Does transforming vacant lots into community gardens attract more bees to pollinate food crops?
Community gardens produce fresh food for local residents that is not otherwise readily available in inner cities. These gardens require a variety of bee species to pollinate the crops in order to have quality food production. Vacant lots in Cleveland also provide food for bees, as many flowering plants such as dandelions are available in these areas. Bees require a variety of foods, or pollen and nectar from different flowers, to be healthy. In monitoring what bees visit in both vacant lots and gardens, and how much they are pollinating, we can assess whether gardens and vacant lots provide ample food for bees.
How was this research conducted?
Bee species were collected with hand nets and simple soap traps, counted, and identified in both vacant lots and community gardens. Greenhouse grown sunflower plants were placed in vacant lots and gardens to test levels of pollination in both areas. Sunflower seeds were counted and weighed. Higher amounts or weights of seed set indicate higher quality pollination. What flowers bees visited was also observed and recorded.
Collections and observations were made in control plots (vacant lots through the City of Cleveland) and in community gardens throughout the city.
All field work for this project has been completed. Data analysis will be finished by the end of 2016.
What impact can this research have?
This project will allow us to determine if beneficial insects like bees prefer to visit one habitat over another, and thus inform us if either gardens or vacant lots are any better at providing food for the bees, which will provide food for us. Additionally, we can determine if bees are providing our food crops with adequate pollination to produce larger, higher quality fruits and vegetables in the city. Finally, we can determine which flowers bees are preferring as food sources, so that the city, gardens, and private homeowners can have information on how to support Cleveland bees.
Scott, on the significance of this research:
“The majority of fresh produce we enjoy is possible due to bee pollination. It is important for us to determine ways to conserve bees for the food they help provide for us.”
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1253197.
Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.