Category Archives: Blog

Lessons From the Jungle

Trinidad Jungle

This summer I was fortunate enough to be able to join the Sumner lab for a field season out in Trinidad. My role was as a research assistant as part of a four-person team working on two projects looking at species of tropical social wasps. This first was examining

“Why fly half way across the world to Trinidad when there are plenty of wasps drowning in my lemonade in Peckham?”


‘Why fly half way across the world to Trinidad when there are plenty of wasps drowning in my lemonade in Peckham?’ was a fairly reasonable question I was asked by a friend. Trinidad may not initially seem a prime location for conducting field work, yet it is one of the regions with the greatest diversity of social Hymenoptera species in the world;

Effects of Agrochemicals on Ants – Just the Tip of the Ant Mound?

Figure 2. Six mazes were observed at a time and recordings were staggered. The orientation of each maze was randomly changed to minimise potential biases.

We are a pair of undergraduate students working on our dissertation project in the Sumner Lab. For our project we decided to study the effects that agrochemicals can have on two native UK ant species. Non-target organisms can often become victims of exposure to agricultural chemicals, with the most studied example being the common honeybee (Apis mellifera) [1]. Very little published research is currently available on the effects of agrochemicals on other non-target species [2].

The Lord of the Bees & The Microcolony Revolution

Figure 1. The first prototype of my microcolony set-up. The bees feed on a sugar solution from two Eppendorf tubes in the top left of the box. The orange ball in the middle is pollen and the lump off to the side is a piece of wax from the parental colony.

Welcome to the Sumner Lab Blog! I am a new PhD student in the lab and my project is focussing on using social network analysis to assess how certain pesticides might be affecting social interactions within bumblebee colonies and how that could impact colony performance. One of the early challenges facing me is learning how to establish my own bumblebee version of The Lord of the Flies.