THE plight of the humble bee has been well documented. Honey bees, bumble bees and other pollinating insects are under threat from some pesticides, disease and loss of habitat – our wildflower-rich grasslands, a prime habitat for pollinators, have declined by 97 per cent since the 1930s.
Cities may not exactly seem like the best places for bees, and yet it’s not a terribly unusual site to see professionals removing massive hives from trees, roofs, and even lampposts. Now, new research has revealed that maybe these urban bees are on to something, as they could be just as productive and healthy as their rural counterparts.
That’s at least according to a study recently published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, which details how researchers compared, for the first time ever, the suitability of different landscapes for pollinating insects across the United Kingdom.
It’s not exactly a secret that bees and other pollinators have been on the decline across the globe. This decline has been traced back to invasive parasites, climate change, and infamously harmful pesticides, depending on the region. Nature World News even previously reported how their decline is hurting humans too, leaving a good number of developing countries at risk for poor harvests and rampant malnutrition.
Thankfully, according to researcher Katherine Baldock at the University of Bristol, bees have a lot more places to try their luck at recovery than experts thought.
“Bees are driven by the availability of food and suitable nesting sites. We found that there were equivalent numbers of bees in the three landscapes studied,” she explained in a statement.
“In urban areas pollinators foraged on a wide variety of plant species, including many non-native garden plants, but visited a smaller proportion of the available plant species than those in other landscapes,” Baldock added. “This could be explained by the high diversity of plant species in urban areas.”
This was determined after the team compared visiting pollinator communities in 36 sites in and around UK urban areas. They saw a total of 7,412 pollinators visiting monitored flowers – about just as many as would be seen in a rural setting.
However, it’s important to note that other studies have found that car exhaust, which is common in urban areas, can hide the scent of some favorite flowers to some specialized pollinators.
Still, Baldock and her colleagues argue that because so many bees and other pollinators can now be found in cities, urban gardens and parks should be part of conversation when considering how and where to help bee populations recover.