STLAi urban bee expert responds to ‘Place-Making for Bees’

In a recent ASLA blog post about Place-Making for Bees several prominent wild bee biologists were polled for solutions for integrating ‘bee habitat’ into landscape design and restoration ecology. All agreed that setting aside more natural areas is important, and each focused on the restoration of different degraded habitat – former mine sites or agricultural areas – where using certain seed mixes can enhance pollinators. What isn’t clear, as Williams’ points out, is which planting combination is best, since plant species composition appears to be more important than species richness. Flowers are important, but nesting substrates and locations for bees are likely the most limiting – and most difficult to implement. To some degree this is because the nesting habits of many wild bee species are unknown.

Design that supports pollinators in urban areas, and at smaller scales in the garden, city park, or on the roof (see our City of Toronto Guidelines for Biodiverse Green Roofs), is overlooked in the post. These areas can be critical for bees, but also for conservation biology, as they are where most people come in direct contact with bees. Bees are ‘charismatic mini-fauna’ whose contact can spur environmental education and understanding of their central role in society, especially for people that rarely experience nature because of where they live. Moreover, as cultivated plants becoming increasingly common in urban areas, production will depend on the health of the urban bee assemblage.

Pollinators visit asters on a 5th floor green roof in late fall.
Pollinators visit asters on a 5th floor green roof in late fall.

For landscape professionals, constructed urban gardens represent opportunities for ‘designed experiments’ that can be used to test different bee enhancement techniques. In collaboration with researchers these sites can be monitored, then successful experiences scaled-up and integrated into larger applications.

– J. Scott MacIvor.

MacIvor is a PhD candidate in the Department of Biology at York University as well as a consultant on ecology here at STLAi. His thesis investigates limitations to ecological networks of bees and wasps in urban landscapes.