Faculty of Biological Sciences

Dr Sophie Evison

B.Sc. M.Sc. D.I.C. Ph.D.
External Lecturer
School of Biology

Background: Social insects provide an ideal model for understanding evolutionary processes. They are extremely abundant and extremely diverse. They are ecologically and economically important. Their levels of eusociality span from primitive cooperation to some of the most advanced collective behaviours on the planet. Through their relationships between individuals within a colony to their relationships with other species, they can help us to understand evolutionary processes from molecules all the way up to populations.

Contact:  Manton 8.03 | +44(0) 113 34 32852 | email address for  

You can read more about Dr Evison's interests here:

Research Interests

I am an evolutionary biologist specialising in social insect biology, using bees and ants as model systems.

My main interests are:

Host-parasite interactions:
Using honey bees as a model system, I look at how individuals respond to disease in a controlled laboratory setting, and how the characteristics of the parasite as well as those of the host might impact on outcomes of infection. The parasite I study is a fungal brood parasite, which causes a disease called Chalkbrood. I work on this system in collaboration with multiple groups, including Professor Bill Hughes (University of Sussex), Professor Annette Jensen (University of Copenhagen), and  the Centre for Integrative Bee Research (CIBER; University of Western Australia).

An added bonus to working on this system is that you can grow the parasite into amusing shapes:


Communication in ants:
Ants provide a great study system for understanding many aspects of social behaviour in animals. They have complex communication systems based on chemical cues, but they are also often characterised by morphological specialisation and division of labour. My main interests here involve chemical communication in ants. This includes communication and mass recruitment to a novel food source, or a new nest site, but also identification and removal of a disease threat. I'm am also interested in the mechanisms involved in how social immunity might protect colony members from disease outbreak within their colonies, as well as understanding the processes of collective decision making.

Insect diets and metabolism:
The optimum diet and eating pattern for keeping in good health remain difficult to define, however insects provide an interesting model of how to best acheive this. Social insects are particularly useful models because they collectively modulate the diet of the colony. In collaboration with Professor Dianne Ford at the University of Newcastle, I am investigating the molecular basis to the effects of diet on behaviour and longevity in insects.


Faculty Research and Innovation

Admin roles

Athena Swan (FBS)
ULTA-2 participant

Modules managed

BLGY1304 - Research Exp. Skills Level 1
BLGY2301 - Research Experience and Skills Level 2
BLGY3122 - Social Insect Biology
BLGY3243 - Advanced Topics in Zoology

Modules taught

BLGY1235 - Lives of Carnivores
BLGY1304 - Research Experience and Skills Level 1
BLGY2100/2301 - Level 2 Tutorials
BLGY2301 - Research Experience and Skills Level 2
BLGY3021 - Research Project
BLGY3122 - Social Insect Biology
BLGY3243 - Advanced Topics in Zoology
BLGY3245 - Advanced Topics in Evolution
BLGY3340 - Biology Research Projects
BLGY3398 - Research Project and manuscript
BLGY5191M - Biodiversity and Conservation MSc and MRes Summer Project
BLGY5198M - Biodiversity and Conservation MRes Research Project 1

Group Leader Dr Sophie Evison  (External Lecturer)

I am an evolutionary biologist specialising in social insect biology, using bees and ants as model systems. 

Graystock P; Yates K; Evison SEF; Darvill B; Goulson D; Hughes WOH The Trojan hives: pollinator pathogens, imported and distributed in bumblebee colonies JOURNAL OF APPLIED ECOLOGY 50 1207-1215, 2013

Evison SE; Fazio G; Chappell P; Foley K; Jensen AB; Hughes WO Host-parasite genotypic interactions in the honey bee: the dynamics of diversity Ecology and Evolution 3 2214-2222, 2013
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Evison SEF; Fenwick J; Hughes WOH Parsimonious use of foraging pheromones during nest migration in ants ANIMAL BEHAVIOUR 84 1237-1242, 2012

Evison SEF; Ferreira RS; D'Ettorre P; Fresneau D; Poteaux C Chemical Signature and Reproductive Status in the Facultatively Polygynous ant Pachycondyla Verenae JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL ECOLOGY 38 1441-1449, 2012

Evison SEF; Webster KA; Hughes WOH Better the nest site you know: Decision-making during nest migrations by the Pharaoh's ant Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 66 711-720, 2012
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Evison SEF; Roberts KE; Laurenson L; Pietravalle S; Hui J; Biesmeijer JC; Smith JE; Budge G; Hughes WOH Pervasiveness of Parasites in Pollinators PLOS ONE 7 -, 2012

Evison SEF; Hughes WOH Genetic caste polymorphism and the evolution of polyandry in Atta leaf-cutting ants NATURWISSENSCHAFTEN 98 643-649, 2011

Nehring V; Evison SEF; Santorelli LA; d'Ettorre P; Hughes WOH Kin-informative recognition cues in ants P ROY SOC B-BIOL SCI 278 1942-1948, 2011

Evison SEF; Petchey OL; Beckerman AP; Ratnieks FLW Combined use of pheromone trails and visual landmarks by the common garden ant Lasius niger Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 63 261-267, 2008
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Evison SEF; Hart AG; Jackson DE Minor workers have a major role in the maintenance of leafcutter ant pheromone trails Animal Behaviour 75 963-969, 2008
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Tofilski A; Couvillon MJ; Evison SE; Helanterä H; Robinson EJ; Ratnieks FL Preemptive Defensive Self-Sacrifice by Ant Workers. Am Nat -, 2008
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Evison SEF; Ratnieks FLW New role for majors in Atta leafcutter ants Ecological Entomology 32 451-454, 2007
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