Jena Copley

Pocket Prairies Support Bee Diversity in Cleveland, Ohio

April 10, 2021   /  

Name: Jena Copley
Major: Biology
Minor: Environmental Studies
Advisors: Dr. Jennifer Ison and Dr. Kayla Perry, Dr. Rick Lehtinen (second reader)

Urbanization reduces the availability of natural habitat and resources leading to fragmented land that is unable to support healthy ecosystems. In order to combat these effects, urban ecologists are studying urban green spaces and their ability to support abundant and diverse flora and fauna communities. By quantifying insect communities, like bees, in an urban setting, we aim to contribute to the information regarding the conservation value of urban green spaces. Our research observes three different types of urban green spaces in the city of Cleveland, Ohio (vacant lots, pocket prairies, and old field sites) and quantifies the diversity and abundance of bees each habitat type supports. Using 24 total sites (8 pocket prairies, 8 vacant lots, and 8 old field sites), we collected bees by pan-trapping during the months of June, July, August, and September of 2019. Following collection, we identified all bees to genus for analysis of bee abundance, genera richness, and genera diversity between the site treatments. Our study revealed that the highest mean bee abundance, genera richness, and genera diversity was seen in the pocket prairie sites. Using a General linear model, we found a statistically significant relationship between our predictor variable, site treatment, and our response of bee genera diversity. When analyzing our floral predictor variables of flowering species richness and flower abundance, we found no significant connection between the floral predictors and our responses of bee abundance, genera richness, and genera diversity. Our findings suggest that pocket prairies have the ability to support diverse and abundant bee populations in an urban setting. Our data can help contribute to the ongoing research of the Cleveland Pocket Prairie Project, working to develop new land management designs that promote conservation of wildlife in urban landscapes.


Jena will be online to field comments on April 16:
noon-2pm EDT (PST: 9-11am, Africa/Europe: late afternoon)

30 thoughts on “Pocket Prairies Support Bee Diversity in Cleveland, Ohio”

  1. Cool project, Jena! I had never heard of the idea of “pocket prairies” but what a great concept. This adds to our vocabulary of different ways to green cities. I would think that pocket prairies are lower maintenance than pocket gardens (lots of weeding) or pocket parks (lots of mowing).

    1. Thank you Dr. Mariola! It was an awesome project to be a part of, The Gardiner Lab has done a lot of important research in their pocket prairies. They proved to be pretty low maintenance, the only consistent work that was done included trash clean up and mowing around the perimeter to ensure that the prairies stayed within their plot. I’m sure that for the pocket prairies to maintain this level of habitat some sort of long term maintenance equivalent to burning would be necessary.

  2. Great work. Does the composition of the organisms in the pocket space change the bee species, ie flower type?

    1. Hi Kevin thanks for the comment! While neither of our floral variables (flowering species richness or flower abundance) proved to have a significant impact on bee genera richness or bee genera diversity, the pocket prairies did show to have the highest flowering species richness of the three treatment plots. This result could tell us that the floral composition of the pocket prairies may have played a role in the result of high bee diversity, but we can not be certain.

  3. Congratulations Jena! What an awesome and important study! How can we improve our own yards for native bees?

    1. Thank you Miyauna! The easiest way to make your own yard bee friendly is by letting it grow! Constant mowing takes away all of the resources that grow in your yard naturally (i.e. clover, dandelion, and other weedy flowers). These flowers are small, but they provided lots of resources for bees. So, leave those dandelions and reduce the frequency of your mowing to keep your yard bee friendly!

  4. Great presentation! What suggestions do you have for people who want to learn more about bee diversity?

    1. Thanks Dr.Ison! There are so many bees out there (over 20,000 known species), so it can be intimidating, but one great way to learn about bee diversity is using iNaturalist! iNaturalist is a website where people can post pictures of different plants and animals they find and others can help identify them. I used iNaturalist to help with my remote bee identification for this project. All of my cute bee pictures and identifications can be found on my profile page ! iNaturalist is a great way to learn about the bees in your area! So, if you are looking to learn more about bee diversity, I would check out iNaturalist and familiarize yourself with the bees around you and then get outside and see what bees you can find!

  5. Great work Jena! So fascinating to think of “pocket prairies” in urban areas as an area of so much diversity among bees. I’m thankful for having some space in our yard for many flowering plants to help “save the bees”!

    A few questions for you:

    -> How do they determine the different species of bees after collection?
    -> Are there any bee hives on the COW campus?

    1. Thanks Scott! That’s great that you’re helping save the bees!

      For this project, I personally did all of the bee identifications. Learning how to identify bees to genus was the biggest part of my I.S! As bee species identification is a very difficult and specialized skill, I kept my identifications to genus for this project. Using taxonomic keys and some online help using iNaturalist (, I was able to identify about 420 bees for the project! To determine the genus of the bee you will look at certain defining characteristic such as head shape, body shape, pollinating hair location, the shape of the veins in the wings, and more!

      As for bees on the COW campus, I am unsure about any bee hives on campus. But, our campus gardens are great for supporting bees! Check out Miyauna Incarnato’s awesome project for more info on the campus bee population!

      1. Great info! Thank you– and congratulations on your work and upcoming graduation!

  6. Really well done Jena! If the data seems to suggest that differences in abundances among bee taxa were not related to floral variables, I was wondering if you have a sense of what other variables could be driving the greater bee abundances in pocket prairies?

    1. Thank you Dr. Moreno! While we didn’t see any significance between our floral variables (flowering species richness or flower abundance) and our responses of bee abundance, bee genera richness, or bee genera diversity; We did see the highest flowering species richness in the pocket prairies. This result shows there could be some connection to the composition of the site and the bee visitation, but we can not be certain. One variable that I believe may have contributed to this result is the availability of nesting resources. There are many different nesting types throughout the bee families, so a habitat that provides a variety of nesting resources would most likely show higher bee abundance and diversity. I would love to be able to research this idea further and see if the pocket prairies held the highest quantity of nesting resources, resulting in high bee abundance and diversity.

  7. Congratulations Jena! From collecting the bees from the traps and identifying each one we are super proud of your hard work and dedication to your project. So after identifying over 400 bees, do you happen to have a favorite?

    1. Thanks mom! While all of the bees are super cute my favorite is the megachile or the leaf cutter bee! They are small with big heads and have butts covered in furry pollinating hairs 🙂

  8. Well done Jena. Very nice project and presentation. Were you surprised by the large number of samples that had no bees?

    1. Thanks Dad! The number of traps that had zero bees was surprising to me, but I think it was also a learning experience! Research is hard and collecting data can be difficult, so it was a good thing to learn that you can’t be frustrated when you don’t get any collections, because that is all part of the process!

  9. This is such a cool project, Jena! It’s awesome to see that urban green spaces can have a clear positive impact on bee communities. I was wondering if you could speak as to why the higher diversity of bee genera found in pocket prairies is important for the health of the bees and/or ecosystems?

    1. Thanks Kendra! I think the biggest take away is that there are ways to improve our land management practices. As seen in our data, these small natural spaces were able to support bee diversity in an urban area better than the vacant lots that are normally in their place. This result shows that by adding in some flowers and reducing mowing we can make a difference. Biodiversity is a huge indicator of ecosystem health, so if we can figure out what changes increase diversity then we can help promote healthier ecosystems. For bees specifically, we saw that they were in higher numbers and greater diversity in the pocket prairies then in the other two treatment plots. This result shows that the pocket prairies are a habitat that can support higher diversity of bees and in turn provide healthier ecosystems.

  10. Jena, this is such a cool project! Best of luck with everything you have going on post-grad!

  11. I’ve seen urban agriculture and pocket parks become increasingly popular over the last decade, but I hadn’t seen or considered “pocket prairies” in the past. I can certainly see the value in the Greater Cleveland area, where the environment is nearly completely built out. Very interesting, thank you!

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