Beekeeping with/out borders in Ukraine, Moldova, and Romania: voluminous socialities in (un)making Carpathian Honeybee territory

Speaker: Dr Tanya Richardson (Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada) 

Convenor: Dr Darya Tsymbalyuk (St Antony's)


Beekeeping laws and regulation in Ukraine, Moldova, and Romania require beekeepers to work with Carpathian honeybees in some or all administrative districts. While Carpathian honeybee queens are bred in all three countries, queens from Ukraine’s Transcarpathia region are particularly renowned thanks to decades of conservation-oriented breeding work, particularly by researchers at Ukraine’s Prokopovych Beekeeping Institute. While Carpathians have many fans and allies in these three countries, others dispute these bees’ value and distinctiveness, and advocate the use of bees from Austria, Germany, Denmark and elsewhere. Honeybee queens’ small size makes it relatively easy to move them across borders in circumvention of states’ biosecurity controls. Their aerial, polyandrous mating practices mean that hybridization among honeybee kinds occurs easily and that their ongoing existence involves attention to ground-air relations, or what geographers and anthropologists call “volume” (Elden, Billé). Drawing on ethnographic research with beekeepers, breeders, researchers and their bees in these countries during several trips in 2018-2022, I make visible the voluminous socialities through which a Carpathian honeybee territory is made and show how they have enabled it to persist in spite of economic crises and the Russo-Ukrainian war.