Plan Bee for Cities

A new study has revealed the importance of towns and cities for pollinators and provides helpful advice on how to attract bees and other insects to urban areas.

We all know (and instinctively feel) that green spaces are important for human health. Particularly so for those living in urban areas. And they are also very important for pollinators. New research published by Plos One, a peer-reviewed open access scientific journal (based in San Francisco and Cambridge, UK), makes it clear that gardens, parks and roadside verges in towns and cities have an essential role in protecting and increasing bee and other pollinator numbers courtesy of their diversity of blooming plants and absence of pesticides.

The Plos One report, called A Plan Bee for Cities, explains that their research demonstrated that urban community gardens are particularly beneficial to pollinators due to the diversity of seasonal flowers. They found that pollinator numbers in the urban gardens they studied were comparable to rural sites - and dramatically higher than other green urban spaces, such as parks.

Interestingly, even very small spaces can make an important, beneficial impact. “No area is too small to make a contribution,” said Benjamin Daniels, the paper’s lead researcher. “We have found that even small planted patches are being colonised by pollinators.” Indeed, across France, the Netherlands and the UK, botanists are highlighting the names of wildflowers and other plants (by chalking their names on pavements) to help raise awareness of the diversity and richness of wild plants in the city.

The Plos One report doesn't call for the same drastic action as the Costa Rica suburb that gave citizenship to bees, plants and trees - which OGN wrote about in April in Sweet City - but cities like Utrecht, in the Netherlands, have come up with innovative small space planting ideas (as shown in the picture above) of creating gardens for pollinators on bus stop roofs. Wonderful! Alternatively, on a very much larger scale, there's the example, in Paris, of the world's largest rooftop farm which is already bearing fruit. Literally.

The point is: whatever can be done, should be done. So, if you're a city dweller, what could you be doing to help our little buzzing friends?

Do Less: if you have a lawn, you could either (or both) set aside an area to grown wild or mow the grass less to allow native wildflowers to appear.

Small is Good: large is obviously better, but if you've only got a balcony for a pot or other small space (like a window sill for a window box), plant something that pollinators adore, like lavender. Check out the Bumblebee Conservation Trust for more ideas.

Be Organic: pollinators hate pesticides! They're harmful.

Bee Hotels: either create one by collecting a pile of bits of wood (and if the bees don't like it, plenty of other insects will), or design yourself a funky, modular bee hotel from Ikea.

Be Diverse: planting a variety of native flowers will be especially good news for pollinators and, if possible, ensure that something is flowering in each season so that pollinators always have a food source.

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