British Beekeepers Association


British Beekeepers Association
17th July 2017

Blog by May Smith about International Meeting of Young Beekeepers

The International Meeting of Young Beekeepers took place 6-9th July at Marlborough College in Wiltshire. May Smith was one of three beekeepers chosen to represent England. Here she tells us what it was like:


The England young beekeepers team met at Cobbs Farm Shop on the outskirts of Marlborough as it was an easily accessible place for everyone to reach. Having not experienced IMYB before I was excited but apprehensive about the daunting prospect of competing whilst England was hosting the event for the first time. Entrants from 21 countries were arriving today from as far away as India, Russia, Israel, Belarus, Lithuania, Slovenia and Czech Republic and a few closer neighbours including France, Ireland and Scotland. When we arrived and explored Marlborough College the excitement of past competitors and facilitators meeting was infectious. The evening became a very social event for everyone to meet and get to know each other, all cultures soon mixed together. To help break the ice each country would give a cultural presentation as part of the entertainment, a few were shown in this first evening including our English performance. Our theme was strange English food and drink, we explained and demonstrated different ways of how we make a nice cup of tea and how scones are pronounced differently and served, jam first or cream first! We had fresh scones to demonstrate! In readiness for the competition everyone discovered which teams they were in, there were 12 teams of approx. 5 people mixing all nationalities together, a brilliant way of making new friends. Language barriers soon came down as everyone found ways of communicating.


Friday morning started with a hearty full English breakfast, although there were continental choices to suit all nationalities. Morning activities started at 9:00am, each of the teams gathered into their groups for the series of beekeeping activities to begin. For my team, dark green, our first challenge was to make a nucleus which involved working together to firstly examine the existing hive then split away five frames to make a new colony. Next we had to mark drones, the male bees. We were given two dates and had to mark according to the international colour marking scheme. The dates that we were given were 2006 (white) and 2009 (green). Grafting was next, we had to transfer 5 young larva from their cells into new cells which would be used to raise new queens. Everyone agreed that good eyesight and a steady hand is crucial for success! Our group then had to complete a disease inspection under the watchful eye of an experienced seasonal bee inspector. Luckily no diseases were found but we were able to identify the healthy brood pattern and explain what we were checking for. We found the queen during this exercise which was a nice bonus! We then went on to make frames which was easier for me because I had done the task before, other countries, however, have different methods of making the frames and struggled; it was real teamwork and I was happy to pass on some of my knowledge. 

To make the morning have even more of a buzz, the BBC Countryfile team filmed us, we also stopped occasionally to talk and take photos. Anita Rani and the crew looked great filming in beesuits!

After the morning’s activities we had lunch then boarded a coach for a truly English excursion. Whilst surrounded by beautiful English countryside, Stonehenge was a very interesting place for all, I didn’t realise it was so famous worldwide! The information phones made the experience more enjoyable, people that spoke different languages were all listening to and learning about the same thing.


The morning activities started at 9:00 when everyone did a formal test which challenged our knowledge of a range of different aspects in beekeeping. This was followed by the anatomy test, we were shown microscopic pictures and had to identify the location upon a bee. The remaining activities for my group included beekeeping equipment identification, botany, honey tasting, and a Nosema test on 30 bees. In the afternoon we went on another local trip to the outskirts of Salisbury where we walked to find a *drone congregation area, this was a great experience and the lovely sunny weather made it more enjoyable for everyone. 

Saturday evening was the grand finale, everyone gathered for the presentation evening where more teams gave us their beautiful presentations. Each country was called up and everyone given participation certificates, including accompanying adults and facilitators. With much celebration the winning teams and individual winners were announced, everyone was so supportive of the winners. This was followed by a great disco which was a fantastic way to say our goodbyes. 


Some people had early flights, I found it very sad in the morning as the wonderful IMYB 2017 was coming to an end. The weekend went so quickly and now looking back on the brilliant experience I have realised how much I learned about beekeeping shared from cultures around the world. I have met so many new people with the common interest of beekeeping all of which I hope to stay in touch with and see again one day in the future. 

Each and every participant shared in a huge thank you to Ian and Ruth Homer who worked so hard to organise the event and to all the sponsors who gave so generously to support this unique event for young Beekeepers around the world. The standing ovation and lengthy applause to all that contributed to making the IMYB 2017 a resounding success was well deserved, albeit a minor representation of the thanks from everyone. The England team would also like to thank Serena Watts who has been a really supportive team leader.


May Smith


Note: *drone congregation area - region where male bees congregate waiting for Virgin Queens to fly up and mate with them. Students took poles with Queen pheromone on the ends and watched as a flight of drones flew up in characteristic formation and excitedly followed the pole.