Long-distance pollen flow assessment through evaluation of pollinator foraging range suggests transgene escape distances

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Foraging range, an important component of bee ecology, is of considerable interest for insect-pollinated plants because it determines the potential for outcrossing among individuals. However, long-distance pollen flow is difficuit to assess, especially when the plant also relies on self-pollination. Pollen movement can be estimated indirectly through population genetic data, but complementary data on pollinator flight distances is necessary to validate such estimates. By using radio-tracking of cowpea pollinator return flights, we found that carpenter bees visiting cowpea flowers can forage up to 6 km from their nest. Foraging distances were found to be shorter than the maximum flight range, especially under adverse weather conditions or poor reward levels. From complete flight records in which bees visited wild and domesticated populations, we conclude that bees can mediate gene flow and, in some instances, allow transgene (genetically engineered material) escape over several kilometers. However, most between-flower flights occur within plant patches, while very few occur between plant patches.


  • Remy S. Pasquet
  • Alexis Peltier
  • Matthew B. Hufford
  • Emeline Oudin
  • Jonathan Saulnier
  • Lenaic Paul
  • Jette Knudsen
  • Hans R. Herren
  • Paul Gepts
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Zoology
  • Biological Sciences


  • cowpea, Xylocopa flavorufa, Vigna unguiculata, radio-tracking
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13456-13461
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Issue number36
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Publication categoryResearch