Urban and suburban landscapes can be refuges for biodiversity of bees and other pollinators. Public awareness of declining pollinator populations has increased interest in growing plants that provide floral resources for bees. Various publications and websites list “bee-friendly” plants, but such lists are rarely based on empirical data, nor do they emphasize flowering trees and shrubs, which are a major component of urban landscapes. We quantified bee visitation to 72 species of flowering woody landscape plants across 373 urban and suburban sites in Kentucky and southern Ohio, USA, sampling and identifying the bee assemblages associated with 45 of the most bee-attractive species. We found strong plant species effects and variation in seasonal activity of particular bee taxa, but no overall differences in extent of bee visitation or bee genus diversity between native and non–native species, trees and shrubs, or early-, mid-, and late-season blooming plants. Horticulturally-modified varieties of Hydrangea, Prunus, and Rosa with double petals or clusters of showy sterile sepals attracted few bees compared to related plants with more accessible floral rewards. Some of the non-native woody plant species bloomed when floral resources from native plants were scarce and were highly bee-attractive, so their use in landscapes could help extend the flowering season for bees. These data will help city foresters, landscape managers, and the public make informed decisions to create bee–friendly urban and suburban landscapes.

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Published in PLOS ONE, v. 13, no. 12, e0208428, p. 1-18.

© 2018 Mach, Potter.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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This research was supported by grants from: Bayer North American Bee Care Center (https://beecare.bayer.com/home), BMM, DAP; Horticultural Research Institute (http://www.hriresearch.org/), DAP; United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crop Research Initiative grant 2016-51181-235399 facilitated and administered in collaboration with the Interregional Research Project no. 4 grant 2015-34383-23710 (https://nifa.usda.gov/), DAP; University of Kentucky Nursery Research Endowment Fund (http://www.uky.edu/hort/), BMM, DAP.

Related Content

Both relevant datasets are available at UKnowledge, the University of Kentucky's open-access data repository; Bee attractiveness data: https://doi.org/10.13023/8czn-nc30; Bee assemblage data: https://doi.org/10.13023/hnvq-cr16.

This is paper 18-08-028 of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station.