• Bees;
  • climate sensitivity;
  • future climate scenario;
  • geographic range shift;
  • pollination;
  • South Africa


Aim  Bees are the most important pollinators of flowering plants and essential ecological keystone species contributing to the integrity of most terrestrial ecosystems. Here, we examine the potential impact of climate change on bees’ geographic range in a global biodiversity hotspot.

Location  South Africa with a focus on the Cape Floristic Region (CFR) diversity hotspot.

Methods  Geographic ranges of 12 South African bee species representing dominant distribution types were studied, and the climate change impacts upon bees were examined with A2 and B2 climate scenarios of HadCM3 model, using MaxEnt for species distribution modelling.

Results  The predicted levels of climate change-induced impacts on species ranges varied from little shifts and range expansion of 5–50% for two species to substantial range contractions between 32% and 99% in another six species. Four species show considerable range shifts. Bees of the winter rainfall area in the west of South Africa generally have smaller range sizes than in the summer rainfall area and generally show eastward range contractions toward the dry interior. Bee species prevalent in summer rainfall regions show a tendency for a south-easterly shift in geographic range.

Main conclusions  The bee fauna of the CFR is identified as the most vulnerable to climate change due to the high level of endemism, the small range sizes and the island-like isolation of the Mediterranean-type climate region at the SW tip of Africa. For monitoring climate change impact on bees, we suggest to establish observatories in the coastal plains of the west coast that are predicted to be worst affected and areas where persistence of populations is most likely. Likely impacts of climate change on life history traits of bees (phenology, sociality, bee-host plant synchronization) are discussed but require further investigation.