Technology and Research Platforms

Entomology and Insectary

Philaenus spumarius (Spittlebug)

The Entomology and Insectary platform is managed by a skilled team of entomologists with extensive experience in the husbandry of many different species of invertebrates, as well as in the design, undertaking and overseeing of a wide range of experiments.

Their main aim is to support excellent research within the John Innes Centre, but they are also seeking to engage in national and international collaborations with academic and commercial partners.


At the John Innes Centre, we have a purpose-built quarantined insectary with:

  • Five walk-in controlled environment rooms
  • An insect rearing chamber
  • High and low-containment entomological laboratories
  • A specialised invertebrate handling unit
  • A specialised sluice room for safe disposal of invertebrates and waste and equipment disinfection
  • A growth room for cultivating plants in a highly-controlled environment free of unwanted chemicals, pathogens and pests

The team follow high-quality quarantine standards and hold a Defra licence to import, rear and work with over forty different species of prohibited invertebrates.

They also have a high-performance server for the analysis and visualisation of large datasets, including genomic data.


The entomology team are highly experienced in establishing colonies of a wide range of invertebrate species, although their main focus is on those associated with crop losses, the transmission of plant pathogens (bacteria and viruses), or the production of natural products of interest. They are specialised in small-scale highly-controlled experimentation and they pride themselves in their innovative approaches and attention to detail.

The team are experts in developing customised novel assay procedures and are trained to carry out studies involving invertebrates pests, invertebrate-transmitted plant pathogens, natural plant defences, natural enemies, and plant protection products. In particular:

New developments within the Entomology platform

The entomology team, in collaboration with John Innes Centre group leaders, is tackling emerging challenges in invertebrate pest research by generating invertebrate genomic resources and analysing large genomic datasets using evolutionary approaches. They can:
  • Develop and maintain biological and digital genotype and phenotype databases of a range of invertebrate pests to support research on plant-invertebrate interactions, pest dynamics and invertebrate-transmitted pathogens
  • Genotype invertebrates using single marker, reduced representation libraries and whole genome approaches
  • Undertake population genomics research to inform on the structure of populations and demographic trends and migration routes of pests
  • Use DNA barcoding approaches to identify pests accurately and track and trace population or biotypes with traits of interest (e.g. resistance to pesticides, host preference)
  • Carry out metagenomic studies to characterise microbial communities linked to invertebrates and help in the development of new applications and novel pest control systems

Entomological resources

Our Entomology team hold a Defra licence to rear and work with controlled invertebrates and currently keep over forty colonies of invertebrates in our insectary. They are also involved in the development and maintenance of databases.