Knowledge for a sustainable world

Pollination by intoxication – how alkaloids influence bumble bees’ pollen-collecting behaviour

Many flowering plants produce alkaloids which are present in different parts of the plants and in the nectar. Through the alkaloids within the nectar the behaviour of pollinators can be modified to the benefit of the plant. Judit is interested how these naturally occurring alkaloids, primarily glaucine and caffeine influence the primary robbing behaviour of bumble bees. Initial results with glaucine indicate, contrary to expectations that this alkaloid does not deter buff tailed bumble bees from primary robbing. Further experiments are investigating how caffeine alters the primary robbing behaviour of buff tailed bumble bees on Linaria vulgaris. Parallel with these lab experiments Judit is undertaking field observations of Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ flowers which are commonly primary robbed by buff tailed bumble bees to establish the patterns of robbing behaviour in order to provide insights into how bees decide when to rob.

Primary Supervisor: Sarah Arnold
Secondary Supervisor(s): Philip C Stevenson

Judit Linka joined the University of Greenwich in 2017 as a full time PhD student, since July 2019 she is completing her studies part time. Previously she gained her masters in Horticultural Engineering from the University of Corvinus in Budapest, Hungary. Whilst completing her masters she started to work for her supervisor as an entomology research assistant. In 2009 Judit got a summer job in England working as research assistant at East Malling Research. She continued to work at EMR with several short contracts in entomology (EMR, NIAB-EMR) and post-harvest (NRI) both based at EMR. In 2013 she was offered a permanent position as a research assistant in the Genetics and Crop Improvement department (EMR) working with codling moth. From 2016 Judit was working on the BBSRC Genomite project researching how drought stress and high temperature (climate change) influence spider mite outbreaks on strawberry plants. During the many years she has been in England she has worked with various insect species including Anthocorids, thrips, aphids, codling moth, Drosophila, spider mite and predatory mites. She really enjoyed learning new techniques like phenotyping ash trees, post-harvest assessments, tissue culture techniques, ELISA and DNA-extraction and she picked up on planning, preparing and conducting different kind of experiments mainly with insects.

  • Xu, X.M., Jay, C.N., Fountain, M.T., Linka, J. and Fitzgerald, J.D., 2014. Development and validation of a model forecasting the phenology of European tarnished plant bug Lygus rugulipennis in the UK. Agricultural and forest entomology16(3), pp.265-272.
  • Cross, J., Nagy, C., Batki, M. and Linka, J., 2010. Conservation biocontrol of pear psyllids. Mitteilungen Klosterneuburg, Rebe und Wein, Obstbau und Früchteverwertung60(4), pp.403-412.
  • Member of the Royal Entomological Society since May 2019
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