Skip to main content Accessibility help

Bee diversity and abundance in an urban setting

  • Désirée Tommasi (a1), Alice Miro (a1), Heather A. Higo (a1) and Mark L. Winston (a1)


We assessed bee diversity and abundance in urban areas of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, to determine how urban environments can support bees. Habitats examined were community and botanical gardens, urban wild areas, Naturescape flower beds and backyards, and traditional flower beds and backyards. A total of 56 bee species (Hymenoptera), including species of the genera Andrena Fabr. (Andrenidae), Bombus Latr. (Apidae), Osmia Panzer and Megachile Latr. (Megachilidae), and Halictus Latr. and Dialictus Pauly (Halictidae), were collected. Abundance exhibited strong seasonal variation. Wild bees were most abundant during late spring, whereas honey bees peaked at the end of the summer. The most abundant species seen was the managed honey bee Apis mellifera L. (Apidae), followed by wild Bombus flavifrons Cresson. Community and botanical gardens, and plants such as cotoneaster (Cotoneaster Medik. sp.) and blackberry (Rubus discolor Weihe & Nees) (Rosaceae), centaurea (Centaurea L. sp.; Asteraceae), buttercup (Ranunculus L. sp.; Ranunculaceae), and foxglove (Digitalis L. sp.; Scrophulariaceae), had the highest abundance of bees, while bee populations in wild areas were the most diverse. Weeds such as dandelions (Taraxacum officinale G.H. Weber ex Wiggers; Asteraceae) dominated these wild areas and had one of the highest diversities of bee visitors. Traditional flower beds with tulips (Tulipa L. sp.; Liliaceae) and petunias (Petunia Juss. sp.; Solanaceae) had relatively poor diversity and abundance of bees throughout the year. Our study suggests that urban areas have the potential to be important pollinator reservoirs, especially if both bloom and habitat heterogeneity are maintained and enhanced through sustainable urban planning.

Nous avons estimé la diversité et l'abondance d'abeilles dans différents biotopes urbains de la ville de Vancouver, Colombie-Britannique, Canada, afin de déterminer comment les environnements urbains peuvent supporter les abeilles. Les habitats examinés incluent les jardins potagers et botaniques, les environs urbains sauvages, les parterres et les arrière-cours dits Naturescape, et les parterres et les arrière-cours traditionnels. Nous avons ressemblé un total de 56 espèces d'abeilles (Hymenoptera) dont Andrena Fabr. (Andrenidae), Bombus Latr. (Apidae), Osmia Panzer et Megachile Latr. (Megachilidae), Halictus Latr. et Dialictus Pauly (Halictidae). L'abondance a présenté une forte variation saisonnière. Les abeilles féeriques étaient considérablement plus abondantes pendant la dernière moitié du printemps, tandis que les abeilles d'élevage étaient plus abondantes pendant la dernière moitié de l'été. L'espèce la plus abondante était l'abeille d'élevage, Apis mellifera L. (Apidae), suivie de l'espèce féerique Bombus flavifrons Cresson. Les jardins potagers et botaniques des plantes telles que Cotoneaster Medik sp. et Rubus discolor Wehie & Ness (Rosaceae), Centaurea L. sp. (Asteraceae), Ranunculus L. sp. (Ranunculaceae), et Digitalis L. sp. (Scrophulariaceae) ont présenté la plus élevée abondance d'abeilles alors que les environs urbains sauvages ont exhibé les plus diverses populations d'abeilles. « Mauvaise herbes », comme les Taraxacum officinale G.H. Weber ex Wiggers (Asteraceae), dominaient ces habitats et présentaient la diversité d'abeilles visiteuses las plus élevée. Les parterres traditionnels, avec fleures telles que les Tulipa L. sp. (Liliaceae) et les Petunia Juss. sp. (Solanaceae), présentaient une diversité d'abeilles relativement pauvre tout au cour de l'an. Notre étude suggère que les zones urbaines ont du potentiel comme important réservoir de pollinisation, surtout quand et l'hétérogénéité d'habitat et hétérogénéité de fleures sont maintenues et accrues à travers le développement urbain durable.


Corresponding author

1Corresponding author (e-mail:


Hide All
Allen-Wardell, G., Bernhardt, P., Bitner, R., Burquez, A., Buchmann, S., Cane, J., Cox, P., Dalton, P., Feinsinger, P., Ingram, M., Inouye, D., Jones, C., Kennedy, K., Kevan, P., Koopowitz, H., Medellin, R., Medellin-Morales, S., Nabhan, G., Pavlik, B., Tepedino, V., Torchio, P., Walker, S. 1998. The potential consequences of pollinator declines on the conservation of biodiversity and stability of food crop yields. Conservation Biology 12: 817
Bortoli, C., Laroca, S. 1997. Relative abundance of wild bees (Apoidea) in an urban biotrope of Guarapuava (PR, Brazil). Acta Biologica Paranaense 26(1–4): 51–8
Buchmann, S.L., Nabhan, G.P. 1996. The forgotten pollinators. Washington, District of Columbia: Island Press
Cane, J.H. 2001. Habitat fragmentation and native bees: a premature verdict? Conservation Ecology [online] 5(1): 3. Available from [cited 6 January 2003]
Cane, J.H., Tepedino, V.J. 2001. Causes and extent of declines among native North American invertebrate pollinators: detection, evidence, and consequences. Conservation Ecology [online] 5(1): 1. Available from [cited 6 January 2003]
Collinge, S.K. 1998. Spatial arrangement of habitat patches and corridors: clues from ecological field experiments. Landscape and Urban Planning 42: 157–68
De Freitas Barbola, I., Laroca, S. 1993. The Apoidea (Hymenoptera) community of the Reserva Passa Dois (Lapa, Paraná, Brazil). I. Diversity, relative abundance and seasonal activity. Acta Biologica Paranaense 22(1–4): 91112
Frankie, G.W., Vinson, S.B., Rizzardi, M.A., Griswold, T.L., O'Keefe, S., Snelling, R.R. 1997. Diversity and abundance of bees visiting a mass flowering tree species in disturbed seasonal dry forest in Costa Rica. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 70(4): 281–96
Frankie, G.W., Thorp, R.W., Newstrom-Lloyd, L.E., Rizzardi, M.A., Barthell, J.F., Griswold, T.L., Kim, J., Kappagoda, S. 1998. Monitoring wild bees in modified wildland habitats: implications for bee ecology and conservation. Environmental Entomology 27(5): 1137–47
Frankie, G.W., Vinson, B.S., Thorp, R.W., Rizzardi, M.A., Tomkins, M., Newstrom-Lloyd, L.E. 2002. Monitoring: an essential tool in bee ecology and conservation. pp 187–98 in Kevan, P., Fonseca, VL Imperatriz (Eds), Pollinating bees — the conservation link between agriculture and nature. Brasilia, Brasil: Ministry of Environment
Gayubo, S.F., Torres, F. 1991. Urban pressure effect on bees and wasps (Hymenoptera: Aculeata) in Salamanca. IV. Boletin de la Real Sociedad Espanola de Historia Natural Seccion Biologica 87(1–4): 7392
Gotelli, N.J., Entsminger, G.L. 2001. EcoSim: null models software for ecology [online]. Version 7.0 [computer program]. Burlington, Vermont: Acquired Intelligence Inc. and Kesey-Bear. Available from
Goulson, D., Hughes, W.O.H., Derwent, L.C. 2002. Colony growth of the bumblebee, Bombus terrestris, in improved and conventional agricultural and suburban habitats. Oecologia 130: 267–73
Graf, L.H., Winston, M.L. 1982. Native bee pollinators of berry crops in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia. Journal of the Entomological Society of British Columbia 79: 1420
Greater Vancouver Regional District. 2001. GVRD Land Use 2001 [online]. Burnaby, British Columbia: GVRD Policy and Planning Department. Available from [cited 30 July 2004]
Haeseler, V. 1972. Man-made habitats (deforested areas, gravel pits, city gardens and parks) as refuge for insects, exemplified by the Hymenoptera: Aculeata. Zoologische Jahrbuecher Abteilung fuer Systematik Oekologie und Geographie de Tiere 99: 133212
Jacob-Remacle, A. 1984. Ecological study of the aculeate Hymenoptera population living in the most urbanized zone of the city of Liege Belgium. Bulletin et Annales de la Societe Royale d'Entomologie de Belgique 120(7–8): 241–62
Kerr, J.T. 2001. Butterfly species richness patterns in Canada: energy, heterogeneity, and the potential consequences of climate change. Conservation Ecology [online] 5(1): 10. Available from [cited 6 January 2003]
Kevan, P.G., Phillips, T. 2001. The economic impacts of pollinator declines: an approach to assessing the consequences. Conservation Ecology [online] 5(1): 8. Available from [cited 6 January 2003]
Kratochwil, A., Klatt, M. 1989. Bee species of ruderal sites in the city of Freiburg in Breisgau, West Germany — submediterranean elements in mosaic habitats with high persistence. Zoologische Jahrbuecher Abteilung fuer Systematik Oekologie und Geographie der Tiere 116(4): 379–89
Lancaster, R.K., Rees, W.E. 1979. Bird communities and the structure of urban habitats. Canadian Journal of Zoology 57(12): 2358–68
Magurran, A.E. 1988. Ecological diversity and its measurement. 1st edition. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press
Melles, S., Glenn, S., Martin, K. 2003. Urban bird diversity and landscape complexity: species–environment associations along a multiscale habitat gradient. Conservation Ecology [online] 7(1): 5. Available from [cited 17 December 2003]
Morse, R.A., Calderone, N.W. 2000. The value of honeybees as pollinators of U.S. crops in 2000. Bee Culture March 2000: 215
Osborne, J.L., Williams, I.H. 2001. Site constancy of bumble bees in an experimentally patchy habitat. Agriculture Ecosystems and Environment 83: 129–41
O'Toole, C., Raw, A. 1991. Bees of the world. New York: Facts on File
Richards, K.W., Kevan, P.G. 2002. Aspects of bee biodiversity, crop pollination, and conservation in Canada. pp 7794in Kevan, P., Fonseca, VL Imperatriz (Eds), Pollinating bees — the conservation link between agriculture and nature. Brasilia, Brasil: Ministry of Environment
Risch, S. 1996. On the bee fauna of Cologne — described on the example of selected city sites. Decheniana Beihefte 35: 273303
Roubick, W.D. 1989. Ecology and natural history of tropical bees. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press
SAS Institute Inc. 1990. SAS/STAT user's guide. Version 6, 4th edition. Cary, North Carolina: SAS Institute Inc
Saure, C. 1996. Urban habitats for bees: the example of the city of Berlin. pp 4754in Matheson, A., Buchmann, S.L., O'Toole, C., Westrich, P., Williams, I. (Eds), The conservation of bees. Linnean Society Symposium Series 11. London: Academic Press
Schaefer, V. 1994. Urban biodiversity. pp 307–18 in Harding, L.E., McCullum, E. (Eds), Biodiversity in British Columbia: our changing environment. Ottawa, Ontario: Canadian Wildlife Service
Scott-upree, C.D., Winston, M.L., Hergert, G., Jay, S.C., Nelson, D., Gates, J., Termeer, B., Otis, G. (Editors). 1995. A guide to managing bees for crop pollination. Winnipeg, Manitoba: Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists
Schick, B., Sukopp, H. 1998. Blumen-Bestäuber-Systeme in urbanen Grünflächen: Über Blütenbesuche der Großen Wollbiene (Anthidium manicatum L.) im Botanischen Gaten Berlin-Dahlem. Zeitschrift fuer Oekologie und Naturschutz 7(2): 7383
Stork, N.E., Srivastava, D.S., Watt, A.D., Larsen, T.B. 2003. Butterfly diversity and silvicultural practices in lowland rainforests of Cameroon. Biodiversity and Conservation 12: 387410
Westrich, P. 1996. Habitat requirements of Central European bees and the problems of partial habitats. pp 116in Matheson, A., Buchmann, S.L., O'Toole, C., Westrich, P., Williams, I. (Eds), The conservation of bees. Linnean Society Symposium Series 11. London: Academic Press
Williams, N.M., Minckley, R.L., Silveira, F.A. 2001. Variation in native bee faunas and its implications for detecting community changes. Conservation Ecology [online] 5(1): 7. Available from [cited 6 January 2003]
Wynn, G., Oke, T. (Editors). 1992. Vancouver and its region. Vancouver, British Columbia: University of British Columbia Press


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed