• climate change;
  • colonization;
  • dispersal;
  • founder event;
  • microsatellite;
  • range shift

During recent decades, many species have responded to global warming by poleward range expansions. We require a better mechanistic understanding of the nature and extent of such processes to assess how climate change might affect biodiversity. Wing-dimorphic bush-crickets are excellent objects to study dispersal and colonization processes at the range margin because the long-winged morphs (macropters) represent dispersal units of otherwise flightless species. Moreover, these insects produce noisy songs and can easily be mapped. The present study comprised a detailed investigation of the population dynamics and genetics at the edge of the range of Roesel's bush-cricket, Metrioptera roeselii. We mapped the distribution of this insect in a previously unoccupied area of 185 km2 and examined the genetic structure at the range margin using four polymorphic microsatellite loci. The results obtained demonstrate that the European heat wave in 2003 induced a strong immigration of macropters in the area stemming from multiple sources, whereas only few immigrants were recorded in the two subsequent years. Macropters were genotyped in a distance of up to 19.1 km from their origin, considerably exceeding the known dispersal distances for this species. Moreover, the data show that strong local founder effects are equalized on a large scale by the high number of immigrants from multiple sources. The present study demonstrates that macropters are of high significance for the range expansion of wing-dimorphic insects because a single-year climatic anomaly can induce strong dispersal processes. © 2009 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2009, 97, 118–127.