life and Environmental Sciences – The Honey Bee Research Institute. Visits to beekeeping operations were educational and allowed me to have a better understanding of the beekeeping in Ukraine. There are over 3.5 million hives owned by 700,000 beekeepers in Ukraine. Beekeepers are mostly hobby or small size operations (up to 500 hives per beekeeper). Winterkill is around 6% and not more than 10% in spite of many corn and sunflower fields around honey bees. Most of what they worry about is Varroa mites.

The Canadian Trade Commissioner, Paul Kozak, of Ontario and I visited the Bee Research Institute at the Ukrainian National University of Life and Environmental Sciences. Professor Halatyuk, the head of the institute and   Mr. Ivanov, Head of the Department of Coordination of Scientific Research gave us an excellent idea about the beekeeping, research and regulation activities in Ukraine. The curator of the museum, Professor Kharchuk, also welcomed us and proudly took us to tour the Honey Bee Museum and the outdoor grounds of the institute. In one location you can see the best collection of bee hives and equipment of the last century. On the ground of the institute there were different designs of many traditional log hives, glass observation hives, Ukrainian bee hives full of bees that were active.  It was noted during this visit that Petro Prokopovych was the first creator of a movable-frame hive based on the bee space as early as 1814.  He died in 1850 about the time that Lorenzo Langstroth discovered the bee space and patent his hive in the USA in 1852. The Head of the Institute invited me to come back the next day to give a presentation about beekeeping in Alberta, Canada and the Apiculture Research Program. I went back and gave a presentation to the Institute staff. It was a day of sharing research activities and an invitation to have collaborative activities in the future.

At the end of this trip I would say that one fact of beekeeping in Ukraine that is “No Mead no Deal”.

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