Bright Lights Big Bumblebees

Bumblebee in a pink flower with a fence behind

What’s the buzz happening in our cities? Literally!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Tall buildings, hectic roads. Our cities are enough to make humans feel small! But what about the critters buzzing around our balconies and parkways? Take bumblebees–how have they adjusted to city life?

Enter Panagiotis Theodorou and his team from Martin-Luther-University in Germany. They wondered about the differences between city-bees and country-bees.

The researchers collected and measured almost two thousand bumblebees from three different species. Around half of these were collected from city areas. Out of the three species, one flies farther than the others when looking for flowers.

Results? The city version of these far flying bumblebee were noticeably larger than their country cousins! Interestingly, the larger body size also matched up with places with more roads.

City roads split the land up into concrete islands. The researchers think that the larger bodies of city bumblebees could help them cross roads to different flower patches.

Bigger bees keep our concrete jungles green, bee-lieve it or not!

Theodorou, P., Baltz, L. M., Paxton, R. J., & Soro, A. (2020). Urbanization is associated with shifts in bumblebee body size, with cascading effects on pollination. Evolutionary Applications.