Scientific Facilities

Entomology and Insectary

The John Innes Centre’s Entomology and insectary facility provides a unique and specialised service for undertaking and supporting invertebrate-related studies.

Our skilled and experienced team of entomologists are on hand to maintain, design, undertake and oversee studies using many different species of invertebrates, including non-native exotic species (held under DEFRA licence), and native plant pest species, within a purpose-built quarantined insectary.

Most invertebrate species within the facility are associated with crop losses and/or the transmission of specific plant diseases (viruses and phytoplasmas). The majority of these are Hemipteran (sap sucking) species that originate from the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. These are held under a DEFRA Plant Health licensed, quarantined environment.

The Entomology facility’s team are trained and experienced entomologists who have developed and use a wide range of bioassays for studying not only insect-plant interactions, but other ditrophic and tritrophic systems such as:

  • Plant – Invertebrate interactions; for example aphids and whiteflies
  • Vector-borne disease agents of plants; for example Phytoplasma and Xylella
  • Invertebrate – Microbe associations

This includes invertebrate transmitted plant pathogens, natural plant defences, natural enemies and crop protection products.

In addition, the entomology team provides advice for controlling and eradicating outbreaks of plant pests within the John Innes Centre’s glasshouses and controlled environment rooms, as and when they occur.

The Entomology team also manages the SlugWatch website and SlugWatch twitter account; this began as a Citizen science project, that collated information from the public on UK slug sightings, particularly in helping to track the spread of the invasive Spanish slug.


The John Innes Centre’s Entomology Facility is a Platform Technology service that provides the biological components for many science projects.

Native and quarantined exotic invertebrates are maintained within a purpose-built insectary, consisting of five large walk-in growth rooms, a high containment laboratory, a specialised insect handling unit and a glass-walled growth room for maintaining plants under natural light.

The Entomology facility has capacity for 96 cages (600 x 600 x 600mm) within five controlled environment rooms for maintaining and working with quarantined invertebrates.

Outside of the quarantined area there are locations where native and non-licensed invertebrates can be maintained either under controlled laboratory or heated glasshouse conditions.

Species maintained

Licensed species held in our purpose-built insectary include;

  • The Aster Leafhopper (Macrosteles quadrilineatus) – Plant pathogen transmission – Aster Yellows Witches Broom Phytoplasma, Aster Yellows Phytoplasma and Oat Blue-Dwarf Virus
  • The Beet Leafhopper (Circulifer tenellus) – Plant Pathogen Transmission – Beet Curly Top Curtovirus, Tomato Big Bud Phytoplasma, Stubborn Little Leaf Spiroplasma
  • The Corn Leafhopper (Dalbulus maidis) – Plant Pathogen Transmission – Maize Bushy Stunt Phytoplasma, Corn Stunt Spiroplasma and Maize Rayado Fino Virus
  • The Maize Planthopper (Peregrinus maidis) – Plant Pathogen Transmission – Maize Mosaic Rhabdovirus, Maize Stripe Tenuivirus and Sorghum Stripe Virus
  • The Mexican Corn Leafhopper (Dalbulus elimatus) – Plant Pathogen Transmission – Maize Bushy Stunt Phytoplasma and Corn Stunt virus
  • The Mediterranean Leafhopper (Circulifer haematoceps) – Plant Pathogen Transmission – Sesame Phyllody Phytoplasma, Beet Curly Top Curtovirus, Stubborn Little Leaf Spiroplasma
  • The African Maize Leafhopper (Cicadulina mbila) Plant Pathogen Transmission – Maize Streak Virus, Maize Chlorotic Mottle Virus
  • The Green Leafhopper (Nephotettix virescens) Plant Pathogen Transmission – Rice Tungro Bacilliform Virus, Rice Tungro Disease and Yellow Dwarf Phytoplasma
  • The Tobacco Whitefly (Bemisia tabaci) Plant Pathogen Transmission – All Begomoviruses, some Closteroviruses, Luteoviruses, Nepoviruses, Carlaviruses and Potyviruses