Bernadette M. Mach, University of Kentucky

Daniel A. Potter, University of Kentucky

Research by Protecting Bees team.


Urban and suburban landscapes can be refuges for biodiversity of bees and other pollinators. Public awareness of declining pollinator populations has increased interest in growing plants that provide floral resources for bees. Various publications and websites list “bee-friendly” plants, but such lists are rarely based on empirical data, nor do they emphasize flowering trees and shrubs, which are a major component of urban landscapes. We quantified bee visitation to 72 species of flowering woody landscape plants across 373 urban and suburban sites in Kentucky and southern Ohio, USA, sampling and identifying the bee assemblages associated with 45 of the most bee-attractive species. We found strong plant species effects and variation in seasonal activity of particular bee taxa, but no overall differences in extent of bee visitation or bee genus diversity between native and non–native species, trees and shrubs, or early-, mid-, and late-season blooming plants. Horticulturally-modified varieties of Hydrangea, Prunus, and Rosa with double petals or clusters of showy sterile sepals attracted few bees compared to related plants with more accessible floral rewards. Some of the non-native woody plant species bloomed when floral resources from native plants were scarce and were highly bee-attractive, so their use in landscapes could help extend the flowering season for bees. These data will help city foresters, landscape managers, and the public make informed decisions to create bee–friendly urban and suburban landscapes.

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