Abandoned Apiaries

Chloe Silverman, Drexel University

In an interview for a study on the sociology of honey bee health, a university-based entomologist described the abandoned apiaries that existed around his childhood home town, unattended yet thriving. These are a thing of the past. Indeed, unmanaged and feral bees appear to have mostly died out in the United States over the past few decades, with the only colonies remaining those that are actively tended by beekeepers. Teams of entomologists have tried to visualize and understand the causes of unexplained honey bee colony losses as reported by beekeepers, often borrowing ideas and methods from public health and human medicine—the HIV/AIDS epidemic, or overmedication and drug interactions in older adults. However, entomologists also depend on the local knowledge of beekeepers. The Bee Informed Partnership for example attempts to use beekeeper observations in a yearly survey to establish the scope of colony losses, their apparent causes, and the strategies that beekeepers use to mitigate those losses. In attempting to verify beekeepers’ and entomologists’ intuition that honey bee colonies are in the midst of a medically significant episode, this partnership tries to ascertain both the reality of unexplained losses and the attributes of affected colonies. Beekeepers’ abiding sense of colony weakness lacks the rigor and control expected of research, which is why collaborating with research teams to use methods drawn from public health—population surveys, community studies—offers the appealing prospect of quantifying or at least identifying important variables and categorizing disease when it occurs. This paper describes the types of knowledge, including biographical, historical, tactile, and quantitative, that beekeepers and entomologists muster in their representations of colony losses.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 134. Mobilizing Scientific Knowledge in Epistemic Communities