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Poorer neighbourhoods better for bees

9, June, Daily Telegraph

Gardens in poor neighbourhoods are better for bees than those in richer suburban areas, research has revealed.The findings show suggest that the tendency to keep up appearances in richer neighbourhoods by carefully manicuring lawns and maintaining regimented flower beds may actually be hampering attempts to restore bee populations in the UK.Researchers at Leeds University found that gardens in poorer neighbourhoods were visited by twice as many bees as those in richer areas.

Dr Mark Goddard, who led the research, said: "We need to do more research to work out exactly why there are double the number of bees in the less wealthy areas but it could have something to do with the type of flowers that people grow in wealthy areas."They tend to have bigger gardens but also use a lot of bedding plants that do not provide much wealth to pollinators.

"In poorer areas people tend to tolerate some of the more weed-like plants, particularly clovers and dandelions on their lawns. There are also more brownfield areas nearby that provide food and nesting opportunities for bees."Certainly when I interviewed people, there was more pressure in wealthy areas to keep up appearances by keeping lawns cut short and maintaining flower beds.

People would knock on doors and say that their hedge was overgrowing."The research suggests that making small changes to they way people maintain their gardens could have a large impact on bee populations.

Numbers of honeybees in the UK have halved in the last 25 years while bumblebees have fallen by 60 per cent since 1970. Three species have gone extinct and seven have suffered serious declines.Recent research has suggested that planting the right kind of flowers in gardens can help to halt the decline of British bees.

Scientists at the University of Sussex showed there was up to a 100 fold difference in the lure that popular garden plants can have.Lavenders, borage and lilac sage were all found to be good for attracting bees while favourite flowers such as geraniums and dahlias were among the worst. By examining the gardens in six different neighbourhoods from two suburban areas around Leeds, he found bees were far more numerous in poorer areas dominated by council houses and terraced buildings compared to richer areas with large houses with gated driveways.

 

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