How Cities Can Offer Urban Oases For Bees And Butterflies

Why Cities Offer Urban Oases For Bees And Butterflies Frank Wagner/Shutterstock

Half of the world’s people already live in urban areas, and that number will only grow in the future. Is this bad news for biodiversity? Not necessarily. Towns and cities can be home to a surprising amount of wildlife – if they’re managed appropriately.

Pollinating insects help provide many of the delicious foods that city dwellers take for granted, but in Britain alone, a third of wild bee and hoverfly species are in decline. While most people want to “save the bees”, few realise that these vital pollinators can thrive in the concrete sprawl outside their window. Studies have found that in some urban areas, there are more bee species than in nearby countryside. So what’s the secret to having a city buzzing with insect life?


 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

In a new study, researchers have unveiled a “Plan Bee” for boosting biodiversity in the midst of city life.

How Cities Can Offer Urban Oases For Bees And Butterflies Bumblebees can take to city life if urban green spaces are properly managed. Katherine Baldock, Author provided

Creating a buzz

The researchers created identical flower beds in parks and other public green spaces in the German city of Aachen, and replicated these in a nearby rural area. They watched for the bees, bumblebees, wasps and other insects that arrived and compared their diversity between the two.

These beds included a combination of flowers that were likely to attract a diverse range of species, from black-eyed Susan, a flower that appeals to a wide variety of pollinators, to snapdragons which are favoured by bumblebees. Insects which live in colonies, like honeybees and bumblebees, were recorded less often in the flower beds than expected. These species often forage over several kilometres, but they will only do so if there is lots of nectar and pollen to make it worth the effort.

So what does this tell us about what makes a good urban site for pollinators? In Aachen, most of the urban flower beds attracted fewer insects than those placed in rural areas. The exception to this was the community gardens – what we’d call allotments in the UK. These places often had comparable numbers of pollinator visitors to the rural site.

This tells a similar story to another study which looked at the UK and found that allotment gardens can be hotspots for pollinators – veritable oases within towns and cities.

How Cities Can Offer Urban Oases For Bees And Butterflies Allotments offer vital pollinator habitats that can be woven into the heart of urban life. Patrick Federi/Unsplash, CC BY

Why are food growing community gardens such valuable habitats for urban biodiversity? An obvious answer is that the wide variety of fruiting plants and herbs commonly found in these allotments provides an abundance of food for pollinators.

But the authors of the Aachen study suggest something else about these sites may be equally important. That is, the “near-natural” patches that can be found in corners of community gardens where native plants creep in and only low-key management – without pesticides or herbicides, and mowing only twice a year – is used. These are important for nesting sites and for providing food plants for insect larvae to eat.

More research is needed to understand how urban habitats can benefit pollinators throughout their entire lifecycles. But we know that taking care of urban pollinators means more than just providing flowers. It means leaving space for native plants to flourish, providing food for insect larvae and a diverse range of nesting and breeding habitat.

Making room for nature

How Cities Can Offer Urban Oases For Bees And Butterflies A roadside wildflower strip in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK. Rinke Vinkenoog, Author provided

Urban areas cover 8% of the UK’s land area, and they’re expanding, placing increasing pressure on urban green spaces. We need to ensure that important habitats for wildlife aren’t squeezed out with it, particularly in the post-pandemic rush to stimulate the economy.

Managing green spaces for the benefit of wildlife in towns and cities won’t be enough to arrest declines for all insects, but the small changes we can make on balconies, in yards and gardens, and in allotments, cemeteries and parks can make a meaningful difference. People should consider planting flowers with a range of shapes and colours, and ensure that flowers are available to provide nectar and pollen from spring through to autumn.

Urban land managers should mow parks, road verges and other grassland less frequently to give wildflowers a chance to bloom. Creating urban flower meadows can also provide important food and habitat for pollinators. Not only will these changes enhance pollination of plants in flower beds and vegetable patches, but there is increasing evidence that sharing our green spaces with pollinators like butterflies can improve our psychological wellbeing.

The COVID-19 lockdown has emphasised the value of our local green spaces, especially for those who can’t access a private garden. We should ponder whether a return to intensively mowing them is really necessary, particularly if we want to maximise what bees, and other pollinating insects, need from us in our towns and cities.The Conversation

About The Author

Rinke Vinkenoog, Senior Lecturer in Biology, Northumbria University, Newcastle; Katherine Baldock, Senior Lecturer in Ecology, Northumbria University, Northumbria University, Newcastle; Mark Goddard, Research Fellow in Urban Ecology, Northumbria University, Newcastle, and Matthew Pound, Senior lecturer in Physical Geography, Northumbria University, Newcastle

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Related Books

The Human Swarm: How Our Societies Arise, Thrive, and Fall

by Mark W. Moffett
0465055680If a chimpanzee ventures into the territory of a different group, it will almost certainly be killed. But a New Yorker can fly to Los Angeles--or Borneo--with very little fear. Psychologists have done little to explain this: for years, they have held that our biology puts a hard upper limit--about 150 people--on the size of our social groups. But human societies are in fact vastly larger. How do we manage--by and large--to get along with each other? In this paradigm-shattering book, biologist Mark W. Moffett draws on findings in psychology, sociology and anthropology to explain the social adaptations that bind societies. He explores how the tension between identity and anonymity defines how societies develop, function, and fail. Surpassing Guns, Germs, and Steel and Sapiens, The Human Swarm reveals how mankind created sprawling civilizations of unrivaled complexity--and what it will take to sustain them.   Available On Amazon

Environment: The Science Behind the Stories

by Jay H. Withgott, Matthew Laposata
0134204883Environment: The Science behind the Stories is a best seller for the introductory environmental science course known for its student-friendly narrative style, its integration of real stories and case studies, and its presentation of the latest science and research. The 6th Edition features new opportunities to help students see connections between integrated case studies and the science in each chapter, and provides them with opportunities to apply the scientific process to environmental concerns. Available On Amazon

Feasible Planet: A guide to more sustainable living

by Ken Kroes
0995847045Are you concerned about the state of our planet and hope that governments and corporations will find a sustainable way for us to live? If you do not think about it too hard, that may work, but will it? Left on their own, with drivers of popularity and profits, I am not too convinced that it will. The missing part of this equation is you and me. Individuals who believe that corporations and governments can do better. Individuals who believe that through action, we can buy a bit more time to develop and implement solutions to our critical issues. Available On Amazon

From The Publisher:
Purchases on Amazon go to defray the cost of bringing you InnerSelf.com, MightyNatural.com, and ClimateImpactNews.com at no cost and without advertisers that track your browsing habits. Even if you click on a link but don't buy these selected products, anything else you buy in that same visit on Amazon pays us a small commission. There is no additional cost to you, so please contribute to the effort. You can also use this link to use to Amazon at any time so you can help support our efforts.

 

You May Also Like

English French Spanish

follow InnerSelf on

facebook icontwitter iconyoutube iconinstagram iconpintrest iconrss icon

 Get The Latest By Email

Weekly Magazine Daily Inspiration

MOST READ

connecting eastern and western power grids
Why We Should Link The Power Grids
by Mike Krapfl, Iowa State
why mass incarceration doesnt work
Why Mass Incarceration Makes Society Less Safe
by Francis Pakes, University of Portsmouth
how inequality is built in
How Many Pay The Price Of Economic Change
by Stewart Lansley, University of Bristol

New Attitudes - New Possibilities

InnerSelf.comClimateImpactNews.com | InnerPower.net
MightyNatural.com | WholisticPolitics.com | InnerSelf Market
Copyright ©1985 - 2021 InnerSelf Publications. All Rights Reserved.