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Who is abuzz about bees? Explaining residents’ attitudes in Phoenix, Arizona

Abstract

Many stressors plague bee populations including habitat fragmentation and degradation, as well as pathogens and pesticide exposure. With bee communities at risk, conservation efforts are imperative. Although recent research has examined bee communities across cities, few studies have analyzed variation in human attitudes toward and perceptions of bees, or how these perspectives might influence bee conservation. We therefore analyzed residents’ attitudes toward and perceptions of bees, specifically in metropolitan Phoenix, Arizona. Primarily drawing upon 2017 survey data (n = 496, 39% response rate), we posed the following questions: 1) What cognitive, environmental, and social factors explain whether people like or dislike bees? and 2) How do attitudes and perceptions about bees relate to land management practices, specifically landscaping choices, herbicide and pesticide use, and desert plantings? Overall, attitudes toward bees were mostly neutral with a slight trend toward dislike but most residents did not believe bees were problematic at their homes. Additional findings reveal that risk perceptions, ecological worldviews, and pet ownership significantly explained attitudes toward bees. Moreover, people who live closer to desert parks had relatively positive attitudes toward bees. Regarding yard management practices, both attitudes toward and perceptions of bees were positively correlated with adding desert plants to residential yards. Moreover, people who use pesticides had more negative attitudes toward bees. Our results indicate conservation potential for urban bee populations, for example, by planting native vegetation in residential areas near desert preserves. We hope this study will result in more attitudinal research on bee species and other understudied urban wildlife.

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Acknowledgements

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grant numbers DEB-1637590 and DEB-1832016, Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research Program (CAP LTER), as well as grant number MSB FRA 1638725, Alternative Ecological Futures for the American Residential Macrosystem. We thank Abigail York for her leadership in co-directing the survey effort that provided data for this study.

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All authors contributed to this manuscript. Material preparation, data collection and analysis were performed by Kelli L. Larson, with assistance by Melissa Fleeger and Megan Wheeler. Graphics were developed by Kelli Larson, Riley Andrade, and Susannah Lerman. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Kelli L. Larson, with some parts initially drafted by Melissa Fleeger and Megan Wheeler. Susannah Lerman led organizational and editorial improvements. Kelli Larson and Susannah Lerman revised the manuscript to address reviewers’ comments. All authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Kelli L. Larson.

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Larson, K.L., Fleeger, M., Lerman, S.B. et al. Who is abuzz about bees? Explaining residents’ attitudes in Phoenix, Arizona. Urban Ecosyst 24, 35–48 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11252-020-01013-2

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Keywords

  • Environmental attitudes
  • Bee conservation
  • Human-wildlife interactions
  • Urban ecology