Pollinating insects have been in the news lately because of their declining numbers and the impact this may have on many food crops. The good news is that it appears that wide-open spaces and acres of natural areas are not critical for at least one pollinating insect's health. On the contrary, small home gardens can provide important habitat.
A research report in the Journal of Applied Ecology in England discusses the recent National Bumblebee Nest Survey that was conducted by Rothamsted Agricultural Research Station in collaboration with the Universities of Newcastle and Southampton. More than 700 volunteers surveyed their own gardens plus one of six different countryside habitats for bumblebee nests. They found home gardens contained the highest densities of nests (36 nests per hectare), followed by hedgerows, fence lines, and woodland edges. Nest densities were lowest in woodland and grassland (11 to 15 nests/hectare) areas.
Researchers theorize that gardens provide a large variety of potential nesting sites due to the diversity of garden styles, structures, and features, and they offer a consistent pollen source with flowers blooming all summer long. Bumblebees can nest in garden features as varied as compost heaps and raised flowerbeds. This research points to the importance of home gardens in supporting pollinators.
For more information about this research, go to: Science Daily.
Article published on July 30, 2007.