The availability of Australian flowering plants in urban areas could help boost dwindling bee populations, new Curtin University research finds that they are a food source for native and European bees.
The study looked at 14 sites across the Perth region, including forest remnants and home gardens,
Another researcher, Dr Kit Prendergast from the Curtin School of Molecular and Life Sciences, said the study found that in Australia it is introducing bees that like to visit and feed from flowers and wild plants instead of exotic species, which used to rely heavily on native plants.
“Since wild bees are on the verge of collapse worldwide, mainly due to habitat loss due to urbanization, it is important to understand what they like. “Although urban areas often have different flora compared to natural areas, many of these flora are unusual,” said Dr Prendergast.
The survey also helps homeowners, landscapers, communities and councils with the “top ten” types of planting.
“Through careful cataloging of thousands of bees and flowers, I identified the top ten flowers that attract the greatest number of bees of all kinds. They were all native plants, mostly from the family Myrtaceae (including eucalyptus, bottles and melaleucas) and Fabaceae (pea plants). Amazing. that these ‘top ten plants’ were visited by 70-80 percent of all bees observed during the study.
“This research shows how important native flowers are to supporting native bees and even urban bees. It also shows the importance of managing bee populations, as overpopulation can prevent native bees from finding the resources they love.”
In a new study, Dr Prendergast investigated how ‘bee hotels’ function as habitats for different species of rural bees. These purpose-built plants, when combined with many nearby plants, helped boost bee populations.
Dr Prendergast said that although bee hotels have been used to keep bees for a long time, their effects have rarely been tested. In addition, many commercial bee hotels do not have a proper research design.
“Based on an extensive literature review, I took matters into my own hands, designing and installing 120 wooden bee hotels in 14 study centers in Perth. Each hotel had holes ranging from 4 to 10 mm in diameter,” said Dr. Prendergast.
“Over two years, it showed that native bees preferred smaller holes to larger holes. And my bee hotels attracted 24 different species of bees, which is more than any other study in Australia.
“Bee hotels in bee habitats in bee habitats were more likely to be inhabited than those in gardens, indicating that native bees were abundant in these natural habitats. Surprisingly, floral diversity reduces the number of bee hotels, possibly because of the special diet of many bees. On the other hand, the abundance of flowers in the vicinity of bee hotels makes bees more fertile.
“Together, these studies provide an evidence-based approach to increasing native bee numbers and understanding their environment. By protecting shrubs, identifying and planting the types of flowers that our bees love, and establishing well-designed hives, we can protect our bees and ensure they continue to do their vital pollination work.” .”
Published in Pacific Conservation Biology and Urban Ecosystems, the research papers are titled ‘Wild plants are more accepted than bees, especially native bees, in ecologically diverse habitats’ and ‘Looking at bee hotels: nest stability and resilience nesting herds in different ecosystems’. They are available online here and here.