Professor Tim Benton has been appointed to the post of UK Global Food Security Champion.
Keeping up with the Joneses harms British bees
10th May 2012
Scientists take 'bee-friendly gardening' on the road as they prepare to exhibit at Chelsea Flower Show
A new study has revealed that poorer neighbourhoods are a bee paradise compared to richer suburban areas where the pressure to 'keep up with the Joneses' often means gardens have manicured lawns and rows of regimented bedding plants that usually don't have any bee-friendly nectar or pollen.
The study, carried out by Dr Mark Goddard from the School of Biology was the first scientific examination of the link between an area's socio-economic status and wild bee abundance. Mark explained: "Previous studies looking at the prevalence of birds and plant diversity had concluded that the better off the area, the greater the number and variety of birds and plants - this is known as the 'luxury effect'. The assumption was that the same would be true of bees, but this research suggested that the opposite is true."
Dr Goddard's research found that gardens in poorer neighbourhoods had a significantly greater number and variety of bees than those in richer neighbourhoods, despite the fact that richer neighbourhoods tended to have bigger gardens with a greater number and variety of flowers.
Mark commented: "We know that flowers are incredibly important to bees, so we were really surprised with these results. However, when I analysed them more closely we found a likely explanation - not all flowers are equal in the eyes of bees.
"Exotic and double flowers, that is flowers such as peonies which often have anthers replaced by extra petals, are relatively inaccessible to bees and contain little nectar or pollen rewards. A secondary problem is that many common bedding plants such as pansies, French Marigolds, busy lizzies and petunias are sterile F1 hybrids, and often contain little pollen to attract bees. Both these types of plants were found more in wealthy gardens, while bee-friendly native plants, such as brambles and white clover, were more common in less affluent neighbourhoods.
"The cumulative impact that garden management has on the overall number of bees in the UK is enormous. Gardens account for a significant amount of green space in our cities. In Leeds for example, gardens make up 30% of the total area. Across England, urban areas occupy 10% of land surface, of which between 20% and 40% is garden.
"The decline of bees in the UK and the knock on effect this has on the pollination of crops and flowers has been well documented. This research shows that if we can persuade individuals to make small changes to the way they garden, it could make a significant difference to the conservation of bees and other pollinators."
Dr Goddard's study also examined factors which influence householders' gardening habits and by far the biggest influence was found to be neighbours and friends. Community pride, fear of what the neighbours might think and the effect on house prices were all important issues, particularly when it came to keeping front gardens neat and tidy.
Mark said: "Because as we often hear that community spirit is lacking these days, this was another fascinating finding. The pressure on householders to conform to social norms was very evident - in fact in the most affluent neighbourhood we looked at, respondents told us that their neighbours had been known to knock on doors if a lawn or hedge was thought to be overgrown.
"While community pride undoubtedly has many benefits, it is a real shame that it can cause people to harm our native wildlife, probably without even knowing it. Apart from anything else we know that the majority of people really enjoy seeing wildlife in their gardens - 85% of people we spoke to felt it added to their quality of life.
"To encourage wildlife, we aren't talking about major changes or letting a garden get completely overgrown. Just leaving a patch of grass to grow a little longer than the rest of the lawn or planting a few bee friendly plants can make a real difference."
The University of Leeds will be bringing Dr Goddard's findings to life and demonstrating bee-friendly gardening techniques at its Chelsea Flower Show exhibit on May 22nd to 26th. The exhibit also highlights other gardening measures to improve water and carbon management as part of an "ecosystem services" approach. To encourage people to find out more about bee-friendly gardening, the University has also launched an online competition, 'The Messy Garden' - to find out more or to enter the competition please visit: www.facebook.com/GardeningForChampions
Why are bees important? All bees, whether they are honeybees, bumblebees or solitary bees, carry out pollination which is essential to the life-cycle of many crops and flowers. This type of pollination, called cross-pollination, involves a bee transferring pollen from one flower to another as it feeds. Like all pollination this process produces seeds, but as cross-pollination mixes genetic material, it usually produces stronger and more vigorous seed than that produced by self-pollination. Around a third of our food is produced from crops originally pollinated by bees, so without bees, major food shortages are likely. In parts of China where the bee population has been virtually wiped out, pollination is already carried out by hand.
In gardens, bees are vital to boost fruit and vegetable gardens and to bolster the garden's overall health and productivity. The majority of bees have a solitary lifestyle, so encouraging bees won't result in a swarm of bees in the garden. Solitary bees nest in sandy soils or rotting wood with the female laying a single egg.
Bee-friendly gardening tips
- Bees love to nest in logs, crumbling walls and woody undergrowth Resist the urge to clear away rotting wood, or to fix up the old garden wall. Create a habitat pile or invest in a 'bee hotel', which you can make or buy from garden centres.
- Bees love longer grass Consider leaving just part of your lawn an inch or two longer to encourage bees. You can always cut the rest so your neighbours still know you care!
- Plant bee-friendly flowers Avoid garden-centre annuals or double flowers which are often sterile and instead opt for flowers loaded with nectar such as lavender or fuchsias. Not only will you be doing your bit for bees, you'll also be saving yourself a fortune!
- Don't be over keen on your weeding Dandelions, clovers and forget-me-knots are great for bees - a great excuse to put your feet up!
Flowers which offer little reward to pollinators
- Busy Lizzies
- Hybrid tea roses
Mike McPherson (and colleagues in the School of Chemistry), EPSRC (Jul 2014), £819,880
Sheena Radford, Univesity of Michigan (Jul 2014), £138,452
Chris West, Leverhulme Trust (Jun 2014), £181,241
Jon Lippiat, Darren Tomlinson, BBSRC (May 2014), £125,174
David Brockwell, Sheena Radford, Medimmune Ltd (Apr 2014), £337,661
Peter Stockley, Wellcome Trust (Apr 2014), £251,019
Mike McPherson, Wellcome Trust (Apr 2014), £146,596
Andrew Macdonald, Kidney Research Fund UK (Apr 2014), £127,237
Mike McPherson (and colleagues in School of Design), Technology Strategy Board (Apr 2014), £114,350
Paul Millner, Peter Stockley, Darren Tomlinson, YCR (Apr 2014), £95,874
Carrie Ferguson, Karen Birch, Shaunna Burke, Heart Research UK (Apr 2014), £60,140
Dave Westhead, MRC (Apr 2014), £18,304
Brendan Davies, BBSRC (Mar 2014), £451,829
Jim Deuchars, MRC (Mar 2014), £300,000
Adam Kupinski, Children with Cancer (Mar 2014), £50,000
Alison Baker, Steve Baldwin, BBSRC (Feb 2014), £403,439
Sarah Zylinski, BBSRC (Feb 2014), £355,869
Dave Lewis, Nigel Hooper, Tony Turner, Hugh Pearson, James Duce, Alzheimer's Society (Feb 2014), £29,871
Ronaldo Ichyama, Samit Chakrabarty, International Spinal Research Trust (Jan 2014), £304,600
Brendan Davies, BBSRC/Bayer Crop Science SA-NV (Jan 2014), £470,053
Adrian Goldman, Steve Baldwin, Stephen Muench, Thomas Edwards, Arwen Pearson , BBSRC (Jan 2014), £467,103
Stefan Kepinski, BBSRC (Jan 2014), £359,269
Elwyn Isaac, EU (Jan 2014), £179,445
Dave Westhead, Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research (Jan 2014), £105,937
John Barr, Thomas Edwards, MRC (Dec 2013), £469,505
Alex O'Neill, MRC (Dec 2013), £349,017
Darren Tomlinson, Yorkshire Cancer Research (Nov 2013), £142,334
Nikita Gamper, MRC (Nov 2013), £336,563
Keith Hamer, Alison Dunn, NERC (Nov 2013), £47,233
Alan Berry, Wellcome Trust (Oct 2013), £749,365
Urwin, Howard Atkinson, BBSRC (Oct 2013), £360,508
Eileen Ingham, Stacey-Paul Wilshaw, NHS R&D (Oct 2013), £356,623
Sheena Radford, BBSRC (Oct 2013), £329,906
Nigel Hooper, Alzheimer's Research (Oct 2013), £327,075
Eileen Ingham, EPSRC (Oct 2013), £276,751
David Beech, BHF (Oct 2013), £109,974
Mark Harris, Medical Research Foundation (Oct 2013), £34,455
James Dachtler, Royal Society (Oct 2013), £15,000
Ade Whitehouse, Teresa Rosenbaum Golden Charitable Trust (Oct 2013), £10,000
Jurgen Denecke, BBSRC (Sep 2013), £382,093
Andy Cuming, EU (Sep 2013), £257,714
Paul Knox, BBSRC (Sep 2013), £411,948
Vas Ponnambalam, Leverhulme Trust (Sep 2013), £245,031
Peter Meyer, EU (Sep 2013), £242,166
Dave Rowlands, Nic Stonehouse, EU (Sep 2013), £202,556
Derek Steele, BHF (Sep 2013), £103,629
Joan Boyes, NC3Rs (Sep 2013), £90,000
Peter Stockley, Royal Society (Sep 2013), £11,400
Darren Tomlinson, Leverhulme Trust (Sep 2013), £5,645
Nic Stonehouse, Dave Rowlands, BBSRC (Aug 2013), £574,906
Eileen Ingham, Wellcome Trust (Aug 2013), £191,470
Adrian Goldman, Royal Society (Aug 2013), £75,000
Mike McPherson, Wellcome Trust (Aug 2013), £40,000
Tiny differences in mice that make them peculiarly resistant to a family of conditions that includes Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease may provide clues for treatments in humans. more
A University of Leeds academic has shed important new light on the fascinating story of a pioneer whose contribution to one of science's biggest discoveries has long been overlooked. more
A pioneering database at the University of Leeds will help match patients with certain types of blood cancers to the best treatments. more
Sheena Radford, Professor of Structural Molecular Biology at the University of Leeds, has been made a fellow of the Royal Society. more
Professor Tim Benton has been appointed to the post of UK Global Food Security Champion.
Professor John Altringham's research on the conservation of bat species has promoted the need for evidence based conservation practices
Professor Miller has demonstrated a weanling pig feed formulation which avoids the use of antibiotics.
Dr Utley has carried out research over a number of years to increase understanding of the issues faced by children with varying types of movement and co-ordination difficulties.