Bees prefer the buzz of a town: Urban sites found to have more species than rural areas
By Fiona Macrae via dailymail.co.uk
- Agriculture and mass crops blamed for decline of bee numbers
- Towns and cities have wider variety of plants and flowers in autumn
- Pesticides, climate change and disease causing bee numbers to fall
We think of them as thriving in wildflower meadows and rolling fields. But new research suggests Britain’s bees are happier near towns and cities.
A study of wildlife sites across four English counties has found that most are home to fewer species of bee today than they were in the past.
It found that the expansion of farmland has actually been more damaging to Britain’s bee population than the concreting over of the countryside for housing.
Reading University researcher Deepa Senapathi believes intensive agriculture is to blame.
While the gardens, parks and churchyards of towns and cities provide bees with a variety of plants to forage on and an extended flowering season, popular crops such as oilseed rape only bloom for a few weeks.
She said: ‘While concreting over the countryside may appear to be bad news for nature, we’ve found that progressive urbanisation may be much less damaging than intensive agriculture.
‘Urban areas may benefit bees more than farmland by providing a wide variety of flowering plants, providing a cosmopolitan menu for insects from spring through to autumn.
‘Over the past century rural landscapes in Britain have become increasingly dominated by large expanses of monoculture – the growing of a single type of plant, which has helped boost crop production.
‘But without a mixture of habitat and food sources, rural areas can sometimes be little better than green deserts for biodiversity.
Scientists around the country are trying to work out why populations of bees and other insects are plummeting.
Pesticides, climate change and disease may, like intensive farming, be playing a role.
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