Influences on urban pollinator distribution in Columbus

How do human variables influence bees at municipal sites in Columbus, Ohio and specifically:

  1. Do human factors such as imperviousness and wealth influence how diverse and abundant bee communities are?
  2. Can pollinator gardens increase the diversity and abundance of urban bees?

Columbus is a growing city in Ohio and is experiencing high levels of urbanization and development. Studies have shown that urbanization is harmful to insects such as bees, and that pollinators are in decline, but that greening efforts can combat these effects. I have recruited 15 sites across Franklin County to measure bee diversity and abundance before and after planting a pollinator garden. The first sample, coming this summer, will be used to determine if imperviousness or wealth impact the richness and abundance of bees and the second sample in summer of 2023 will be compared to the first to see if pollinator gardens can effectively bring flourishing bee communities to any urban area regardless of other factors.

How is this researchBee on a coneflower bloom. conducted?

Bees are collected using small plastic cups with soapy water placed on the ground at each site and with sticky traps. The pan traps are collected a day after being set and the sticky traps a week later. Everything that fell or flew in will be identified in the laboratory.

Identified species will be used to determine how many different types of bees and how many bees are in each area.

This process will be done once a month May-August 2022. In October 2022, a pollinator garden with the same plants and general layout will be planted at each site and sample the following May-August. Those identifications will be used to determine if the gardens had an effect on bee communities. I expect the second sample to be both more abundant and rich.

What impact can this research have? Picture of PI Ellen.

Greening efforts are critical to urban bee survival and can provide aesthetic benefits to their host communities. However, it is not understood what landscape and community factors influence the success of these initiatives, or  how to decide where to house such initiatives. By exploring the impacts of human factors such as imperviousness and wealth, I am seeking to determine how urban bee conservation can be both equitable and efficient.

This project is lead by Ellen Danford.  Ellen studies environmental science and entomology, with a special interest in urban ecology, urban forestry and sustainability.