Author Archives: Cris Thompson

The Big Wasp Survey

<h3><a href=”http://www.sumnerlab.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/BWS-Logo890px.png”><img class=”wp-image-872 alignleft” src=”http://www.sumnerlab.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/BWS-Logo890px.png” alt=”BWS-Logo890px” width=”338″ height=”262″ /></a>Citizen science project</h3> <strong>We know surprisingly little about social wasps. The <a href=”http://www.bigwaspsurvey.org/”>Big Wasp Survey</a> harnesses the public’s dislike of social wasps, to get their help in sampling wasp populations across the UK. These data help answer questions about the distribution and abundance of social wasps across the UK.</strong> &nbsp; &nbsp; <strong>Read about the peer-reviewed science arising from this project <a href=”https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/icad.12345″>here</a>.</strong> We may hate wasps but they’re useful predators, controlling garden

What roles do wasps play in nature?

Social insects perform vital ecosystem services; for example, bees are important pollinators, ants disperse seeds and termites toil the soil. The role of wasps in ecosystems is less well understood, and this is one of the reasons why people generally dislike wasps. We lack estimates of the ecological and economic value of wasps to ecosystems and their contributions to planetary health, as pollinators, pest-controllers and provisioners. As voracious predators that are abundant and diverse across the globe, wasps hold much

Losses in behavioural plasticity and the evolution of altruism

A trade-mark of sociality is the evolution of specialist task-performers, who show life-time commitment to a specific role. Social insects are great study organisms for understanding how and why this happens. The prime example is the highly eusocial species, the honeybee, where each individual larvae retains the ability to develop as a queen or a worker up until a certain point in development, after which it is committed to one or the other for the rest of its life.  Conversely, in simpler

How do identical genomes produce phenotypic and behavioural diversity?

Social insects (bees, wasps, ants and termites) are great models for addressing this: a single genome can give rise to remarkably different phenotypes, in the form of queen and worker castes.  Such differences are underlain by differential expression of shared genes. We are exploring the molecular basis of social castes in a range of eusocial wasps and bees through genome sequencing, RNAseq transcriptomic analyses combined with field-based behavioural ecology. Wasps, in particular, display incredible diversity, in life-history, sociality and hunting behaviour.