Derelict Rail Station Has Become Home To Hundreds of Wild Bee Species

A derelict World War I era railway station in Vienna is to be studied by biologists to unlock the secrets of wild bee communities, it has emerged.

More than 450 different types of wild bees registered in the Austrian capital from the over 20,000 bee species known to exist worldwide.

This is a remarkably high number compared to other metropoles, according to biologists from the Natural History Museum Vienna (NHM).

All other species of bees apart from the honey bee – such as leafcutter bees, carpenter bees and mason bees – are commonly referred to as wild bees.

These kinds of bees do not produce beeswax or honey but they collect pollen to feed their young.

Now the NHM has initiated a research project to investigate wild bees in the northeastern suburbs of the Austrian capital.

Had construction gone as planned, Breitenlee shunting station would have become Europe’s biggest station at that time.

Building activities at the premises situated in Vienna’s Donaustadt district began during World War One in 1916 when Vienna was the centrepiece of the Austrian-Hungarian Habsburg monarchy.

Image shows rare steppe-bee Camptopoeum frontale in an undated photo. The Natural History Museum of Vienna in Austria reported on a rare wild bee species site Breitenlee on Monday, Sep. 5, 2022. (Sylvia Wanzenbock/Newsflash)

The monarchy collapsed when the empire and its allies lost World War One which ended in November 1918.

The construction of the Breitenlee shunting station came to a halt in 1922 when the Austrian economy was pressurised by skyrocketing inflation and unemployment.

Government officials eventually decided to abstain from relaunching the project due to the decreasing number of eastbound passenger and cargo trains.

Spanning across more than 90 hectares, the estate is today one of the most important natural habitats of Vienna.

Situated near the protected recreational area of Lobau, Breitenlee station’s dry, nutrient-poor soils are essential to various rare flowers and plants threatened by extinction.

Birds and wild bees also benefit from the conditions at the premises.

NHM researcher Sabine Schoder said: “Deadwood, lignified stalks and unmowed grasslands offer excellent nesting spots. Additionally, the area’s soil, which is low in nutrients, provides pollen to wild bees.”

Schober will cooperate with fellow NHM scientist Dominique Zimmermann on the Breitenlee station wild bees research venture.

Vienna’s climate, the city’s location and its numerous natural reserves are the main reasons for the comparably high number of wild bees, according to the NHM scientists.

The NHM Vienna is one of Austria’s largest non-university research institutions. Its staff features 60 scientists.

More than 100,000 objects are on display in the museum’s 39 exhibition rooms.

The museum – which first opened in 1898 – registered over 841,000 visitors in 2019.

Vienna is situated in the northeast of Austria. With more than 1.9 million residents, the federal capital is the Central European country’s most populous city.



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