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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The buzz on healthy bees

by John MacBeath Watkins

The Great Bee Plague, AKA Colony Collapse Disorder, has puzzled scientists and apiarists alike, and spread worry about how crops will continue to get pollinated. Now comes an odd bit of news: Bees are healthier in cities, according to Prof Jane Memmott, a British ecologist.

No, not because they are allergic to pollen and need to get away from it, Memmott says:

“There’s a greater diversity and abundance, probably, of flowers in cities than there are in nature reserves and the countryside,” she told the BBC. “Also the flowering season is longer because gardeners love things that flower really early and flower really late so there is forage over a longer period of time. My gut feeling is it is a more reliable source of food.”

Louise Gray, ecology reporter for the London Telegraphreported more than a year ago about the fact that city bees were doing better than country bees, but her more recent story follows up on why.

Now Tim Lovett of the British Beekeepers Association wants people in cities to plant more bee-friendly plants.

From Ms. Gray's story:

“In the countryside you have monoculture," said Mr Lovett. "You may have a crop like oilseed rape that yields a lot of nectar and pollen but over a very short period and after that there is nothing for them and it returns to green concrete. So the bees in the city have a real advantage I think."

I think with a villain identified as having a name like "oilseed rape," we can all agree that Something Must be Done. And not just calling it Canola. Gardeners, are you listening? Those bees are humming your song.

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