Urban Landscapes & Pollinator Diversity
Recent research suggests that intensifying conservation and restoration efforts for diverse urban insect pollinators is an opportunity for meaningful urban conservation, moving beyond traditional education and recreation programming towards a series of cascading benefits throughout rural and urban landscapes.
BEES AND OTHER POLLINATING INSECTS THRIVE AS WELL IN TOWNS AND CITIES AS THEY DO IN FARMS AND NATURE RESERVES
The new research from the Universities of Bristol, Edinburgh, Leeds and Reading in collaboration with the University of Cardiff, found that bee abundance did not differ between three studied landscapes (urban, farmland and nature reserves) but bee diversity was higher in urban areas than farmland.
INSECT POLLINATORS PUT HIGH-PRIORITY AND HIGH-IMPACT URBAN CONSERVATION WITHIN REACH, AND SMALL ACTIONS CAN YIELD LARGE BENEFITS FOR POLLINATOR CONSERVATION
Academics – including Jeff Ollerton, Professor of Biodiversity at the University of Northampton, and Dr Mick Hanley, Reader in Plant-Animal Interactions at the University of Plymouth – say new research into urban ecology is changing how we view the biological value and ecological importance of cities globally.
IMPROVING WILD POLLINATOR POPULATIONS IN URBAN AREAS IMPROVES SPECIES DIVERSITY AND ABUNDANCE IN NEARBY AGRICULTURAL LANDS
The report authors add: "Because the world's farmers and food security depend upon bees and other pollinators, attending to populations of urban pollinators is important. The global pollinator crisis is one environmental problem that an individual urban resident can do something about.
THERE IS NO NEED TO GET A BEEHIVE As it will INCREASE COMPETITION FOR RESOURCES WITH NATIVE BEES
Small actions can yield large benefits for pollinator conservation. Simply plant more diverse flowers of different sizes, let valuable 'weeds' grow an extra week or two before mowing them from your lawn, leave some bare unmulched ground for solitary ground nesting bees, learn to appreciate the aesthetic of others who plant for bees, and then watch the urban pollinators flourish.
TO ENSURE THIS HAS A RECOGNISABLE EFFECT ON ISSUES SUCH AS GLOBAL FOOD SECURITY AND ECOSYSTEM SERVICE PROVISION, POLICIES NOW NEED TO BE BETTER ALIGNED WITH THIS NEWLY UNFOLDING IMAGE OF URBAN LANDSCAPES
ONE OF THE MAIN CAUSES OF POLLINATOR - WILD BEES AND BUMBLE BEE - DECLINE GLOBALLY IS THE LOSS OF FLOWERS, ESPECIALLY IN THE COUNTRYSIDE
A study by the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI) at the University of Sussex shows that a wide variety of pollinators feed on the nectar and pollen found in many flowers. The study that puts the business of recommending pollinator-friendly garden flowers on a firmer scientific footing.
As "pollinator-friendly" plant lists are often based on opinion and experience rather than scientific research. the researchers recommend 19 species and hybrids, both native and exotic to Britain, four dahlias and 13 varieties of lavender, a scented herb that grows widely around the Mediterranean and is also native to tropical Africa and India.
PLANT THE RIGHT FLOWERS AND THE BEES WILL COME
Plants that the researchers can recommend to gardeners include lavender, marjoram, open-flowered dahlias, borage, and Bowles Mauve Everlasting Wallflower. Marjoram is probably the best all-rounder, attracting honeybees, bumble bees, other bees, hover flies, and butterflies. Borage is the best for honeybees. Lavender and open-flowered dahlias are very attractive to bumblebees. Bowles Highly bred varieties of lavender, including those of novel colours, such as white or pink, or hybrid lavenders, proved highly attractive to insects. Bowles mauve is the best for butterflies. But all attracted a range of insects. Some cultivated varieties and non-native flowers – usually seen as ornamental only – can be helpful to wildlife. For example, open dahlias attracted many bees, especially bumblebees, but pom-pom or cactus dahlias attracted few insects, because their highly bred flowers make it difficult for insects to reach the flowers' pollen and nectar.
The garden perennial plant lamb's ears (Stachys) was popular with an unusual species of bee, the wool carder bee that, apart from feeding on the flowers, uses the hairs of the plant for nest building. Male carder bees guard a patch and chase away bees of other species, and other males. The least attractive flowering plant to insects was the pelargonium – a popular garden plant.
THE HONEYBEE MAY HAVE DECLINED BUT IS IN NOT IN ANY IMMINENT DANGER OF EXTINCTION, UNLIKE SOME OTHER CRITICALLY ENDANGERED POLLINATORS IN THE UK
With the number of urban hives on the increase, there needs to be sufficient food. Although urban areas have gardens, parks and other green areas, they also have a high proportion of buildings, roads and other non-green areas. Even the green areas often have very few flowers.
In 2013, Professor Francis Ratnieks and Dr Karin Alton from the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects (LASI) at the University of Sussex reviewed the beekeeping boom. Their research suggests that the boom could be bad for honey bees and other flower-visiting insects as it risks overtaxing the available nectar and pollen supply, and potentially encourages the spread of diseases.
RESEARCH INDICATES THAT EACH NEW HIVE PLACED IN LONDON WOULD NEED THE EQUIVALENT OF ONE HECTARE OF BORAGE OR 8.3 HECTARES OF LAVENDER
Scientists say that high colony density in London and an influx of inexperienced beekeepers also runs the risk of spreading certain honey bee diseases, especially American foulbrood (AFB), a highly contagious bacterial infection of honey bee larvae. AFB is rare in Britain, but a high density of hives managed by novice beekeepers creates a situation in which it could easily spread if it got started. A few years ago there was an epidemic in Jersey. The "cure" for AFB, which has very long-lived spores than contaminate the wax combs, is to burn the hive.
RATHER THAN ENCOURAGING MORE HIVES, A BETTER ALTERNATIVE WOULD BE TO TRANSLATE THE CONCERN WE HAVE FOR BEES BY PROVIDING MORE FLOWERS AND HABITAT
London has the densest population of honeybees in Europe. Data from Bee Base, a register of apiaries maintained by the UK's National Bee Unit (NBU), shows that from 2008-2013, the number of beekeepers in Greater London tripled from 464 to 1,237, and the number of hives doubled from 1,677 to more than 3,500. At approximately 10 hives per km2, compared to approximately 1 per km2 in England as a whole, hive density was very high in London. In 2014- 2017 the numbers are expected to be higher still, endangering the health of bees.
THERE ARE CONCERNS AT INTERNATIONAL LEVELS TOO THAT NATIVE POLLINATORS ARE BEING OVERLOOKED
In Australia, many scientists fear that thousands of Australia’s native bees are falling victim to bad press, because the media has been glorifying honeybees(Apis mellifera L.) at the expense of hard-working native pollinators.
Dr Tobias Smith from the School of Biological Sciences ,University of Queensland and Dr Manu Sanders from Charles Sturt University, emphasise the importance of having diverse pollinator communities. They add that implementing conservation initiatives often depends on public support, which can be shaped by the media and bias toward honeybees is so great that it could undermine support for native bee conservation efforts.
Australia has about 2000 native bee species that are important pollinators, and thousands of other insects such as flies, wasps, butterflies, moths and beetles play important roles as pollinators. Honeybees are an important component of the crop pollinator mix but are also under increasing pressure from factors that increase their susceptibility to disease and parasites.
“INFORMATION GAP” IN THE UNITED STATES
In the United States, Sam Droege, a Maryland-based wildlife biologist and bee expert notes that there is a difference between honey bees and native bees. He explains that native bees can facilitate the pollination needed in any type of garden.
In the US, the widespread decline of European honeybees has been well documented in recent years, but until now much less has been revealed about the 4,337 native bee species in North America and Hawaii. These mostly solitary, ground-nesting bees play a crucial ecological role by pollinating wild plants and provide more than $3 billion in fruit-pollination services each year in the United States.
The new analysis, Pollinators in Peril: A systematic status review of North American and Hawaiian native bees, revealed that more than 700 species are in trouble from a range of serious threats, including severe habitat loss and escalating pesticide use and nearly 1 in 4 is imperiled and at increasing risk of extinction.