8. Future perspectives

The main purpose of the paper was to stimulate spatial thinking in honey bee research by introducing the basic principles and methods of GIS. With an introduction to the basics of GIS, we hope that more honey bee researchers will build on techniques already developed in the native bee domain, and discover new geospatial methods for exploring the relationships between honey bees and their environment. As of now, relatively few honey bee researchers have studied the effects of how environmental characteristics and mechanisms have affected honey bee health, abundance, and honey production (Berardinelli and Vedova, 2004; Naug, 2009; Henry et al., 2012). Because of the recent colony losses in many parts of the world (Carreck and Neumann, 2010; Williams et al., 2010), it is important to mechanistically study and attempt to discover new factors which directly and indirectly affect honey bee populations (Naug, 2009) from both broad and local scales.  

GIS and spatial analyses have been used to make great progress in regards to studying the effects of landscape characteristics in research about native bees (Arthur et al., 2010; Biesmeijer et al., 2006; Chifflet et al., 2011; Choi et al., 2012; Fitzpatrick et al., 2007; Giannini et al., 2012; Kremen, 2002; Kremen et al., 2004; Watson et al., 2011; Williams et al., 2012). Various researchers have looked at the links between land cover properties and their effects on bees using satellite imagery to perform land cover classifications (Arthur et al., 2010; Kremen et al., 2004) and aerial imagery to quantify land cover properties (Watson et al., 2011) using GIS. Positive correlations were established between native bees and their surrounding landscapes, perhaps most notably the link between wooded areas and the increase in bee populations and abundance. In terms of climate, Giannini et al. (2012) have used GIS to help reveal that native bees populations are decreasing because of a changing climate and are projected to continue to decline in the future due to the loss of suitable habitats. 

Because of the obvious similarities between native bees and honey bees, it is assumed that similar relationships will be found between honey bees and their surrounding landscapes and changing climate. Naug (2009) was one of the first to use GIS to test the effects of land cover changes on honey bee colony health and productivity. By looking at the effects of nutritional stress due to habitat loss in the U.S.A., Naug (2009) established that the relative extent of open land area is an important predictor of colony losses, and that states with the largest open area proportions had higher honey yields, meaning that their honey bees were more productive. It is necessary to study these types of relationships from a broad scale in order to get a better general understanding of the overall processes linking honey bees to the surrounding environments. Research of this type can and should be expanded upon to explore more specific geographic regions as well as local scales. Climate research, similar to the work by Giannini et al. (2012), can also be conducted in GIS to study not only its effects on honey bees directly, but how changes in climate affect honey bee pathogens.

In conclusion, there are numerous opportunities for expanding geospatial analyses in the honey bee domain and we hope that this paper will motivate and stimulate spatial thinking for researchers.