Bees have been in the news frequently of late because of unexplained high mortality rates and their profound importance in the food chain. Without them, many of the agricultural products we take for granted would quickly disappear from menus everywhere.
There is some debate whether their distress and decline is due to pesticides or parasites but whatever the reason their impact on the agricultural economy merits investigation.
The Urban Bee
Urban agriculture has emerged as a new type of green space representing urban farms as well as community and backyard gardens. As consumer demand for locally grown food remains high, land dedicated to urban food production will likely continue to expand in urban landscapes. Due to space limitations, many urban residents are unable to have a backyard garden so participate in community gardens. Many cities offer community gardening opportunities with these gardens often located within existing city parks. Because each gardener selects a different combination of fruits, vegetables, and flowers to grow, community gardens can support a wide variety of plants. As a result, community gardens have the potential to attract and support diverse beneficial insect communities that benefit the garden but may also spillover into surrounding green spaces.
Healthy Bees are Happy Bees
The objective of this research is to determine whether community gardens can locally increase beneficial insect populations, such as bees, in gardens as well as in the surrounding park habitat. Our lab is currently evaluating beneficial insect abundance and richness in community gardens, the turf dominated green space surrounding gardens, and parks without community gardens. Using pan traps, beneficial insects are being sampled in 12 parks, 6 with community gardens and 6 without, across New Mexico.
We anticipate overall beneficial insect abundance and richness will be higher in parks that contain community gardens but the benefit of the garden to the surrounding green space will decease with distance from the garden.