Skip to main content

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

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5

References

  • Ahrné K, Bengtsson J, Elmqvist T (2009) Bumble bees (Bombus spp) along a gradient of increasing urbanization. PLoS One 4:e5574. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005574

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Anderson E, Barthel S, Ahrné K (2007) Measuring social-ecological dynamics behind the generation OF ecosystem services. Ecol Appl 17:1267–1278. doi:10.1890/06-1116.1

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Armitage J (2016) RHS Plant Finder 20 16, 30th edn. Royal Horticultural Society, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Baldock KCR, Goddard MA, Hicks DM et al (2015) Where is the UK’s pollinator biodiversity ? The importance of urban areas for flower-visiting insects. Proc R Soc B Biol Sci. doi:10.1098/rspb.2014.2849

    Google Scholar 

  • Bates AJ, Sadler JP, Fairbrass AJ et al (2011) Changing bee and hoverfly pollinator assemblages along an urban-rural gradient. PLoS One 6:e23459. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023459

    CAS  Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Benton TG (2000) The Bumblebees of Essex. Lopinga Books

  • Carré G, Roche P, Chifflet R et al (2009) Landscape context and habitat type as drivers of bee diversity in European annual crops. Agric Ecosyst Environ 133:40–47. doi:10.1016/j.agee.2009.05.001

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • FAO (2008) Rapid assessment of pollinators’ status a contribution to the international initiative for the conservation and sustainable use of pollinators. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome 2008.

  • Frankie GW, Thorp RW, Pawelek JC et al (2009) Urban bee diversity in a small residential garden in northern California. J Hymenopt Res 18:368–379

    Google Scholar 

  • Garbuzov M, Ratnieks FLW (2013) Quantifying variation among garden plants in attractiveness to bees and other flower-visiting insects. Funct Ecol 28:364–374. doi:10.1111/1365-2435.12178

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Goddard M a, AJ D, Benton TG (2010) Scaling up from gardens: biodiversity conservation in urban environments. Trends Ecol Evol 25:90–98. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2009.07.016

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Goulson D (2010) Bumblebees: Behaviour, ecology and conservation. Oxford University Press, USA

    Book  Google Scholar 

  • Goulson D, Hanley ME, Darvill B et al (2005) Causes of rarity in bumblebees. Biol Conserv 122:1–8. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2004.06.017

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Goulson D, Lye GC, Darvill B (2008) Decline and conservation of bumble bees. Annu Rev Entomol 53:191–208. doi:10.1146/annurev.ento.53.103106.093454

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hennig EI, Ghazoul J (2012) Pollinating animals in the urban environment. Urban Ecosyst 15:149–166. doi:10.1007/s11252-011-0202-7

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hernandez JL, Frankie GW, Thorp RW (2009) Ecology of urban bees: a review of current knowledge and directions for future study. Cities Environ 2:1–15

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kirk WDJ, Howes FN (2012) Plants for Bees. A Guide to the Plants that Benefit the Bees of the British Isles, International Bee Research Association

    Google Scholar 

  • Klein A-M, Vaissière BE, Cane JH et al (2007) Importance of pollinators in changing landscapes for world crops. Proc R Soc B Biol Sci 274:303–313. doi:10.1098/rspb.2006.3721

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kremen C, Williams NM, Thorp RW (2002) Crop pollination from native bees at risk from agricultural intensification. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 99(26):16812–16816

  • Kreyer D, Oed A, Walther-Hellwig K, Frankl R (2004) Are forests potential landscape barriers for foraging bumblebees? Landscape scale experiments with Bombus terrestris agg. and Bombus pascuorum (Hymenoptera, Apidae). Biol Conserv 116(1):111–118

  • Lawson LJ (2005) City bountiful: a century of community gardening in America. University of California Press, Berkeley

    Google Scholar 

  • Loram A, Tratalos J, Warren PH, Gaston KJ (2007) Urban domestic gardens (X): the extent & structure of the resource in five major cities. Landsc Ecol 22:601–615

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lye GC, Osborne JL, Park KJ, Goulson D (2012) Using citizen science to monitor Bombus populations in the UK: nesting ecology and relative abundance in the urban environment. J Insect Conserv 16:697–707. doi:10.1007/s10841-011-9450-3

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Matteson KC, Langellotto G (2009) Bumble bee abundance in New York City Community gardens: implications for urban agriculture. Cities Environ 2:1–12

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Matteson KC, Langellotto GA (2010) Determinates of inner city butterfly and bee species richness. Urban Ecosyst 13:333–347

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Osborne JL, Martin AP, Carreck NL et al (2008a) Bumblebee flight distances in relation to the forage landscape. J Anim Ecol 77:406–415. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2656.2007.01333.x

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Osborne JL, Martin AP, Shortall CR et al (2008b) Quantifying and comparing bumblebee nest densities in gardens and countryside habitats. J Appl Ecol 45:784–792. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2664.2007.01359.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Pardee GL, Philpott SM (2014) Native plants are the bee’s knees: local and landscape predictors of bee richness and abundance in backyard gardens. Urban Ecosyst 17:1–19. doi:10.1007/s11252-014-0349-0

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Potter A, LeBuhn G (2015) Pollination service to urban agriculture in San Francisco, CA. Urban Ecosyst 18:885–893. doi:10.1007/s11252-015-0435-y

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Potts SG, Biesmeijer JC, Kremen C et al (2010) Global pollinator declines: trends, impacts and drivers. Trends Ecol Evol 25:345–353. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2010.01.007

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Prys-Jones OE, Corbet SA (2011) Bumblebees, 3rd edn. Pelagic Publishing

  • Royal Horticultural Society (2016a) RHS Perfect for Pollinators: Garden Plants.

  • Royal Horticultural Society (2016b) RHS Perfect for Pollinators: Wildflowers.

  • Saure C (1996) Urban habitats for bees: the example of the city of Berlin. In: Matheson A, Buchmann S, Toole C, et al. (eds) The conservation of bees. Linnean Society Symposium Series No. 18. New York, NY: Academic Press, pp 47–53

  • Shwartz A, Muratet A, Simon L, Julliard R (2013) Local and management variables outweigh landscape effects in enhancing the diversity of different taxa in a big metropolis. Biol Conserv 157:285–292. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2012.09.009

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smith RM, Warren PH, Thompson K, Gaston KJ (2006) Urban domestic gardens (VI): environmental correlates of invertebrate species richness. Biodivers Conserv 15:2415–2438. doi:10.1007/s10531-004-5014-0

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Steffan-Dewenter I (2003) Importance of habitat area and landscape context for species richness of bees and wasps in fragmented orchard meadows. Conserv Biol 17:1036–1044. doi:10.1046/j.1523-1739.2003.01575.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thompson K, Austin KC, Smith RM et al (2003) Urban domestic gardens (I): putting small-scale plant diversity in context. J Veg Sci 14. doi:10.1658/1100-9233(2003)014[0071:UDGIPS]2.0.CO;2

  • UNEP (2010) Global honey bee colony disorders and other threats to insect pollinators. United Nations Environment Programme.

  • Winfree R, Aguilar R, Vazquez DP et al (2009) A meta-analysis of bees’ responses to anthropogenic disturbance. Ecology 90. doi:10.1890/08-1245.1

Download references

Acknowledgments

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.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Gemma Foster.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

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). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11252-016-0604-7

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11252-016-0604-7

Keywords

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