Urban Pollination: sustain native bees & urban crops

Susan Waters | Marie Clifford

University of Washington

This project was funded on:
11 January 2013
Bee activity on our crop flowers is crucial to human food security, but bees are also declining around the world. We need to find out how this is affecting people trying to grow food in cities, and what we can do to keep the bees we still have.


Budget Overview

The funds will be used to cover the costs of managing the volunteers, such as gas money to get to the p-patches.

Meet the Researcher


My research focuses on interactions between native and exotic plant species, as mediated by their shared pollinators. I am particularly interested in how agents of global change such as invasion and climate change may alter these interactions for both plants and pollinators. I pursue this research in three ways: (1) manipulative experiments that investigate the nature of pollinator-mediated native/exotic plant interactions; (2) manipulative experiments that alter the timing of flowering by exotic plant species, examining effects on pollinator visits and on seed production by native plants; and (3) using historical and contemporary data to estimate the overall seasonal pattern of nectar and pollen availability for pollinators along a gradient of invasion (where the proportions of native and exotic plants in the community vary).

One out of every three bites of food we eat is made possible by an insect pollinator visiting a food crop flower. Because of this, conservation of bees is a critical part of maintaining an affordable and abundant food supply. The Urban Pollination Project studies pollination by bumblebees in community gardens in order to find out how to maximize food yield and manage bee decline.

We measure the number and size (volume) of tomatoes produced over the season by each plant. By comparing open vs. self pollinated plants, we can tell how many more tomatoes are produced when plants have the available bumblebees visiting them than they can on their own. By comparing open vs. hand pollinated plants, we can tell whether more pollinator activity would increase tomato production and by how much; in other words, how much more food we could make if more bees were present.

We will publish the results of this study in an urban ecology journal, and provide the results, in plain English, on our website, www.urbanpollinationproject.org, as well. We will also share the results with the City of Seattle.

Image credit: Peggy (http://womanwithwingsblog.blogspot.com)

Project Backers

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