City Gardens May Drive Bee Diversity, Study Says

Cameron Walker
for National Geographic News
November 15, 2005

Urban gardeners planting choices may play an important role in bee diversity, according to a new study.

University of California, Berkeley, entomologist Gordon Frankie started investigating urban bees nine years ago, when a colleague stopped by his campus office with a box of six bee species caught right near campus.

Frankie headed out to investigate and found even more. "We just hit on to something we didn't know about," he said.

Frankie's research team has since turned up 82 different bee species—78 of them California natives—all within Berkeley's residential neighborhoods.

Now Frankie has looked at bee diversity in seven California cities and found that garden types have a huge effect on bee diversity.

Each California city has a characteristic type of garden.

Monterey's agapanthus and cypress tree-filled landscapes may attract humans, but the plants do a poor job as bee magnets.

The diverse flowering gardens of Berkeley and Santa Cruz—stuffed with bee-friendly species like California poppies, sunflowers, and cosmos—make those cities prime bee habitat.

"Each city seems to have a characteristic type of garden," Frankie said. "Right now we're pretty optimistic that if you have the right environment, you can support fairly good-size populations of bees."

Frankie and his collaborators will publish their research about California's urban gardens in a forthcoming issue of California Agriculture.

Pollination Problems

Bees play an important ecological role, transferring pollen from flower to flower to allow reproduction.

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