Laura A. Mesa, Bradley G. Howlett, Jan E. Grant, Raphael K. Didham
Journal of Insect Science 13 (13), 1-18, (1 February 2013) https://doi.org/10.1673/031.013.1301
KEYWORDS: Brassica, Flower phenology, insect pollination, pollinator dispersal, temporal variation
The potential movement of transgenes from genetically modified crops to non-genetically modified crops via insect-mediated pollen dispersal has been highlighted as one of the areas of greatest concern in regards to genetically modified crops. Pollen movement depends sensitively on spatial and temporal variation in the movement of insect pollinators between crop fields. This study tested the degree of variation in the diversity and relative abundance of flower-visiting insects entering versus leaving pak choi, Brassica rapa var. chinensis L. (Brassicales: Brassicaceae), crops throughout different stages of the flowering cycle. The relative abundance of flower-visiting insects varied significantly with Brassica crop phenology. Greater numbers of flower-visiting insects were captured inside rather than outside the crop fields, with the highest capture rates of flower-visitors coinciding with the peak of flowering in both spring-flowering and summer-flowering crops. Moreover, the ratio of flower-visiting insects entering versus leaving crop fields also varied considerably with changing crop phenology. Despite high variation in relative capture rates, the data strongly indicate non-random patterns of variation in insect movement in relation to crop phenology, with early-season aggregation of flower-visiting insects entering and remaining in the crop, and then mass emigration of flower-visiting insects leaving the crop late in the flowering season. Although pollen movement late in the flowering cycle might contribute relatively little to total seed set (and hence crop production), the findings here suggest that extensive late-season pollinator redistribution in the landscape could contribute disproportionately to long-distance gene movement between crops.