Pollinator People dissertation

Exciting news! I have completed my PhD dissertation “Pollinator People: an ethnography of bees, bee advocates and possibilities for multispecies commoning in Toronto and London, ON“. You can read it online and/or download it to read later. If you like it, or it resonates with you please feel free to share it. I don’t like the idea of academic research staying within the walls of academia.

Here is the abstract to give you a sense of what it is all about:

Bees are the most important pollinators in many parts of the world, and the combination of population declines in wild bees and widespread health problems among honey bees have potentially devastating impacts on both ecosystem health and the agricultural industry. Some scientists, native bee advocates, and beekeepers argue that cities can provide a refuge for bees from pesticide-laden rural landscapes, which has contributed to an increase in urban, hobbyist beekeeping and pollinator gardening.

For this research I conducted in-depth interviews with gardeners, urban beekeepers, and bee experts in London, ON and Toronto. I also spent time with beekeepers, gardeners, and bees in beeyards and gardens. I explored how the knowledges and experiences of urban bee advocates – who I call ‘pollinator people’ – shape the ways in which people use spaces that are shared with bees of all species within cities. A central argument of this dissertation is that urban, hobbyist beekeeping and pollinator gardening allow people to engage in ‘playful work’, a form of creative activity with non-human nature that engages with a wide range of senses, evoking feelings of curiosity and wonder. I argue that through playful work pollinator people form transformative relationships of care and consideration with bees, which may extend to other insects.

Some native bee advocates argue that urban honey bees may cause some harm to native, wild bees through competition for pollen and nectar and transfer of harmful pathogens. This research suggests that bee-centred beekeeping, in which beekeepers consider the needs of honey bees and use organic, mindful practices, may help to sustain healthier honey bees. Rather than banishing honey bees to rural, agricultural landscapes where they are numerous but sickly, an emphasis should be placed on the creation of landscapes of abundance, full of a wide variety of vegetation and habitat sources, in which healthier honey bees can thrive together with native wild bees. Urban farms, community gardens, and collective beeyards are commonly-shared and potentially democratic spaces in which people can co-create with bees and other insects.

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