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History of Apimondia Congresses

Part 1 - From 1897 to 1997

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In September 1997 Apimondia, the International Federation of Beekeepers’ Associations, organised in Antwerp, Belgium, the 35th Apimondia congress that marked the Centennial Jubilee of the International Apicultural Congresses. The relevance of this event is accentuated by the venue chosen for this congress: Belgium, since it is in this very country that the 1st International Apicultural Congress was held back in 1897.

This celebration placed the International Apicultural Congress among the very first International congresses and, for this “historic” occasion, both the general theme of the congress “Ancient and recent history of the honeybee and beekeeping” and the scientific session themes were chosen accordingly, so as to testify the link between past and future meetings that every other year bring together researchers and beekeepers from all over the world with the aim to solve pressing problems related to world apiculture, the bee products trade, honey adulteration, bee disease control, new technologies and beekeeping extension.

Herebelow is a brief summary of the history of the International Apicultural Congresses, highlighting the most important features and decisions taken at each congress.

In 1893 the International Committee of Apicultural Congresses is set up and in 1897 organises the 1st International Apicultural Congress in the Belgian capital, Brussels, in conjunction with the World Fair, under the presidency of Mr. Fernand de Lalieux de la Rocq with Mr. Emile Caillas as Secretary-General. The attendance is huge, with 636 participants. In the same period the International Apicultural Exhibition is held in Tervueren with 339 exhibitors from 10 European countries.

After such success, in 1900 the 2nd congress is held in Paris, France, over a period of three days with 6 meetings and 266 participants from 16 countries from Europe and America. At the end of the meetings, an International Permanent Commission is established and Mr. de Lalieux de la Rocq is elected President.

The 3rd congress of s’Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands in 1902 is the last that sees Messrs. Fernand de Lalieux de la Rocq and Emile Caillas as President and Secretary-General of the congress, respectively. An unknown number of participants for 7 countries takes part in this event.

As a result of Mr. de Lalieux de la Rocq’s death in 1903, the International Committee of Apicultural Congresses is inactive for a period of time and only in 1910 the 4th congress is held again in Brussels, with Mr. Léon Tombu as President and Mr. Genonceaux as Secretary-General. On the occasion of this congress, which has an attendance of about 60 people, Mr. Tombu’s suggestion to have as President a well-known apiarist of the host country is accepted.

As a result, in 1911 at the 5th congress in Turin, Italy, Prof. Edoardo Perroncito acts as President and Mr. Tombu as Secretary-General, a position the latter would hold until the congress of 1928. The attendance is low, with only 8 countries participating in the meetings. It is decided that each member country should elect a National Commission for presenting suggestions to the International Committee.

Due to the events of World War I, the scheduled congress of Vienna of 1914 is cancelled and only in 1922 the 6th congress can be held in Marseille, France, under the presidency of Mr. Paul Sirvent. The attendance is strong: 145 people from 9 countries.

In 1924, the 7th congress is held for the first time out of Europe, an event that would happen again only in 1967. That year the capital of international beekeeping is Québec, Canada, with the congress being presided by Dr. M. Cyrille Vaillancourt and Mr. C.B. Gooderham, representing the two main linguistic groups of the country. The attendance is impressive with over 900 participants of whom 72 foreigners, who take advantage of having each topic presented in English and French. Among the main decisions taken in the congress, one is launched to promote a freer trade among countries and another to introduce tough disease controls in the transport of the colonies within and outside countries.

Turin is once again chosen as the seat of the 8th congress of 1928 still under the presidency of Prof. Edoardo Perroncito and Don G. Angeleri as Congress Secretary. 223 participants from 10 countries take part in the meetings. Mr. Tombu resigns from the position of permanent Secretary-General of the International Committee of Apicultural Congresses and, at his own suggestion, Count Dr. Antonio Zappi-Recordati is elected. For the first time ever, the congress proceedings are published, relating on the 8 reports delivered and the 3 congress sessions on queen bee rearing, bee diseases and international apicultural organisations.

In 1932, Dr. G.F. Janbert presides the 9th congress held in Paris, in conjunction with the International Congress on Entomology. At this stage the International Committee has risen to 23 members.

For the 10th congress of 1935 in Brussels, the President is Mr. Robert de Lalieux de la Rocq and 117 are the participants from 24 countries. On this occasion, Count Zappi-Recordati proposes to have the Standing Commission active between the congresses in order to assure the continuity of the activities of the International Committee.

In 1937, Paris hosts for the third time the congress for its 11th edition in which the number of participants is unknown. 24 are the member countries. The President, Mr. Sevalle and Count Zappi-Recordati as Secretary-General adopt the proposal that the Standing Commission should include a member from each country.

Prof. Otto Morgenthaler acts as President and Secretary-General for the 12th congress held in Zürich, Switzerland in 1939. 29 lectures are attended and 3 films viewed by 280 participants from 22 countries. During the congress no official meeting of the Standing Committee is held. The congress proceedings are requested.

After the long gap due to World War II, the 13th congress is held in 1949 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, under the presidency of Mr. L.R.J. Ridder van Rappard and with Prof. Morgenthaler as Secretary-General, a position the latter would hold until the 1956 congress. The congress is a milestone since it is on this occasion that Apimondia, the International Federation of Beekeepers’ Associations, is founded by the willpower of Mr. Ridder van Rappard, who envisages an organisation that, in his own words, should have the aim to “break hermetically closed frontiers... provide the basis for better understanding, friendship and union of the beekeepers in all countries... since bees do not know what frontiers mean” avoiding any political or religious implications and whose congresses would be more of a gathering place that a mere scientific, technical and economic event. In the future years he will never cease to stress to make every possible effort to widen international co-operation, establishing an UNO-apicola and affiliate members from all the five continents. To this end, a working group is appointed to formulate the charter. The participants are 280 from 21 countries.

The 14th congress of 1951 is held in Leamington Spa, United Kingdom, under the presidency of Dr. Richard H. Barnes. The charter of Apimondia is not yet ratified so another Commission has to be nominated. 308 participants from 21 countries take part in the meetings.

In 1954 the congress moves to Scandinavia for its 15th edition. It is held in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Mr. Borger Schwartz-Hansen is its President. It is during this congress that Apimondia is finally set up and, in accordance with the deliberation of the congress of 1937, it is decided to have one representative for each member country that should replace the 7-member Commission. It is also agreed that a paper in three languages be edited by Apimondia. The participants are 500 from 21 countries.

The 16th congress, held in Vienna, Austria, in 1956, is the last one that sees Prof. Morgenthaler as Secretary-General of Apimondia who resigns in favour of Count Dr. Antonio Zappi-Recordati who would keep this post until the congress of Prague of 1963. The President is Prof. Planckh. The 750 people from 33 countries participating in this event are informed on the results of the scientists’ meeting that is held just before the congress. It is decided that the congress be held every two years. In the same year the information paper starts being edited and Apimondia is associated with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

In 1958 the 17th edition of the congress is staged in Rome, Italy, and Dr. Zappi-Recordati acts as President of the congress as well as Secretary-General of Apimondia. The scientific pre-congress is held in Bologna: about 200 people attend this meeting in which 28 strictly scientific papers are presented on the topics of bee diseases, beehive products and melliferous flora and included in the general programme. The main congress, held at FAO headquarters in Rome, is organised in 6 sections with 84 papers that deal with practical matters. During the meetings it is decided that the congress should be held every 3 years and an Executive Council, made up of the congress presidents since 1949, is appointed, 654 participants from 37 countries take part in the congress, during which the 1st International Festival of Documentary Films on Beekeeping is held. For the first time since the 1928 congress, the proceedings of the congress are published.

The 18th congress is held in Madrid, Spain, in 1961. The President is Ms. Maria Estremera Trago de Cabezas. The scientific pre-congress is attended by 53 scientists who in 86 communications present the results at the main congress that is attended by 800 people from 24 countries. From this edition onwards the congress would be held every two years.

Prague, Czechoslovakia, is the venue of the 19th congress of 1963. The President is Prof. Jaroslav Svoboda and over 1,000 are the participants from 33 countries. The scientific pre-congress, with 137 reports covers the topics of bee diseases, botany and genetics, is held in Libcice nad Vltavou with the participation of 80 scientists. Dr. Silvestro Cannamela is elected Secretary-General of Apimondia, a post he would hold until the congress of 1993. The Statutes are changed and a 3-member Commission is appointed for the revision of the charter. In 1964 Dr. Zappi-Recordati passes away.

Veceslav HarnajThe 20th jubilee congress is held in Bucharest, Romania, in 1965 with 1,569 participants from 41 countries. In this congress Prof. Veceslav Harnaj, President of the congress, is elected President of Apimondia. A new charter is ratified by the Interim Executive Council and approved by the General Assembly by which Apimondia is constituted by 3 bodies: the General Assembly, the Executive Council and 5 Standing Commissions, the technical bodies meant to assist the Executive Council in solving specific technical matters; Apimondia headquarters is  established in Rome. The number of Member Associations rises to 45. The scientific reports are over 180 distributed in the 5 sessions (Bee Economy, Bee Biology, Bee Pathology, Melliferous Flora and Pollination, Beekeeping Technology and Equipment). The 3-day scientific pre-congress symposium is attended by 130 scientists from 25 countries who address the topics on bee biology, bee pathology and melliferous flora in 36 papers. The First International Beekeeping Fair is inaugurated by 72 exhibitors with the aim to illustrate the apiculture of the host country to the participants and to act as a showcase of the latest developments in practical beekeeping. 100 medals are awarded for the 7 contests. Due to the decisions adopted in 1966, the Apimondia Publishing House is set up in Bucharest and starts the printing of Apiacta, Apimondia’s information magazine in five languages. FAO grants Apimondia the Special Consultative Status, as a result of the close and continuous relationship between these two Organisations. In August 1965, under the supervision of Prof. Svoboda, the Press Exchange and Documentation Centre is established in Prague, Czechoslovakia, for the release of the Bulletin of apicultural documentation and the exchange of beekeeping publications among the member countries.

In 1967 the Congress is again held in Northern America, in College Park, Maryland, USA, for its 21st edition. It is organised jointly bv the American and Canadian Federations: the congress President is Mr. James Isaac Hambleton (USA) and the Vice-President Prof. G. F. Townsend (Canada). The Congress is attended by 1,448 participants from 44 countries. 49 Member Associations from 41 countries are affiliated to Apimondia. In the scientific pre-congress, 70 papers are submitted in 4 sections, whereas for the congress proper 80 papers are presented, distributed in the usual 5 Standing Commission sessions. Following the decision of the Executive Council of 1968, the International Beekeeping Technology and Economy Institute is established in order to carry out the economic activities and give technical assistance to the beekeepers the world over.

Back in Europe, in 1969 the 22nd Congress is organised in Munich, Germany, under the presidency of Dr. Fridolin Gnädinger. The total attendance is of 1,437 participants from 48 countries. At this stage Apimondia consists of 50 Associations from 43 countries. Of the 221 reports submitted, 185 are accepted: 83 or the scientific pre-congress symposium, for the first time open to all participants, and 102 for the main congress. 3 contests are held. It is decided that the congress themes be chosen by the relevant Standing Commission Presidents and to have 2 meetings of the General Assembly, one to be attended by the official delegates of the member countries and the other with all congress participants attending. Apimondia joins the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission as well as the OIE for the International Codex for Control of Bee Diseases.

In 1971, the 23rd congress is held in Moscow, USSR, with Mr. P.I. Morozov as President. 49 countries are represented in Apimondia and 2,195 participants from 44 countries take part in the congress. 202 papers are accepted for presentation: 111 for the symposia and 91 for the plenary sessions. For the first time a symposium on apitherapy is organised within the congress: the “International Symposium on the Use of Bee Products in Human and Veterinary Medicine” is chaired by Mr. N.M. Artemov with 37 reports presented. The exhibition “Apiculture ‘71” is visited by over 10,000 people and 4 contests are held.

The 24th congress is held in 1973 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for the first time in the Southern Hemisphere; the participants are 1,107 from 47 countries. Mr. Oscar Schwint-Escalante is the President. 55 are the member countries of Apimondia. The “Africanised Bee” problem is discussed after the Apis mellifera adansonii (later named A. m. scutellata) was introduced in Brazil in 1956. 128 reports are presented in the plenary sessions. For the first time an apitherapy session is included in the programme and 12 reports are presented. The General Assembly agrees to amend the Statutes of Apimondia and at Prof. Townsend’s suggestion, it endorses to have “corresponding members” from non-member countries of Apimondia. In the same year, Prof. Karl von Frisch, Honorary Member of Apimondia, is awarded the Nobel Prize for his research on the honeybee. On 26th June 1973, Dr. Otto Morghentaler, first Secretary-General of Apimondia, passes away.

In 1975, the 25th congress is held in Grenoble, France, under the presidency of Mr. Raymond Borneck, There is a strong attendance from African participants who present a large number of reports; the total attendance is of 1,730 participants coming from 54 countries. Within the frame of the congress general theme ‘Bees and the Environment”, the problems of environment pollution and the need to find measures for the conservation of the bee stock and of the nectar sources are discussed. Meetings are held for the World Conference on the Development of Beekeeping and the Marketing of Bee Products, due to take place in 1976. An agreement is reached to have the congress held in Europe and other continents alternatively. Apimondia is represented by 63 Member Associations from 56 countries. 168 papers are presented and 61 exhibitors take part in the apicultural show. Ties with FAO, ECOSOC and UNCTAD are further developed due to the consultative status in the drafting and implementation of UN programmes.

For the 26th edition, the 1977 congress is organised in Adelaide, Australia, the first one to be held in Oceania. Dr. Keith M. Doull is its President. 70 Associations of 62 member countries are represented in Apimondia and 894 participants from 45 countries take part in the congress. During the meetings, the decisions of the Apimondia-ITC Conference on World Honey Trade of 1977 are endorsed. The International Office of Epizootics is contacted by Apimondia in the same year with respect to the varroa disease control. The scientific meetings include 7 plenary sessions and 3 round tables with 110 reports delivered. It is requested to establish an Apimondia Standing Commission on Apitherapy, on account of its growing international importance; it is, therefore, decided that the next General Assembly will discuss this issue and for the time being an Independent Working Group is established. The Rules of Application of the Apimondia Statutes are approved. The ApiExpo consists of 47 stands.

Athens, Greece, is the venue of the 27th congress of 1979, under the presidency of Mr. Georges Sellianakis. Apimondia now consists of 77 Member Associations from 68 countries. Under the general theme “Honey in man’s nutrition”, 173 papers are presented in the various plenary sessions, including the one organised by the Independent Working Group on Apitherapy. The General Assembly approves the plan to extend relations with UN Governmental and Non-Governmental Organisations as well as the amendments to the Statutes of the Press and Documentation Centre in Dol. 7 contests are held and 32 firms are represented at ApiExpo ‘79. The participants are 2,135 from 54 countries.

Back in America, the 28th congress of 1981 is staged in Acapulco. Mexico, Mr. David Cardoso-Tamez being its President and “Economic and Social Importance of Beekeeping” the general theme. The congress is attended by 1,519 beekeepers from 54 countries. 83 Member Associations from 71 countries are represented in Apimondia, the largest number so far. The new Regulations for Congress Organisation are applied for the first time. Again 7 contests are held; the ApiExpo ‘81 consists of 31 stands. At the 8 plenary sessions 214 reports are presented. The suggestion to establish an Apimondia Working Group on Beekeeping in Developing Countries and the recommendation to have the Working Group on Apitherapy changed into an Apimondia Standing Commission are presented to the General Assembly.

The 29th congress is held in 1983 in Budapest, Hungary, under the presidency of Mr. Sandor Kocsis. 81 Associations of 69 member countries take part in Apimondia. At the meetings, with 332 abstracts and reports, 2 main topics are addressed: the development of research and technology in apiculture and the control of varroa disease. Prof. Karl von Frisch is commemorated after his death in June 1982. It is also mentioned that the Apimondia Beekeeping Museum in Malines, Belgium, was founded in September 1982. The General Assembly approves the establishment of ttwo new Standing Commissions on Apitherapy and Beekeeping in Developing Countries as well as the election of the Honorary President. The suggestion is made to have some research papers presented as posters so that they may be accessible to everybody throughout the congress. The attendance is over 2,600 people, several thousands more visit the ApiExpo ‘83, with 30 exhibitors present.

Nagoya, Japan, is the seat of the 30th congress of 1985, the first to be held in Asia. The President is Mr. Sadanori Yamanaka and the general theme is “Contribution of Honeybees to Our Society and Their Protection”. On this occasion Prof. Harnaj resigns after being President of Apimondia for 20 years, and is unanimously acclaimed Honorary President of the same Federation. In his place Mr. Raymond Borneck is elected President. 44 exhibitors are represented in ApiExpo ‘85 and the usual 7 contests are held. In the 13 plenary sessions of the 7 Standing Commissions, 124 papers are presented out of the 235 submitted. At the congress, 2,127 participants from 54 countries take part in the meetings.

Back in Europe, in 1987 the 31st congress, attended by 2,776 people from 45 countries, is held in Warsaw, Poland, under the presidency of Dr. Henryk Ostach. The congress theme is ‘The Bee and Natural Environment Protection”. The General Assembly appoints a Committee to compile a directory of all beekeeping organisations. 8 contests are held. Of the 361 reports submitted, 151 are presented in the plenary sessions and 142 as posters. Apimondia, now consisting of 70 Associations from 61 countries, continues its cooperation with FAO on the Codex Alimeritarius. On 20 October 1988, Prof. Harnaj passes away.

In the 32nd congress held in 1989 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, under the presidency of Prof. Helmuth Wiese, the problem of the Africanised Bee is tackled in depth. For the scientific programme consisting of 13 plenary sessions, 195 oral reports and 157 posters are presented. The General Assembly suggests to abolish all Working Groups. 1,608 participants from 62 countries take part in the congress; 38 are the exhibitors in ApiExpo ‘89.

Owing to the war taking place in former Yugoslavia, the Executive Council of Apimondia at its meeting held in Udine, Italy, in November 1991 decides to definitely cancel the 33rd edition of the congress originally scheduled to take place in Split, Croatia, in 1991 and to postpone it to the congress of Beijing of 1993, granting Croatia a priority option on the assignment of a future congress as soon as things settle in the country.

Subsequently in 1993 the 33rd edition of the congress takes place in Beijing, China, under the presidency of Prof. Chen Yao-Chun. On this occasion Dr. Cannamela resigns from the post of Secretary-General of Apimondia after 32 years of dedicated work and is replaced by Mr. Riccardo Jannoni-Sebastianini. The reports submitted to the Secretariat are 512: 166 are presented in the various plenary sessions and 307 as posters. Over 1,800 people participate in the Congress. 95 firms exhibit in ApiExpo ’93. 55 are the member countries affiliated to Apimondia.

The 34th congress is held in 1995 in Lausanne, Switzerland, under the presidency of Dr. Werner Stern. 0f the 483 reports submitted, 127 are presented in the 7 plenary sessions and 6 round tables, 341 are the posters. The participants are 1,598 from 72 countries and many more visit the ApiExpo ‘95 with 96 exhibitors. 58 are the Member Associations. In particular the problems of the varroa’s resistance to chemicals and bee race genetics are addressed. A panel discussion on hive products is organised in conjunction with the American Apitherapv Society.

The General Assembly decides to hold the Centennial Anniversary Congress of Apimondia in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1997, the 36th congress in Vancouver, Canada, in 1999 and the 37th edition of 2001 in Durban, South Africa, the first ever to be held in Africa, thus covering all continents and fulfilling Mr. Ridder van Rappard’s dream of having a real international organisation.

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