According to research published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, bumblebees are better suited to urban environments, at least reproductively speaking, than agricultural ones.

To reach this conclusion, researchers from the University of London and Imperial College London conducted field research in both settings. The research teams captured queen bees and placed them in nest boxes located in 38 different areas between London and Basingstoke.

Monitoring the bumblebees for roughly ten weeks (which happens to be the average bumblebee colony lifespan), researchers would visit the nests at night when every colony member would return. After taking count of the colony members, researchers would also measure the amount of nectar and pollen stored in each colony.

Based on their measurements, the team determined that bumblebee colonies in urban settings produced more males and gynes (male bees capable of reproduction) than their agricultural counterparts. They also discovered the bumblebee populations in urban settings were far more robust than the colony populations found in agricultural settings.

While the researchers did not offer a definitive explanation for these findings, they did suggest a few factors that might be responsible for the disparity, including the variety of flowers that bloom throughout the year in urban settings versus the short bloom time of crops in agricultural settings, which are also exposed to pesticides and other toxic chemicals.

To contact the author of this article, email mdonlon@globalspec.com