History of Apimondia 

Part 1 - From 1897 to 1997

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In September 1997 Apimondia, the International Federation of Beekeepers’ Associations, organised the 35th Apimondia congress in Antwerp, Belgium, to mark the Centennial Jubilee of International Apicultural Congresses. The venue chosen for this congress, Belgium, accentuated the relevance of the event as it was in this very country that the First International Apicultural Congress was held back in 1897.

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

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

After this success, in 1900 the 2nd Congress was held in Paris, France, it was held over 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 was established and Mr. de Lalieux de la Rocq was elected President.

The 3rd congress held in s’Hertogenbosch, in the Netherlands in 1902 was the last to see Messrs. Fernand de Lalieux de la Rocq and Emile Caillas as President and Secretary-General of the congress. An unknown number of participants from 7 countries took part in this event.

As a result of Mr. de Lalieux de la Rocq’s death in 1903, the International Committee of Apicultural Congresses was inactive for a period of time. It was not until 1910 that the 4th congress was held, once again in Brussels, with Mr. Léon Tombu as President and Mr. Genonceaux as Secretary-General. During this congress, which was attended by about 60 people, Mr. Tombu’s suggestion to have a well-known apiarist of the host country as President was accepted.

As a result, in 1911 at the 5th congress in Turin, Italy, Prof. Edoardo Perroncito acted as President and Mr. Tombu as Secretary-General, a position the latter was to hold until the 1928 congress. Attendance was low, with only 8 countries participating in the meetings. It was 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 1914 congress of Vienna was cancelled and it was only in 1922 that the 6th congress could held in Marseille, France, under the presidency of Mr. Paul Sirvent. The attendance was strong: 145 people from 9 countries.

In 1924, the 7th congress was held outside Europe for the first time, an event that would not happen again until 1967. The capital of international beekeeping for the 7th edition was Quebec, Canada, the congress was presided by Dr. M. Cyrille Vaillancourt and Mr. C.B. Gooderham, representing the country’s two main linguistic groups. The attendance was impressive with over 900 participants of whom 72 were foreigners, who could take advantage of having each topic presented in English and French. Among the main decisions taken at the congress, was the promotion of freer trade among countries and the introduction of strict disease controls for the transport of colonies within and outside countries.

Turin was once again chosen as the seat of the 8th congress in 1928, which was still under the presidency of Prof. Edoardo Perroncito with Don G. Angeleri as Congress Secretary. There were 223 participants from 10 countries to take part in the meetings. Mr. Tombu resigned from the position of permanent Secretary-General of the International Committee of Apicultural Congresses and, at his own suggestion, Count Dr. Antonio Zappi-Recordati was elected. For the first time ever, the congress proceedings were published, relating to 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 presided the 9th congress held in Paris, in conjunction with the International Congress on Entomology. At this stage the International Committee had risen to 23 members.

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

In 1937, for the third time, Paris hosted the congress for its 11th edition. The number of participants was unknown but there were 24 Member countries. The President, Mr. Sevalle and Count Zappi-Recordati as Secretary-General adopted the proposal that the Standing Commission should include a member from each country.

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

After the long gap due to World War II, the 13th congress was 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 was a milestone since it was on this occasion that Apimondia, the International Federation of Beekeepers’ Associations, was founded by the willpower of Mr. Ridder van Rappard, who envisaged 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 a gathering place rather than a mere scientific, technical and economic event. In the future years he never ceased striving 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 was appointed to formulate the charter. There were 280 participants from 21 countries.

The 14th congress was held in Leamington Spa, United Kingdom in 1951, under the presidency of Dr. Richard H. Barnes. The charter of Apimondia had not yet been ratified so another Commission had to be nominated. Three hundred and eight participants from 21 countries attended the meetings.

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

The 16th congress, held in Vienna, Austria, in 1956, is the last to see Prof. Morgenthaler as Secretary-General of Apimondia before his resignation in favour of Count Dr. Antonio Zappi-Recordati, who was to keep this position until the Prague congress in 1963. The President is Prof. Planckh. The 750 people from 33 countries participating in this event were given the results of the scientists’ meeting that was held just before the congress. It was decided that the congress be held every two years. In the same year an information paper started being edited and Apimondia became associated with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

In 1958, the 17th edition of the congress was staged in Rome, Italy, with Dr. Zappi-Recordati as both President of the congress as well as Secretary-General of Apimondia. The scientific pre-congress was held in Bologna: about 200 people attended this meeting in which 28 strictly scientific papers were presented covering 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, was organised in 6 sections with 84 papers dealing with practical matters. During the meetings it was decided that the congress should be held every 3 years and an Executive Council, made up of the congress presidents since 1949, was appointed, 654 participants from 37 countries took part in the congress, during which the 1st International Festival of Documentary Films on Beekeeping was held. For the first time since the 1928 congress, the proceedings of the congress were published.

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

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

Veceslav HarnajIn 1965, the 20th jubilee congress took place in Bucharest, Romania, with 1,569 participants from 41 countries. The congress sees Prof. Veceslav Harnaj, President of the congress, elected as the next President of Apimondia. A new charter was ratified by the Interim Executive Council and approved by the General Assembly. According to this charter Apimondia is made up of three bodies: the General Assembly, the Executive Council and 5 Standing Commissions, the latter meant to assist the Executive Council in solving specific technical matters. Apimondia headquarters were established in Rome. The number of Member Associations rose to 45. The scientific reports, over 180, were 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 was attended by 130 scientists from 25 countries who addressed topics on bee biology, bee pathology and melliferous flora in 36 papers. The First International Beekeeping Fair was inaugurated by 72 exhibitors with the aim of illustrating apiculture within the host country to the participants and to act as a showcase for the latest developments in practical beekeeping. 100 medals were awarded for the 7 contests. Due to the decisions adopted in 1966, the Apimondia Publishing House was set up in Bucharest and started to print Apiacta, the Apimondia information magazine in five languages. FAO granted Apimondia 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 was 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 was again held in Northern America, in College Park, Maryland, USA, for its 21st edition. It was organised jointly by the American and Canadian Federations: the congress President was Mr. James Isaac Hambleton (USA) and the Vice-President Prof. G. F. Townsend (Canada). The Congress was attended by 1,448 participants from 44 countries. 49 Member Associations from 41 countries are now affiliated to Apimondia. In the scientific pre-congress, 70 papers were submitted in 4 sections, whereas for the congress proper 80 papers were presented in the usual 5 Standing Commission sessions. Following the decision of the Executive Council of 1968, the International Beekeeping Technology and Economy Institute was 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 was organised in Munich, Germany, under the presidency of Dr. Fridolin Gnädinger. The total attendance was 1,437 participants from 48 countries. At this stage Apimondia consisted of 50 Associations from 43 countries. Of the 221 reports submitted, 185 were accepted: 83 for the scientific pre-congress symposium, which was open to all participants for the first time, and 102 for the main congress. Three contests were held. It was 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 joined 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 was held in Moscow, USSR, with Mr. P.I. Morozov as President. There were now 49 countries represented by Apimondia and 2,195 participants from 44 countries took part in the congress. Two hundred and two papers were accepted for presentation: 111 for the symposia and 91 for the plenary sessions. For the first time a symposium on apitherapy was organised within the congress: the “International Symposium on the Use of Bee Products in Human and Veterinary Medicine” was chaired by Mr. N.M. Artemov with 37 reports presented. The exhibition “Apiculture ‘71” was visited by over 10,000 people and 4 contests were held.

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

In 1975, the 25th congress was held in Grenoble, France, under the presidency of Mr. Raymond Borneck, There was strong attendance from African participants who presented a large number of reports; total attendance was 1,730 participants coming from 54 countries. Within the frame of the congress' general theme ‘Bees and the Environment”, the problems of environmental pollution and the need to find measures for the conservation of bee stock and of nectar sources were discussed. Meetings were held for the World Conference on the Development of Beekeeping and the Marketing of Bee Products, due to take place in 1976. An agreement was reached to have the congress held in Europe and other continents alternatively. Apimondia was now represented by 63 Member Associations from 56 countries. 168 papers were presented and 61 exhibitors took part in the apicultural show. Ties with FAO, ECOSOC and UNCTAD were 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. Seventy Associations from 62 member countries are represented in Apimondia and 894 participants from 45 countries took part in the congress. During the meetings, the decisions of the Apimondia-ITC Conference on World Honey Trade of 1977 were endorsed. The International Office of Epizootics was contacted by Apimondia in the same year with respect to varroa disease control. The scientific meetings included 7 plenary sessions and 3 round tables with 110 reports delivered. The establishment of an Apimondia Standing Commission on Apitherapy was requested, on account of its growing international importance; it was, therefore, decided that the next General Assembly would discuss this issue and meantime an Independent Working Group was set up. The Rules of Application of the Apimondia Statutes were approved. ApiExpo consisted of 47 stands.

Athens, Greece, was the venue of the 27th congress in 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 were presented in the various plenary sessions, including the one organised by the Independent Working Group on Apitherapy. The General Assembly approved 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 were held and 32 companies were represented at ApiExpo ‘79. There were 2,135 participants from 54 countries.

Back in America, the 28th congress of 1981 was staged in Acapulco, Mexico, with Mr. David Cardoso-Tamez as its President and “Economic and Social Importance of Beekeeping” the general theme. The congress was attended by 1,519 beekeepers from 54 countries. Apimondia continued to grow with 83 Member Associations from 71 countries now represented, the largest number so far. The new Regulations for Congress Organisation were applied for the first time. Again 7 contests were held; ApiExpo ‘81 consisted of 31 stands. At the 8 plenary sessions 214 reports were 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 were presented to the General Assembly.

The 29th congress was held in 1983 in Budapest, Hungary, under the presidency of Mr. Sandor Kocsis. Eighty-one Associations from 69 member countries took part in Apimondia. At the meetings, with 332 abstracts and reports, 2 main topics were addressed: the development of research and technology in apiculture and the control of varroa disease. There was a commemoration for Prof. Karl von Frisch after his death in June 1982. Mention was also made of the founding of the Apimondia Beekeeping Museum in Malines, Belgium, in September 1982. The General Assembly approved the establishment of two new Standing Commissions on Apitherapy and Beekeeping in Developing Countries as well as the election of an Honorary President. The suggestion was made to have some research papers presented as posters so that they might be accessible to everybody throughout the congress. The attendance was over 2,600 people, several thousand more visited ApiExpo ‘83, with 30 exhibitors present.

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

Back in Europe, in 1987 the 31st congress, held in Warsaw, Poland, under the presidency of Dr. Henryk Ostach, was attended by 2,776 people from 45 countries. The theme of the congress was ‘The Bee and Natural Environment Protection”. The General Assembly appointed a Committee to compile a directory of all beekeeping organisations. Eight contests were held. Of the 361 reports submitted, 151 were presented in the plenary sessions and 142 as posters. Apimondia, now made up of 70 Associations from 61 countries, continued the work in cooperation with FAO on the Codex Alimentarius. On 20 October 1988, Prof. Harnaj passed away.

At the 32nd congress held in 1989 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, under the presidency of Prof. Helmuth Wiese, the problem of the Africanised Bee was tackled in depth. During the scientific programme, consisting of 13 plenary sessions, 195 oral reports and 157 posters were presented. The General Assembly suggested abolishing all Working Groups. The congress attracted 1,608 participants from 62 countries. There were 38 exhibitors in ApiExpo ‘89.

Owing to the war in former Yugoslavia, the Executive Council of Apimondia during its meeting held in Udine, Italy, in November 1991 decided to cancel the 33rd edition of the congress, which was originally scheduled to take place in Split, Croatia, in 1991, and to postpone until the congress of Beijing in 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 resigned from the post of Secretary-General of Apimondia after 32 years of dedicated work and was replaced by Mr. Riccardo Jannoni-Sebastianini. Of the 512 reports submitted to the Secretariat, 166 were presented in the various plenary sessions and 307 as posters. Over 1,800 people participated in the Congress. 95 companies exhibited in ApiExpo ’93. There were 55 member countries affiliated to Apimondia.

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

The General Assembly decided to hold the Centennial Anniversary Congress of Apimondia in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1997, the 36th congress in Vancouver, Canada, in 1999 and the 37th 2001 edition 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 truly international organisation.

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History of Apimondia congresses – part 2 – Currently underway…