The effects of urbanization on bee communities depends on floral resource availability and bee functional traits

Caleb J. Wilson, Mary A. Jamieson

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67 Scopus citations


Wild bees are important pollinators in many ecosystems threatened by anthropogenic disturbance. Urban development can reduce and degrade natural habitat for bees and other pollinators. However, some researchers suggest that cities could also provide refuge for bees, given that agricultural intensification may pose a greater risk. In this study, we surveyed bee communities at 15 farms and gardens across an urban-rural gradient in southeastern Michigan, USA to evaluate the effect of urbanization on bees. We examined how floral resources, bee functional traits, temperature, farm size, and the spatial scale of analysis influence bee response to urbanization. We found that urbanization positively affected bee diversity and evenness but had no effect on total abundance or species richness. Additionally, urbanization altered bee community composition via differential effects on bee species and functional groups. More urbanized sites supported a greater number of exotic, above-ground nesting, and solitary bees, but fewer eusocial bees. Blooming plant species richness positively influenced bee species diversity and richness. Furthermore, the amount of available floral resources was positively associated with exotic and eusocial bee abundances. Across sites, nearly 70% of floral resources were provided by exotic plants, most of which are characterized as weedy but not invasive. Our study demonstrates that urbanization can benefit some bee species and negatively impact others. Notably, Bombus and Lasioglossum (Dialictus), were two important pollinator groups negatively affected by urbanization. Our study supports the idea that urban environments can provide valuable habitat for diverse bee communities, but demonstrates that some bees are vulnerable to urbanization. Finally, while our results indicate that increasing the abundance and richness of floral resources could partially compensate for negative effects of urbanization on bees, the effectiveness of such measures may be limited by other factors, such as urban warming.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0225852
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by a Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research New Innovator Award to MAJ (FFAR Award No.430876) (https:// and the Oakland University Provost Graduate Student Research Award to CJW ( The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. We would like to thank Stephen D. Hendrix, Steven D. Frank, Thomas Raffel, Scott Tiegs, and five reviewers for their thoughtful feedback on earlier versions of this manuscript. We want to thank Rob Jean, Jason Gibbs, and Karen Wright for contributing their taxonomic expertise. Finally, we thank the students and technicians who helped collect data as well as the farmers and gardeners who gave us permission to use their land for our study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Wilson, Jamieson. 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.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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