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North Carolina is home to 500 species of wild bees, yet only a subset of these are common in cities and suburbs. People encourage wild bees by planting flowers and creating pollinator gardens to provide the pollen and nectar bees need. However, even gardens rich with flowers do not have the same bee abundance or diversity as natural areas. So, there must be things besides flowers that limit urban bee communities. But what are they?
In a recent paper, we show that one of these factors is the urban heat island effect. The urban heat island effect is caused by impervious surfaces – like cement and pavement – that absorb heat from the sun, making cities hotter than surrounding rural areas. We sampled bees for two years in 18 yards and parks around Raleigh, NC. These yards differed in flower abundance and diversity, but also differed in temperature. The hottest yards had about a third as many bees as yards just 2°C (about 3.6°F)...
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