School of Biological Sciences

Prof Phil Lester

Insect Ecology
School of Biological Sciences

Phone: 04 463 5096
Location: Room 516A, New Kirk Building, Kelburn Pde, Kelburn Campus

Prof Phil Lester

Research Projects

I work on the population dynamics and ecology of social insects. Invasive ants and social wasps in the Pacific region are a particular focus. More recently my group has started examining the role of pathogens in social insect population dynamics, and we have also begun work on honey bees as a model system for understanding pathogen and host interactions. We are examining interactions between bacteria and viruses in honey bees as a method of mitigating the effects of parasitic Varroa mites. Our research projects integrate a range of techniques including statistical modelling procedures, isotopes, and molecular genetic analyses.

Our work spans the spectrum from very applied entomology (e.g. invasive ant or wasp control) to much more theoretical or conceptual work (e.g. wasp learning and foraging behaviour). Other work examining ecological or evolutionary theory include projects examining how humans have inadvertently driven positive selection for invasive genotypes of Argentine ants. At the 'front end' of our applied work is Pacific Biosecurity led by Dr Monica Gruber. We started Pacific Biosecurity as a not-for-profit organisation with the goal of building resilience to the threat of invasive insects throughout the Pacific region.

Selected Publications

Burne AR, Haywood J, Lester PJ. 2015. Density-dependent effects of an invasive wasp on the morphology of an endemic New Zealand ant. Biological Invasions 17: 327-335.

Lester PJ, Gruber MAM, Brenton-Rule EC, Archer M, Corley JC, Dvorak L, Masciocchi M, Van Oystaeyen A. 2014. Determining the origin of invasions and demonstrating a lack of enemy release from microsporidian pathogens in common wasps (Vespula vulgaris). Diversity & Distributions 20: 964-974.

Roura-Pascual N, Huia C, Ikeda T, Leday G, Richardson DM, Carpintero S, Espadaler X, Gómez C, Guénard B, Hartley S, Krushelnycky P, Lester PJ, McGeoch MA, Menke SB, Pedersen JS, Pitt JPW, Reyes J, Sanders NJ, Suarez AV, Touyama Y, Ward D, Ward PS & Worner SP. 2011. Relative roles of climatic suitability and anthropogenic influence in determining the pattern of spread in a global invader. PNAS 108: 220–225.

Grangier J, Lester PJ. 2011. A novel interference behaviour: invasive wasps remove ants from resources and drop them from a height. Biology Letters 7: 664-667.

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