According to the United Nations, 81% of the world’s population will live in towns and cities by the year 2030. As civilizations become more developed, this has been a natural shift happening over time. The environmental consequences of urbanization are generally well known and accepted as negative overall. Due to the value of cities, however, it is often a sacrifice we are willing to make.

While quite a bit of research attention has been put towards the effect of cities on the environment and ecosystems as a whole, the specific affect of cities on bee populations is not as well known. We know bees are struggling to keep their hives thriving, so naturally urbanization has been a culprit. Let’s dive into what the science says about urbanization and bee health.

Urbanization Negatively Affects Bee Species Richness

When we think of bees, typically the furry black and yellow bumblebee or the honeybee come to mind. However, worldwide there are amazingly over 20,000 species of bees. Unfortunately, studies show cities and towns decrease the species richness of the areas where humans have developed.

Each type of bee has their own role in the natural ecosystem, so decreasing species richness can really harm not only bees and their productivity, but other lifeforms that rely on them. Urbanization throws the natural ecosystem out of balance which negatively affects many important bee species.

Every species of bee has their own ecosystem requirements, many of which are taken away by urbanization. This means certain species will suffer greatly, while others may actually do better. In addition to bees, competitive species like wasps may also thrive more in cities, making life even harder for the humble bee.

Cities Take Away Habitat Space Needed For Bees To Thrive

When we destroy large swaths of natural habitat to make our concrete jungles, it is reasonable to assume bees will no longer have the resources needed to thrive. Research shows that “in urban areas, it is rare that bees can meet their nesting and foraging requirements in one habitat patch.”

Not only is their physical space for foraging severely limited, but they also don’t have the habitat diversity needed to thrive either. Bees travel for miles to find the right balance of different habitats for nutrients to bring back to their hives. Urban areas homogenize the landscape, meaning even if bees had enough physical space, they still don’t have the diversity of other plant and animal species to thrive.

How To Solve The Negative Impact Of Urbanization On Bees

There is still a lot of work to be done scientifically to narrow down the exact effects of urbanization on bee populations, but these studies are a good start. The moral of the story is that urbanization harms bees, which if you read my post on why bees are important, you would know we need to make bees a global priority.

The goal isn’t to stop urbanization. As I said above, there are many benefits to urbanization, however, we can take steps to mitigate the damage done to bee habitats. Some of the suggestions from researchers include keeping a botanical garden with plants specifically chosen to maintain bee populations, leaving natural patches of land for parks and nature centers, or just keeping a large home garden with bees in mind.

Let’s Make Cities More Livable For Bees!

Many people, including myself, choose to live in cities because of the many benefits and opportunities they provide. While we don’t need to destroy our cities to save bees, we should be cognizant of the effects of urban areas on bee populations and take steps to preserve some of their natural behavior and life. We need bees, and bees need us!

References:https://digitalcommons.lmu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://scholar.google.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1036&context=cate

How Urbanization Affects Bee Populations — Beeautiful Lawn