[Thesis defense] 11/12/23: Léo Mouillard-Lample: "Competition between bees, the emergence of floral resources as a common good" (INRAE Abeilles)

Research news 6 December 2023

Title of thesis

Competition between bees, the emergence of floral resources as a common good?
Socio-ecological analysis and support for a collective action to share floral resources in order to reconcile beekeeping and the preservation of wild bees in the Cévennes National Park.

Date and place

11 December 2023, Agroparc, Campus Jean-Henri Fabre, CERI, Amphi Blaise


Population biology and ecology
Agricultural sciences


INRAe, Abeilles et environnement, ITSAP - Institut de l'abeille, Dynafor


  • Cécile Barnaud, thesis co-director
  • Axel Decourtye, thesis supervisor
  • Mickaël Henry, thesis co-supervisor

Composition of the jury

  • Emmanuelle Baudry
  • Elsa Berthet
  • Nina Hautekeete
  • Raphaël Mathevet
  • Cécile Barnaud
  • Axel Decourtye
  • Mickaël Henry

Summary of the thesis

In recent years, the issue of competition between bees for resources has become increasingly important in the scientific field. The foraging of nectar and pollen by beekeepers' colonies of honeybees can lead to a reduction in the resources available to wild bees. These results have given rise to intense debate within the scientific and professional beekeeping communities. Some authors have suggested that honey bees should be excluded from protected areas in order to preserve wild bees, while others advocate more inclusive measures. However, restricting or even excluding honey bees has social implications for beekeepers that remain little studied.

Given the ecological and social issues raised by the existence of competition, we believe it is relevant to consider the question of sharing floral resources from the angle of Elinor Ostrom's theory of the commons. Ostrom's research shows that commons-type resources can be managed sustainably by communities of users through collective action. Considering floral resources as a 'common good' would therefore pave the way for new modes of collaborative governance between the many stakeholders who use and modify them. In this thesis, we will therefore ask whether it is relevant to consider floral resources as common goods, and how this approach provides a better understanding of the key issues involved in setting up collective action to share melliferous resources in a way that reconciles the preservation of wild bees with the maintenance of sustainable beekeeping. To answer this question, we will apply an approach combining social and ecological sciences in the Cévennes National Park.

Beekeepers' perceptions of competition are complex, varied and evolving. While most beekeepers stress the major uncertainties underlying these processes of food competition, some are beginning to see them as a possibility. Moreover, the idea that these floral resources constitute a common good underpins a series of discourses and practices. Yet there is currently no arena for discussing these different perceptions and potential approaches to achieving shared governance of floral resources. From an ecological point of view, our analysis of the foraging success of wild and domestic bees shows the existence of intra (between bee colonies) and interspecific competition in the Cévennes. Our results show that this competition is linked to distance from apiaries. They thus provide the first evidence of the transposition of the concept of apiaries' area of influence in heterogeneous landscapes. However, this competition varies according to floral resources and year, which raises a number of uncertainties.

Finally, in order to understand and support the implementation of collective management of the sharing of floral resources, we set up an action research approach based on the serious game AGORAPI. Our results highlight the differences in representations that hamper the implementation of collective action. The construction of rules for collective action and a collective representation of a resource as a common good seem to need to be developed jointly. In line with Ostrom's work, our results confirm the importance of trust, transparency and reciprocity in the construction of collective action and the emergence of a common good. The AGORAPI game showed potential for initiating reflection on this collective action. The participants suggested setting up a full-scale experiment in the area to build this trust and improve knowledge of resources and competition. However, our results also show the need for a global approach to resources, taking into account farming practices in particular.

Keywords: Honey bees, Wild bees, Competition, Floral resources, Communes, Companion modelling

Mots clés associés
thesis defence