Updated: Jul 20, 2021
Henlo again everyone. It’s Sasha from the Think-Team. The summer is here, I guess. It’s already hotter where I live, and I’m sure some people are trying to schedule their summer vacation. Unfortunately, Indonesia has just imposed another activity restriction for the rising Covid-19 case. Stay safe everyone!
Since I probably won’t go anywhere in the meantime, I have very limited outdoor activities, so oftentimes I just sit on my little garden in the back of my house. It’s not much but my grandma had planted several house plants there. Last Sunday, while having a relax afternoon outside with my not-so-friendly cat, I noticed one thing: I didn’t see a single bee landed on one of our house plants. I didn’t see any bees at all, or other insects, pollinators in particular, like butterflies or some kind. Strange. It took me awhile to realize this. I used to have more flowery plants while growing up in this house and I remember I could find any kind of insects you can think of swirling around the plants and shrubs, this was around ten years ago. Not spotting a single bee is a bit concerning — from my own perspective as a biologist.
So, readers, what do you think happened to the bees? Did they take a day off on Sunday? Were the butterflies taking some vacation as well? Apparently, the answer is not as anecdotal as you may think. As a start, the housing complex where I grew up went through some major transformation over the years. The houses and pedestrians (if any) changed a lot. All the open spaces are transformed into more houses. Some houses now have fewer plants as they have very limited spaces to grow them. It doesn’t need advanced math to relate the decreasing of natural food resources relate to the absence of pollinators. And why is it a major problem? It’s just insects, they’ll procreate more on monthly basis. Besides, who needs them in the cities? They can be found more in the countrysides, or forests, or National Park as they are more needed there, right? Let’s dig deeper to answer this question.
As I already mentioned earlier, the increasing rate of urbanization has been shown to be associated with the change in pollinators composition, and the truth is, pollination is an essential component not only in agricultural land but also in urban ecosystems. In fact, studies across Europe showed that most flower visitations from the pollinators are recorded in urban areas. Pollinators are indeed needed to ensure the maximum agricultural yields, but their existence in our urban life is linked with the flowery plants and trees that we often found in parks, residential gardens, and wastelands. Another study also stated that if we can maintain the pollinators diversity in the urban ecosystems, the adjacent ecosystems may have gained extra benefits from it. If agricultural land degrades further, cities could serve as a source of pollinators for the farmland surrounding them.
Furthermore, the recent situation about pollinator's diversity in Asia is not that much different. The possibility of declining insects diversity is also reported in some areas. One of the studies about native honey bees Apis dorsata and Apis andreniformis) in South East Asia mentioned that the rising deforestation rate deprives bees nesting site. These particular bee species rely on shrubs and dense forests for their floral resources. Luckily, in contrast, the red dwarf honey bee (Apis florea), whose colonies are commonly found in anthropized ecosystems, such as agricultural or urban areas, might be more resilient than other bee species.
Well, I still have more to share about the role of urban ecosystems for our dear helpful little friends, so I guess, I will write part two about this interesting topic. I think I would also include what are the efforts that are needed to maintain the pollinator's diversity. I will wrap up for now and I’ll see you soon!
Theodorou, P., Radzevičiūtė, R., Lentendu, G. et al. Urban areas as hotspots for bees and pollination but not a panacea for all insects. Nat Commun 11, 576 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-14496-6
Freitas, B.M., Imperatriz-Fonseca, V.L., Medina, L.M. et al. Diversity, threats and conservation of native bees in the Neotropics. Apidologie 40, 332–346 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1051/apido/2009012