UK Research that is part of the National Trust and BBC local radio’s Bee Part of It project, said that samples of pollen proved that honeybees in towns and cities enjoy a more diverse diet than their rural counterparts.
The study had been trying to establish whether there is a link between pollen and the health of bees. Pollen samples were taken between June and August from 10 of the 45 hives involved in the project across England. Professor John Newbury, the head of the Institute of Science and the Environment, which includes the unit, said the samples provided a snapshot of the flowers honeybees are feeding on, at what time, and where.
The researchers went on to say that the urban bees find a richer diversity of pollen because they visit a much wider range of flowers than bees foraging in the countryside.
At Kensington Palace in London, where the Duke of Gloucester is keeping bees, samples of pollen carried back to the hives this summer contained large amounts of pollen from rock rose, eucalyptus and elderberry. In contrast, pollen samples taken from hives at Nostell Priory in Yorkshire and Barrington Court in Somerset were heavily dominated by just one crop – oilseed rape.
Matthew Oates, nature conservation adviser at the National Trust, said the prelimary findings back what has long been suspected: “namely that bees today often fare better in urban environments than in contemporary farmland”.
“Apart from crops such as oilseed rape and field beans, there are precious few pollen sources around for bees and other insects in modern arable farmland and surprisingly little in areas specialising in dairy, beef or sheep production,” he said.