At the start of this month beekeepers, enthusiasts, students, scientists, doctors and professors alike gathered at the 45th Apimondia Congress in Istanbul, Turkey. The event, which has become a bi-yearly meet, originated in Brussels during 1897 making this year the 120th anniversary and a momentous occasion for all those involved, including Cooper Schouten, a skilled PhD candidate from Southern Cross University that we’re proudly supporting.
This year’s congress covered a range of important topics including Bee Biology, Bee Health, Pollination and Bee Flora, Beekeeping Technology and Quality, Beekeeping Economics, Apitherapy and Beekeeping for Rural Development - it was this particular topic that Cooper led an insightful presentation on.
We caught up with Cooper following his trip to hear all about his Apimondia adventure, find out how his presentation went and what he enjoyed most about this bee-rilliant experience.
Welcome home, Cooper! How was your trip?
Turkey was unreal. The food was great, the people were friendly, the conference was a success and overall everything went smoothly! It was great to meet a lot of researchers and development professionals working in a similar field. It was unreal to have 1000’s of other beekeepers with a common interest in one place.
It was an amazing five days jam packed with beekeeping seminars from 8:30am till 6pm each day and the last day being a field day up to a famous ‘chestnut honey’ site! I attended each day and participated in some round table meetings for ‘Conservation of local bees and genetic pollution’, ‘Asia’, ‘Oceania’ and ‘Pesticides and Antibiotic Pollution’.
What activities and presentations did you enjoy?
I found the Round Table meetings particularly interesting. There was a lot of constructive discussion between the science panels and participants on region specific issues and opportunities. However, there was certainly a lack of representation of members speaking on behalf of the islands and beekeeping communities in the Pacific and Southeast Asia, which is the focus for my PhD research. But the research and aid programs being conducted in poor and remote areas of Africa have given me some great ideas and inspiration!
There was an amazing show room of every kind of honey in the world, candle/lip-balm/soap competitions and all sorts of weird and wonderful beekeeping equipment – it was really impressive. I also caught up with the team from Lyson Australia, which was good.
What was the highlight of your trip?
I met a lot of great people from a range of private, industry and government sectors and importantly a lot of beekeepers from developing countries. The highlight of the trip was meeting Dr. Nicola Bradbear who is the guru in the beekeeping development field. She was everything I imagined – really honest, genuine, switched on, people oriented and enthusiastic. Prof. Irfan Kandemir, president of the Beekeeping for Development section, was also a legend and really supportive.
How did your presentation go?
My presentation went really well. I co-presented two talks with my supervisor Associate Professor David Lloyd. The first was on ‘The 5 Pillars for Successful Beekeeping Development’. We are continually finding in our work that, despite the best of intentions, there are many great beekeepers who don’t have much experience in community development and many development professionals don’t know much about bees!
The 5 Pillars for Successful Beekeeping Development are: Pests and Disease, Genetics, Honey Bee Nutrition, Technology, and Education and Extension. I also presented a talk on ‘The Role of Honey Hunting in Supporting Subsistence Livelihoods in Sumbawa, Indonesia’ which was based on the findings of a report I was involved in, run by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) project no. AH/2015/002.
There was a good turnout at all the talks really, with around 2500 people attending the conference and around 50-100 in each seminar. I think the best insight was how receptive an audience with background beekeeping knowledge is. Most of the talks I give are to the general public or students at SCU, so it was great to see so many enthusiastic people in the audience who asked many questions at the end.
What were the top five things you took away from the experience?
1. Turkey is a safe (enough) place for tourists, despite all the hype here in Australia. Turkish people have a good sense of humour and are really hospitable.
2. Simply multiplying queens is not Queen Breeding.
3. While the queen is the heart of the business, beekeepers are often happy to pay $45,000 for a truck but not an extra $10 per queen for high quality queens. The market is driven by the consumer preference, who desire high honey production, docility and colour. Successful beekeepers understand this, as well as other important traits such as hygienic behaviour and disease resistance.
4. Succession planning in apiculture is not just a major issue here in Australia!
5. There has been very little work done in Southeast Asia and the Pacific in regards to beekeeping for rural development. Conducting more research projects in these areas would provide great learnings, especially in terms of managing pests and disease threats here in Australia.
(And an extra lesson: Don’t eat suss meals from the ‘Spice Bazaar’ before a 35hr flight...)
Overall it was great to have the opportunity to meet so many people in the field and to share our experiences. You can never get enough practice public speaking and the audience at Apimondia was great for my confidence and public speaking development – I really enjoyed myself up there and it’s a great feeling when you can convey your message and passion to people and they’re stoked on what you’re doing.
Onya Coops! Glad to have you back safe and well (we’re relieved you survived your close call with the 'Spice Bazaar'!). We can’t wait to see how you apply your learnings and inspiration from this enriching trip to all the wonderful initiatives you’re working on in the Pacific.