The spatial and temporal distribution of bees across the landscape is a result of strategies used to search for food, combined with the choices made by the bees on where and when to forage. The movement patterns of individual bees and consequent distribution of foragers affect and define the movement of pollen between insect-pollinated plants, and thus can drive gene flow between plant patches and populations; particularly in fragmented landscapes.
In recent years, it has become possible to combine the mapping of floral resources using GIS techniques, with mapping of insect flight patterns. The latter have been revealed with the development of harmonic radar to track individual flying insects, the use of mass-marking techniques and tools to analyse genetic relatedness in both bees and plants. This newly gathered knowledge of bee movement and distribution patterns opens up the possibility of predicting plant pollen flow across the landscape. These predictions can then be tested with empirical evidence of pollen-mediated gene flow between plants.
I will compare and contrast recent studies of bumblebee foraging range in agricultural landscapes of Europe, and discuss possible implications for colony survival and the pollination of patchily distributed plant species.