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An assessment of bumblebee (Bombus spp) land use and floral preference in UK gardens and allotments cultivated for food


There is increasing interest in the value of domestic gardens for supporting biodiversity. While it is well established that bumblebees exploit urban green spaces, this is the first study to explore the land use and floral preferences of the UK’s seven most common bumblebees in gardens and allotments cultivated for food. A citizen science survey was carried out at 38 sites, between 1st June and 30th September 2013. At the landscape scale, bumblebee abundance and species richness was not significantly correlated with surrounding land use characteristics (both p > 0.05). Bombus pratorum was the only species to show correlations with surrounding land use, demonstrating a positive relationship with built areas and gardens and allotments, and a negative correlation with greenspace and agriculture. At the local site-level scale, bumblebee abundance was negatively correlated with areas cultivated for vegetables and fruits, and positively correlated with areas cultivated for flowers, although neither correlation was statistically significant (p = 0.070 and p = 0.051 respectively). Bumblebee species richness was not correlated with either land use (p > 0.05). All bumblebee species were negatively correlated with areas cultivated for vegetables and fruit, bare ground and hard paving. Several flowering plants were visited by all bumblebee species, although relative preferences varied between bumblebee species. Results emphasise the importance of including floral resources within garden and allotment areas cultivated for food, and the need for a mosaic of different flowering plants to cater for varying floral preferences demonstrated by bumblebee species.

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We thank the Garden Organic members who kindly volunteered their time to collect data for this project. We also thank Stuart Gill for his work carrying out GIS analysis, as well as Barbara Smith, Judith Conroy and two anonymous reviewers for their comments which improved this manuscript. This study was funded by Coventry University.

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Correspondence to Gemma Foster.

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Foster, G., Bennett, J. & Sparks, T. An assessment of bumblebee (Bombus spp) land use and floral preference in UK gardens and allotments cultivated for food. Urban Ecosyst 20, 425–434 (2017).

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  • Garden
  • Allotment
  • Bombus
  • Bumblebee, land use
  • Floral resources