Dr Thomas Ings

Course Leader & Senior Lecturer in Zoology

Faculty:Faculty of Science and Engineering

School:Life Sciences

Location: Cambridge

Areas of Expertise: Animal and environmental biology

Research Supervision:Yes

Thomas is an ecologist/behavioural ecologist whose research interests include invertebrate community ecology, conservation, pollinator behaviour, and insect learning. One of his key aim is to develop an understanding of how community structure is influenced by individual traits, including behaviour.



Following his interests in animal behaviour and conservation, Thomas's recent projects have included pollinator responses to global change and the influence of predation risk on prey behaviour. One of his major research goal is to integrate his broad interests by developing an individual trait-based mechanistic approach to studying mutualistic networks. Ultimately, this will help us to predict the potential impacts of environmental change on the structure and dynamics of complex communities and associated ecosystems services, such as pollination.

Research interests

  • Mutualistic networks: currently using an individual trait-based approach to understand the mechanisms that determine the structure of plant-flower visitor interaction networks
  • Pollinator behavioural plasticity: an ongoing project investigating the causes and consequence of a major shift in life history in the bumblebee Bombus terrestris, which now has a winter generation in southern parts of the UK
  • Insect learning: projects have addressed questions such as how foraging bumblebees learn to avoid predators whilst visiting flowers
  • Urban ecology: how pollinators and other invertebrates respond to management of urban green spaces
  • Invertebrate conservation: how land management in both rural and urban settings affects invertebrate diversity

Thomas is a member of both our Applied Ecology Research Group and Behavioural Ecology Research Group.

Areas of research supervision

Thomas welcomes enquiries from motivated graduates and postgraduates with an interest in writing research proposals with him, including potential incoming Marie Sklodowska-Curie fellows under the European Union's Horizon 2020 programme. Areas of research supervision include:

  • pollinator behaviour
  • predator avoidance behaviour
  • animal learning, especially in insects
  • mutualistic networks
  • invertebrate community ecology: Thomas is currently supervising one PhD student, Hilary Conlan, who is investigating the influence of land management on the diversity and structure of pollinator communities in a fenland landscape
  • invertebrate conservation (especially pollinators)
  • global change ecology

PhD projects supervised include:
As first supervisor:

  • Solitary bee nesting ecology (Stephanie Maher – second supervisor Dr Fabrizio Manco)
  • The influence of landscape matrix and food sources on the distribution of insect pollinators in intensively farmed fenland. (Hilary Conlan – second supervisor Dr Francine Hughes)

As second supervisor:

  • Courting disaster: the fitness costs of anthropogenic noise resulting from interference with sexually selected signals (Adam Bent: first supervisor Dr Sophie Mowles).
  • Green cities: how our decisions affect landscape biodiversity (Lidia Nuño-Sanchez – first supervisor Dr Alvin Helden).
  • Biodiversity management: application of biodiversity data to inform conservation and industry practice. PhD by Published Works (John Pilgrim – first supervisor Dr Nancy Harrison)

Find out more about our Biology PhD including our exciting PhD project opportunities.


MSc Animal Behaviour Applications for Conservation
Course Leader

BSc (Hons) Animal Behaviour

BSc (Hons) Zoology

MSc Applied Wildlife Conservation


  • PhD Behavioural Ecology, Queen Mary, University of London
  • MRes Ecology and Environmental Management, University of York
  • PgCert Academic Practice, Queen Mary, University of London
  • BSc (Hons) Biological Science, University of Exeter

Memberships, editorial boards

Editorial Board of Journal of Pollination Ecology (since 2013)
Associate Editor for Ecological Entomology (since 2013)
Associate Editor for Journal of Animal Ecology (2008-2017)
Member of the British Ecological Society Review College (since 2013)
Fellow, Royal Entomological Society (2008-2018)
Fellow, Higher Education Academy (Since 2011)
Member, British Ecological Society (over 10 years)
Member, Bees, Wasp & Ants Recording Society (over 10 years)

Selected recent publications

Bent, A., Ings, T.C. & Mowles, S.L., 2018. Anthropogenic noise disrupts mate searching in Gryllus bimaculatus. Behavioral Ecology, ary126.

Rumeu, B., Sheath, D., Hawes, J.E. & Ings, T.C., 2018. Zooming into plant-flower visitor networks: an individual trait-based approach. PeerJ, 6: e5618. doi.org/10.7717/peerj.5618

Wang, M-Y, Chittka, L. & Ings, T.C., 2018. Bumblebees express consistent, but flexible, speed-accuracy tactics under different levels of predation threat. Frontiers in Psychology, 9: 1601. doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01601

Ings TC. and Hawes J.E., 2018. The History of Ecological Networks. In: Dáttilo W. and Rico-Gray V. eds. Ecological Networks in the Tropics. Cham: Springer International Publishing, pp.15–28. doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-68228-0_2

Lihoreau, M., Ings, T.C., Chittka, L. and Reynolds, A.M., 2016. Signatures of a globally optimal searching strategy in the three-dimensional foraging flights of bumblebees. Scientific Reports, 6, pp.30401. doi.org/0.1038/srep30401 

Wang, Mu-Yun, Ings, T.C., Proulx, M.J. and Chittka, L., 2013. Can bees simultaneously engage in adaptive foraging behaviour and attend to cryptic predators? Animal Behaviour, 86, pp.859-866. doi.org/10.1016/j.anbehav.2013.07.029

Lenz, F., Ings, T.C., Chittka, L., Chechkin, A.V. and Klages, R., 2012. Spatio-temporal dynamics of bumblebees foraging under predation risk. Physical Review Letters, 108.

Ings, T.C., Wang, M-Y. and Chittka, L., 2012. Colour-independent shape recognition of cryptic predators by bumblebees. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 66, pp.487-496. doi: 10.1007/s00265-011-1295-y.

Woodward, G., Benstead, J.P., Beveridge, O.S., Blanchard, J., Brey, T., Brown, L, Cross, W.F., Friberg, N., Ings, T.C., Jacob, U., Jennings, S., Ledger, M.E., Milner, A.M., Montoya, J.M., Pichler, D.E, O'Gorman, O., Petchey, O.L., Olesen, J.M., Reuman, D.C., Thompson, M.S., Van Veen, F.J.F. and Yvon-Durocher, G., 2010. Ecological networks in a changing climate. Advances in Ecological Research, 42, pp.71-138.  doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-381363-3.00002-2.

Olesen, J.M., Dupont, Y.L., O'Gorman, E., Ings, T.C., Layer, K., Melián, C.J., Troejelsgaard, K., Pichler, D., Rasmussen, K. and Woodward, G., 2010. From Broadstone to Zackenberg: Space, time and hierarchies in ecological networks. Advances in Ecological Research, 42, pp.1-69. doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-381363-3.00001-0.

Ings, T.C., Ings, N.L., Chittka, L. and Rasmont, P., 2010. A failed invasion? Commercially introduced pollinators in Southern France. Apidologie, 41, pp.1-13. doi:10.1051/apido/2009044.

Ings, T.C., Raine, N.E. and Chittka, L., 2009. A population comparison of the strength and persistence of innate colour preference and learning speed in the bumblebee Bombus terrestris. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 68, pp.1207-1218. doi:10.1007/s00265-009-0731-8.

Ings, T.C. and Chittka, L., 2009. Predator crypsis enhances behaviourally-mediated indirect effects on plants by altering bumblebee foraging preferences. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 276, pp.2031-2036. doi:10.1098/rspb.2008.1748.

Lopez-Vaamonde, C., Raine, N.E., Koning, J.W., Brown, R.M., Pereboom, J.J.M., Ings, T.C., Ramos-Rodriguez, O., Jordan, W.C. and Bourke, A.F.G., 2009. Lifetime reproductive success and longevity of queens in an annual social insect. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 22, pp.983-996. doi:10.1111/j.1420-9101.2009.01706.x.

Ings,T.C., Montoya, J.M., Bascompte, J., Bluthgen, N., Brown, L., Dormann, C.F., Edwards, F., Figueroa, D., Jacob, U., Jones, J.I., Lauridsen, R.B., Ledger, M.E., Lewis, H.M., Olesen, J.M., Van Veen, F.J.F., Warren, P.H. and Woodward, G., 2009. Ecological networks - beyond food webs. Journal of Animal Ecology, 78, pp.253-269. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2656.2008.01460.x.

Ings,T.C. and Chittka, L., 2008. Speed accuracy tradeoffs and false alarms in bee responses to cryptic predators. Current Biology, 18, pp.1520-1524. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2008.07.074.

Ings, T.C., 2007. Body size affects nectar uptake rates in Bombus terrestris (Hymenoptera: Apidae). Entomologia Generalis, 30, pp.186.

Ings, T.C., Ward, N.L. and Chittka, L., 2006. Can commercially imported bumble bees out-compete their native conspecifics? Journal of Applied Ecology, 43, pp.940-948. doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2664.2006.01199.x

Raine, N.E., Ings, T.C., Dornhaus, A., Saleh, N. and Chittka, L., 2006. Adaptation, genetic drift, pleiotropy, and history in the evolution of bee foraging behavior. Advances in the Study of Behavior, 36, pp.305-354.

Raine, N.E., Ings, T.C., Ramos-Rodriguez, O. and Chittka, L., 2006. Intercolony variation in learning performance of a wild British bumblebee population (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Bombus terrestris audax). Entomologia Generalis, 28, pp.241-256.

Atkinson, P.W., Fuller, R.J., Vickery, J.A., Conway, G., Tallowin, J.R.B., Smith, R.E.N., Haysom, K.H., Ings, T.C., Asteraki, E.J. and Brown, V.K., 2005. Influence of agricultural management, sward structure and food resources on grassland field use by birds in lowland England. Journal of Applied Ecology, 42, pp.932-942. doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2664.2005.01070.x

Ings, T.C., Raine, N.E. and Chittka, L., 2005. Mating preference in the commercially imported bumblebee species Bombus terrestris in Britain (Hymenoptera: Apidae). Entomologia Generalis, 28, pp.233-238.

Ings, T.C., Schikora, J. and Chittka, L., 2005. Bumblebees, humble pollinators or assiduous invaders? A population comparison of foraging performance in Bombus terrestris. Oecologia, 144, pp.508-516. doi.org/10.1007/s00442-005-0081-9

Rasmont, P., Regali, A., Ings, T.C., Lognay, G., Baudart, E., Marlier, M., Delcarte, E., Viville, P., Marot, C., Falmagne, P., Verhaeghe, J.C. and Chittka, L., 2005. Analysis of pollen and nectar of Arbutus unedo as a food source for Bombus terrestris (Hymenoptera: Apidae). Journal of Economic Entomology, 98, pp.656-663.

Asteraki, E.J., Hart, B.J., Ings, T.C. and Manley, W.J., 2004. Factors influencing the plant and invertebrate diversity of arable field margins. Agriculture Ecosystems & Environment, 102, pp.219-231. doi.org/10.1016/j.agee.2003.07.003

Chittka, L., Ings, T.C. and Raine, N.E., 2004. Chance and adaptation in the evolution of island bumblebee behaviour. Population Ecology, 46, pp.243-251. doi.org/10.1007/s10144-004-0180-1

Ings, T.C. and Hartley, S.E., 1999. The effect of habitat structure on carabid communities during the regeneration of a native Scottish forest. Forest Ecology and Management, 119, pp.123-136. doi.org/10.1016/S0378-1127(98)00517-9