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Curious City. A bumblebee flies toward a flower

A bumble bee flies toward a flower in Illinois.

Seth Perlman

Illinois is buzzing with bees. Here’s why experts say we shouldn’t take that for granted.

For Naperville resident Katie Uram, observing bees gathering nectar or pollen in her backyard is something that brings her a lot of joy.

“One of [my] favorite things about bees is sometimes you'll just find them taking naps on flowers, wiggling its little butt and legs like it was dreaming,” she said. “It was the most beautiful, cute little thing ever.”

Katie may be more charmed by bees than most, but over the summer she noticed there seemed to be fewer bees visiting her garden this year. So she asked Curious City what’s going on with the local bee population and what gardeners like herself can do to help keep bees around.

According to local scientists, the answer to the first part of Katie’s question is complicated. They say that while we are losing some bee species in the Chicago area, others are doing just fine.

Still, bee experts warn that we should be concerned about bee species native to Illinois, which are under constant threat from climate change, pesticides, urban development and the introduction of non-native bee species.

And for those like Katie who want to help protect bees in their own gardens, bee scientists have a few tips. Some of these may come as no surprise (include a diversity of plants and flowers in your garden, experts say, including native plants), while others may be less intuitive (don’t go overboard removing dry twigs and sticks from your garden, as bees use them to nest).

Click “listen” on the audio player at the top of this page to hear the full story.

Adriana Cardona-Maguigad is Curious City’s reporter. Follow her at @AdrianaCardMag

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