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City bees: urban allotments and gardens are pollinator ‘hotspots’

There is an interesting article on how bees respond to urban environments in The Guardian this week.

Environment Editor Damian Carrington looked at new research published in the Nature Ecology & Evolution journal, which identifies urban allotments and residential gardens as pollinator 'hotspots'.

The report says that allotments are particularly good for pollinators as they provide a mixture of flowering fruit and vegetables, cutting flowers and host many weeds. These are rich in nectar and pollen and therefore crucial to bees.

There has been widespread decline of bees in recent years due to the loss of wild areas and pesticides. So, this new research is exciting as it suggests that bees can thrive in towns and cities, as well as in rural areas, which have been the main focus of previous studies.

Katherine Baldock from the University of Bristol led the research. It took two years and a team of more than 50 people. She told The Guardian: “Allotments are incredibly important at a city level, despite their small area. They are a good place for pollinators to hang out and provide a win-win situation, as they are also good for food growing and for people’s health.”

The research also found that allotments and gardens often had 10 times more bees than parks, cemeteries and urban nature reserves. And gardens in more affluent neighbourhoods had more pollinators, due to there being more flowers and a richer array of plants.

Allotments cover less than 1% of cities, but the research suggests that more allotments would give the biggest boost to pollinators per unit area. Professor Dave Goulson from the University of Sussex told The Guardian: “It would be great if government made an effort to free up more land for allotments. Currently there are about 90,000 people on waiting lists to get one. Given that these areas also produce healthy fruit and veg for local, zero-food-miles consumption, and get people out in the open air taking exercise, it would seem that allotments perform vital roles in our cities.”

The research also identified the flowers most visited by bees, hoverflies and other pollinators. Native favourites included brambles, buttercups, dandelions, creeping thistle, common hogweed and ox-eye daisies, which people tend to think of as weeds. The non-native plants that attracted the most pollinators were lavender, borage, butterfly bushes and common marigolds.

You can read the full article in The Guardian here: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jan/14/city-bees-allotments-gardens-help-arrest-decline-study?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

You can read the report in the Nature Ecology & Evolution journal here: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-018-0769-y

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