Skip to main content Skip to main navigation menu Skip to site footer
Type: Article
Published: 2018-03-25
Page range: 29–50
Abstract views: 439
PDF downloaded: 380

Urban Nature Gardens at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County attract “wildlife spectacle” of insect pollinators

Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, California, United States of America
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, California, United States of America Mohonk Preserve, New Paltz, New York, United States of America La Kretz Center for California Conservation Science, University of California Los Angeles, United States of America
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, California, United States of America
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, California, United States of America
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Los Angeles, California, United States of America
Hymenoptera urban garden pollinators native bees butterflies flower flies scuttle flies urban ecology urban biodiversity insect survey Los Angeles


The newly-constructed Nature Gardens at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (California, USA) were purposefully built to attract wildlife. In this study we wanted to find out to what extent this manufactured environment is successful in attracting native insect fauna to the urban core of the city when compared to the surrounding neighborhoods or natural areas on the periphery of Los Angeles. To determine this, a one-year Malaise trap catch from the Nature Gardens was compared with samples from four neighboring sites within a five-kilometer radius, as well as a site adjacent to natural habitat located sixteen kilometers away. Our analysis focused on the diversity and abundance of three pollinator groups: bees, flower flies and butterflies contrasted with a single non-pollinator group: scuttle flies.

        Our findings show that the Nature Gardens support greater abundance and diversity than any of the nearby sites or the natural site for all pollinator taxa examined. In contrast, the natural site supported much higher abundance and diversity of the non-pollinator scuttle flies when compared to the Nature Gardens. Calculated evenness of all taxa was lower in the Nature Gardens than at the natural site and Shannon Diversity indices were highest in the Nature Gardens for flower flies and butterflies, but lower in the Nature Gardens than at the natural site for bees and scuttle flies. These results indicate that biodiversity in an urban environment can be selectively manipulated through management of green spaces, but may not duplicate the communities found in natural spaces. Rather, targeted management (through plantings, ground cover and other substrates, watering, pest management techniques, etc.) can increase fauna predictively to create a “wildlife spectacle” of charismatic microfauna.


  1. Avondet, J.L., Blair, R.B., Berg, D.J. & Ebbert, M.A. (2003b) Drosophila (Diptera: Drosophilidae) Response to Changes in Ecological Parameters Across an Urban Gradient. Environmental Entomology, 32 (2), 347–358.

    Banaszak-Cibicka, W. & Żmihorski, M. (2011) Wild bees along an urban gradient: winners and losers. Journal of Insect Conservation, 16 (3), 331–343.

    Bickel, D. (2009) Why Hilara Is Not Amusing: The Problem of Open-Ended Taxa and the Limits of Taxonomic Knowledge. In: Pape, T., Bickel, D.J. & Meier, R. (Eds.), Diptera diversity: status, challenges, and tools. Brill, Leiden, pp. 279–301.

    Bolger, D.T., Suarez, A.V., Crooks, K.R., Morrison, S.A. & Case, T.J. (2000) Arthropods in urban habitat fragments in Southern California: area, age, and edge effects. Ecological Applications, 10 (4), 1230–1248.[1230:AIUHFI]2.0.CO;2

    Bonebrake, T.C. & Cooper, D.S. (2014) A Hollywood drama of butterfly extirpation and persistence over a century of urbanization. Journal of Insect Conservation, 18 (4), 683–692.

    Brown, B.V., Borkent, A., Wetzer, R. & Pentcheff, D. (2014) New types of inventories at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. American Entomologist, 60, 231–234.

    Brown, B.V. & Hartop, E.A. (2016) Big data from tiny flies: patterns revealed from over 42,000 phorid flies (Insecta: Diptera: Phoridae) collected over one year in Los Angeles, California, USA. Urban Ecosystems.

    Brown, B.V. & Hartop, E.A. (2017) Mystery mushroom malingerers: Megaselia marquezi Hartop et al. 2015 (Diptera: Phoridae). Biodiversity Data Journal, (5), e15052.

    Brown, B.V., Hogue, J.N. & Thompson, F.C. (2011) Flower flies of Los Angeles County. Los Angeles: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, 30 pp.

    Brown, K.S. & Freitas, A.V.L. (2002) Butterfly Communities of Urban Forest Fragments in Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil: Structure, Instability, Environmental Correlates, and Conservation. Journal of Insect Conservation, 6 (4), 217–231.

    Disney, R.H.L. (1994) Scuttle flies: the Phoridae. London: Chapman and Hall.

    Disney, R.H.L. & Durska, E. (2008) Conservation Evaluation and the Choice of Faunal Taxa to Sample. Biodiversity and Conservation, 17, 449–451.

    Fortel, L., Henry, M., Guilbaud, L., Guirao, A.L., Kuhlmann, M., Mouret, H., Rollin, O. & Vaissiere, B.E. (2014) Decreasing abundance, increasing diversity and changing structure of the wild bee community (Hymenoptera: Anthophila) along an urbanization gradient. PLoS One, 9 (8), e104679.

    Frankie, G..W., Thorp, R.W., Hernandez, J., Rizzardi, M., Ertter, B., Pawelek, J.C., Witt, S.L., Schindler, M., Coville, R. & Wojcik, V.A. (2009) Native bees are a rich natural resource in urban California gardens. California Agriculture, 63 (3), 113–120.

    Gibb, H. & Hochuli, D.F. (2002) Habitat fragmentation in an urban environment: large and small fragments support different arthropod assemblages. Biological Conservation, 106, 91–100.

    Google Earth Pro 7.3. (2017) Los Angeles, viewed 15 July 2017. Available from: (accessed 19 January 2018)

    Hall, D.M., Camilo, G.R., Tonietto, R.K., Ollerton, J., Ahrne, K., Arduser, M., Ascher, J.S., Baldock, K.C., Fowler, R., Frankie, G., Goulson, D., Gunnarsson, B., Hanley, M.E., Jackson, J.I., Langellotto, G., Lowenstein, D., Minor, E.S., Philpott, S.M., Potts, S.G., Sirohi, M.H., Spevak, E.M., Stone, G.N. & Threlfall, C.G. (2017) The City as a refuge for insect pollinators. Conservation Biology, 31 (1), 24–29.

    Makinson, J.C., Threlfall, C.G. & Latty, T. (2016) Bee-friendly community gardens: Impact of environmental variables on the richness and abundance of exotic and native bees. Urban Ecosystems, 20 (2), 463–476.

    Matteson, K.C., Ascher, J.S. & Langellotto, G.A. (2008) Bee Richness and Abundance in New York City Urban Gardens. Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 101 (1), 140–150.[140:BRAAIN]2.0.CO;2

    Matteson, K.C. & Langellotto, G.A. (2010) Determinates of inner city butterfly and bee species richness. Urban Ecosystems, 13 (3), 333–347.

    Matteson, K.C. & Langellotto, G.A. (2011) Small scale additions of native plants fail to increase beneficial insect richness in urban gardens. Insect Conservation and Diversity, 4 (2), 89–98.

    Michener, C.D. (2007) The Bees of the World, 2nd Edition. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 972 pp.

    Niemelä, J., Kotze, D.J., Venn, S., Penev, L., Stoyanov, I., Spence, J., Hartley, D. & Montes de Oca, E. (2002) Carabid beetle assemblages (Coleoptera, Carabidae) across urban-rural gradients: an international comparison. Landscape Ecology, 17, 387–401.

    Oksanen, J., Blanchet, F.G., Friendly, M., Kindt, R., Legendre, P., McGlinn, D., Minchin, P.R., O'Hara, R.B., Simpson, G.L., Solymos, M., Stevens, H.H., Szoecs, E. & Wagner, H. (2017) vegan: Community Ecology Package. R package version 2.4-4. Available from: (accessed 19 January 2018)

    Pardee, G.L. & Philpott, S. (2014) Native plants are the bee’s knees: local and landscape predictors of bee richness and abundance in backyard gardens. Urban Ecosystems, 17, 641–659.

    Pawelek, J.C., Frankie, G.W., Thorp, R.W. & Przybylski, M. (2009) Modification of a Community Garden to Attract Native Bee Pollinators in Urban San Luis Obispo, California. Cities and the Environment, 2 (1), 1–20.

    Plascencia, M. & Philpott, S.M. (2017) Floral abundance, richness, and spatial distribution drive urban garden bee communities. Bulletin of Entomological Research, 107 (5), 658–667.

    Quistberg, R.D., Bichier, P. & Philpott, S.M. (2016) Landscape and Local Correlates of Bee Abundance and Species Richness in Urban Gardens. Environmental Entomology.

    R Core Team (2017) R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria. Available from: (accessed 19 January 2018)

    Rader, R., Howlett, B.G., Cunningham, S.A., Westcott, D.A., Newstrom-Lloyd, L.E., Walker, M.K., Teulon, D.A.J. & Edwards, W. (2009) Alternative pollinator taxa are equally efficient but not as effective as the honeybee in a mass flowering crop. Journal of Applied Ecology, 46 (5), 1080–1087.

    Salisbury, A., Al-Beidh, S., Armitage, J., Bird, S., Bostock, H., Platoni, A., Tatchell, M., Thompson, K. & Perry, J. (2017) Enhancing gardens as habitats for plant-associated invertebrates: should we plant native or exotic species? Biodiversity and Conservation, 26 (11), 2657–2673.

    Salisbury, A., Armitage, J., Bostock, H., Perry, J., Tatchell, M., Thompson, K. & Diamond, S. (2015) EDITOR'S CHOICE: Enhancing gardens as habitats for flower-visiting aerial insects (pollinators): should we plant native or exotic species? Journal of Applied Ecology, 52 (5), 1156–1164.

    Shannon, C.E. & Wiener, W. (1963) The mathematical theory of communication. University Illinois Press, Urbana, 360 pp.

    Townes, H. (1972) A light-weight Malaise trap. Entomological News, 83, 239–247.

    Wojcik, V.A., Frankie, G.W., Thorp, R.W. & Hernandez, J.L. (2008) Seasonality in Bees and Their Floral Resource Plants at a Constructed Urban Bee Habitat in Berkeley, California. Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, 81 (1), 15–28.