Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 641–659 | Cite as

Native plants are the bee’s knees: local and landscape predictors of bee richness and abundance in backyard gardens

  • Gabriella L. Pardee
  • Stacy M. Philpott


Urban gardens may support bees by providing resources in otherwise resource-poor environments. However, it is unclear whether urban, backyard gardens with native plants will support more bees than gardens without native plants. We examined backyard gardens in northwestern Ohio to ask: 1) Does bee diversity, abundance, and community composition differ in backyard gardens with and without native plants? 2) What characteristics of backyard gardens and land cover in the surrounding landscape correlate with changes in the bee community? 3) Do bees in backyard gardens respond more strongly to local or landscape factors? We sampled bees with pan trapping, netting, and direct observation. We examined vegetation characteristics and land cover in 500 m, 1 km, and 2 km buffers surrounding each garden. Abundance of all bees, native bees, and cavity-nesting bees (but not ground-nesting bees) was greater in native plant gardens but only richness of cavity-nesting bees differed in gardens with and without native plants. Bee community composition differed in gardens with and without native plants. Overall, bee richness and abundance were positively correlated with local characteristics of backyard gardens, such as increased floral abundance, taller vegetation, more cover by woody plants, less cover by grass, and larger vegetable gardens. Differences in the amount of forest, open space, and wetlands surrounding gardens influenced abundance of cavity- and ground-nesting bees, but at different spatial scales. Thus, presence of native plants, and local and landscape characteristics might play important roles in maintaining bee diversity within urban areas.


Native bees Urban gardens Hymenoptera Pollination Urbanization 



We would like to thank P. Bichier, E. Bridi, T. Crail, M. Coulter, D. Howard, L. Howard, K. Kimbel, A. Krause, K. Lindelof, B. Pardee, J. Pardee, M. Pardee, A. Pryor, P. Ross, A. Sphar, M. Szuberla, M. Weintraub, Toledo GROWS, the Toledo Botanical Garden, and the Stranahan Arboretum for access to their gardens for the research project. We thank S. Jha, J. Gibbs, and S. Droege for help with methodology and bee identification. R. Becker provided assistance with the GIS and land cover classification. S. Jha, L. Moorhead and S. Cusser provided helpful comments on the manuscript. Funding was provided through the NSF grant DBI-0829252 (Undergraduate Research and Mentoring in Environmental Biology at the Land-Lake Interface) and the Department on Environmental Sciences at the University of Toledo.

Supplementary material

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Table S1 (DOCX 24 kb)
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Table S2 (DOCX 24 kb)
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Table S3 (DOCX 25 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental SciencesUniversity of ToledoToledoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesDartmouth CollegeHanoverUSA
  3. 3.Environmental Studies DepartmentUniversity of California Santa CruzSanta CruzUSA

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