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Bees and pollinators ‘thrive’ in urban environment



Bees and other pollinator species thrive as well in towns and cities as they do in farms and nature reserves, according to a new study.

The University of Bristol led the study, which has been published in the Proceeding of the Royal Society B. The team of researchers compared flower visiting pollinator communities in 36 sites in and around some of the UK’s largest towns and cities.

The research studied three landscapes – urban, farmland and nature reserves – and found bee abundance did not differ between the sites. However, bee diversity was higher in urban areas, suggesting that urban areas offer a suitable landscape for pollinating insects.

Lead researcher, Dr Katherine Baldock said, “Bees are driven by availability of food and suitable nesting sites. We found that there were equivalent numbers of bees in the three landscapes studied.

“In urban areas pollinators foraged on a wide variety of plant species, including many non-native garden plants, but visited a smaller portion of the available plant species than those in other landscapes. This could be explained by the high diversity of plant species in urban areas.”

Searching for bees is not easy in certain areas. It becomes harder as the species evolves, so old school methods of detecting them become less effective.

The team also stated that the findings have “important implications” for pollinator conservation as urban areas continue to grow in size across the UK. The study concluded, “urban areas growing and improving their value for pollinators should be part of any national strategy to conserve and restore pollinators”.

Bees, along with other pollinators, pollinate plants, including crops, with a previous study stating the presence of bees is “underestimated” and improves value of crops. The insect is under threat from habitat loss, pesticides and diseases.

Professor Jane Memmott, of the University of Bristol, added, “Insect pollination has been valued at around £690 million per year for UK crop production and many of these urban bees are essential for pollinating some of the fruits and vegetables which are grown in gardens and allotments.

“These findings offer incentives for policymakers to improve the quality of existing green spaces in urban areas, as urban habitats can contain remarkably high pollinator species richness.”

Photo: Michaela Kobyakov via Freeimages

Further reading:

Great British Bee Count: allotments better than parks for bees

Pollen collected by European bees contaminated with pesticides

Bee-killing hornets might come to Britain in the hot season

Banned pesticide interferes with bees’ ability to gather food

Commercial bees risk spreading disease to wild pollinators