Dr Thomas Ings

Senior Lecturer in Zoology; Director of the Animal and Environment Research Group

Faculty:Faculty of Science & Technology

Department:Animal & Environmental Biology

Location: Cambridge

Areas of Expertise: Animal and Environmental Biology

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

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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.

Thomas plays an active role in the ecological community and is currently on the editorial board of the Journal of Pollination Ecology, as well as being an associate editor for the Journal of Animal Ecology and Ecological Entomology. He's also a member of the British Ecological Society Review College.

Research interests

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  • 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
  • Predator avoidance behaviour: 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 Director of our Animal and Environment Research Group.

Areas of research supervision

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

  • pollinator behaviour
  • predator avoidance behaviour
  • 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

Find out more about our Animal and Environmental Sciences PhD including our exciting PhD project opportunities.


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BSc (Hons) Animal Behaviour
BSc (Hons) Zoology
MSc Applied Wildlife Conservation
MSc Animal Behaviour Applications for Conservation


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

Memberships, editorial boards

  • Fellow, Royal Entomological Society
  • Fellow, Higher Education Academy
  • Member, British Ecological Society
  • Member, Bees, Wasp & Ants Recording Society

Selected recent publications

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: 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, doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.108.098103.

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: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, 1-69. doi: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, 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.