Evaluating residential landscapes for native bee conservation

The significant decline of wild bees in recent decades is associated with habitat fragmentation resulting from urbanization. To combat bee declines, several municipal and non-profit led programs aim to improve the quality of residential habitats by greening. However, there is a lack of previous research evaluating how residential greening, such as the addition of native wildflower gardens, might aid native bees in cities. My research will focus on Community Backyards, a program that provides vouchers for residents of Franklin County, Ohio to establish native wildflower gardens. I aim to quantify the value of this investment for bee conservation by testing the hypothesis that residential yards participating in Community Backyards support bee communities. To test my hypothesis, I will collect bees from 30 Community Backyards across Columbus, Ohio and assess if the diversity of functional traits such as nesting type, food specialization, and body size is greater within the backyards with greater levels of native plant investment. Further, I will assess how the surrounding landscape composition influences the value of residential greening. I hypothesize that urban areas with a higher degree of habitat fragmentation will exhibit a lower bee functional diversity. This project will illustrate whether conservation investments like Community Backyards can improve the diversity of bee species able to thrive in cities, and indicate where such greening projects will have the most benefit.

About urban bee research, Carlee says, “The current enthusiasm for bee conservation is really exciting. My goal is to evaluate how this enthusiasm can be used to encourage native bee communities.”