The International Meeting of Young Beekeepers (IMYB) is an annual competitive and cultural event for teams of three teen Beeks sent by their national beekeeping associations. Last summer the 2023 IMYB was held in the beautiful green fields and forests of rural Slovenia. During the event we heard exciting rumours that there might be a possibility of the 2024 IMYB being held for the first-time outside Europe in the UAE.  In March 2024 we got the news that this year’s IMYB would indeed be held in Dubai which looks to be an amazing event.

The UAE as a whole has been planning its transition for years away from its previous reliance on income from oil and gas towards a more sustainable future.  This includes massively expanding the agricultural sector to produce locally sourced foodstuffs and so they are also focusing on promoting local pollinators which of course includes bees.

This region has a very long history of beekeeping and honey production using cylindrical clay hives called “mazari,” and palm tree logs, placed in the desert or mountainous regions, where bees can feed on the nectar of local plants. Local Honey hunters also would look for wild nests of either our European Honeybee (Apis Melifera) and encounter wild Apis florea, also called the Arabian or Asian dwarf honey bees. 

Honey and other bee products have a huge cultural significance across the Middle East. As the population has grown the demand for local honey has soared and to meet this demand thousands of European Honeybee colonies have been imported annually, but climate change and other factors mean they struggle to survive the 50C summers.

Our hosts for the 2024 IMYB will be Dubai’s Beekeeping Foundation. They are working with local bee farmers and universities to breed honey bees that can cope with the extreme heat whilst also remaining highly productive. The venue will be the impressive Park Hyatt Dubai Creek Club and will be using the Rolls Royce sponsored apiary nearby.

Naturally there was a lot of interest this year and we hosted a selection day at the BBKA HQ where each candidate had to take a written test, do a presentation, have a personal interview, do several group exercises and be assessed working with bees in the BBKA training apiary. It’s not easy for any candidate and although we are looking for a good standard of beekeeping knowledge and practical skills, we also use our experience to judge candidates’ abilities to deal with being thrown into a mixed team of other teens from all over the world, most of whom don’t speak English. We also try and select candidates with a passion for beekeeping and who come from backgrounds where they would never experience anything like this.

After much deliberation we selected our team of three for the 2024 IMYB who are;

Emily Ling - aged 15 from Folkestone and a member of Kent and Dover & District Beekeepers Association
Rocco Croft-Senior - aged 12 from Clitheroe and a member of East Lancashire Beekeepers
Phoebe Jones - aged 15 from Teeside and a member of Cleveland Beekeepers.

We will be organising additional training sessions covering the sort of exercises the participants are expected to do, although beekeeping in Dubai is likely to be very different for any European beekeepers. As usual, the BBKA will be covering the travelling expenses to and from the event for the team as well as the attendance fee. 

The IMYB is a life-changing event and several of our alumni have been inspired to study life-sciences at university and also take part in an international bee farming apprentice exchange programme with our counterparts in Australia.

Report by Simon Cavill  ([email protected])

Photos by Simon Cavill