The scientific interests of the research group are on a broad scale, but our research generally involves the study of insect responses to variable stressors. Our studies take approaches in animal behaviour, experimental biology and evolutionary biology to understand trends in ecology and inform ecological applications.


We are interested in how human activities that have contributed to types of land-use change, the growth of agricultural practices and to climate change, are affecting insect populations and communities. Much of our research focus has been on how specific factors, such as habitat and resource loss, pesticide usage and temperature changes can influence individual insect physiology, behaviour and fitness measures. Complementing these findings with molecular methods, field studies and modelling we attempt to scale-up how these factors may be selectively shaping insect populations and altering community composition and network of interactions.

Whilst not wedded to a particular study system, social insects have been the focus of our research. Their large and intricate societies exhibit efficient and complex cooperative behaviours making them not only interesting for the study of animal behaviour, but also a dominant insect group in the environment that provide vital ecosystem functions and crucial ecosystem services important for human welfare.

Group news & recent publications

Congratulations to Dylan Smith for passing his PhD viva looking at the effect of pesticides on brain development in bumblebees.

Congratulations to Danny Kenna who was awarded the runner-up prize for best PhD talk at the British Ecological Society meeting in Birmingham 

Second field season studying Arctic bumblebees will start in May as part of an international collaboration on phenological responses to climate change, supported by the Climate Impact Research Centre (CIRC) and Dr Keith Larson.

Recent publications: 

Smith et al. (2020) Insecticide exposure during brood or early-adult development reduces brain growth and impairs adult learning in bumblebees. in Proc. Roy. Soc. B. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2019.2442 


Samuelson, Gill & Leadbeater (in press) Urbanisation is associated with reduced Nosema sp. infection, higher colony strength and higher richness of foraged pollen in honeybees. in Apidologie,

Kenna*, Cooley* et al. (2019) Pesticide exposure affects flight dynamics and reduces flight endurance in bumblebees. Ecology & Evolution. Pre-print version can be found at:

Colgan*, Fletcher*, Arce* et al. (2019) Caste- and pesticide-specific effects of neonicotinoid pesticide exposure on gene expression in bumblebees’. in Molecular Ecology. doi:10.1111/mec.15047


Arce et al. (2018) Foraging bumblebees acquire a preference for neonicotinoid treated food with prolonged exposure’ by is published. in: Proceedings of the Royal Society B