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Commoning the Bloom: Managing bees and floral resources on N. American landscapes

Authors: Jennie L Durant*, University of California, Riverside
Topics: Food Systems, Cultural and Political Ecology, Animal Geographies
Keywords: agriculture, bees, pesticides, food systems, political ecology, commons, resource conflicts, environmental governance
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 3:00 PM / 4:00 PM
Room: Virtual Track 11
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Managed and wild bee populations are declining in the United States and around the world. From 2015-2018, commercial beekeepers lost over 40% of their colonies (Kulhanek et al., 2017; Bruckner et al., 2019), and nearly one in four monitored native bee species are at increasing risk of extinction (Kopec and L. A. Burd, 2017). One of the key drivers of pollinator vulnerability is lost access to bee forage (Goulsen et. al., 2015), i.e. floral resources such as nectar and pollen. As a result, the remaining acres of prime bee forage have become new sites of contestation between beekeepers, wild bee researchers, land owners, and legislators. This paper applies a commons framing to contextualize these conflicts and the attempts to resolve contested claims to these floral resources. Drawing from Bollier's “commoning” (2016) and Ostrom’s commons (1990), I argue that nectar and pollen are common-pool resources, currently managed through informal commoning practices such as pesticide mitigation and negotiation between beekeepers and farmers, and through formal state and federal regulations. These approaches have arisen in part because honeybee foraging habits cannot be bound by property arrangements or contractual agreements, which makes it difficult to exclude them from agricultural landscapes. As a result, floral resources have required non-traditional management for generations. In this paper, I explore the significance of these efforts for pollinator conservation, environmental management, and theories of commoning ecological resources in a capitalist context.

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