Skip to main content


The Insectary has 41 insect rearing and insect behaviour study rooms with associated service rooms, designed to provide controlled temperature, lighting, humidity and airflow in each computer monitored controlled environment room. The rooms are suitable for rearing insects in 'cages' on plants grown in pots or on detached leaves in custom-made perspex boxes.

The facility holds DEFRA plant health licences for importing, maintaining and working with many exotic insect species. Most compartments are licensed for the effective containment of quarantined species and insecticide-resistant strains.

Plants for maintaining insect cultures are supplied by the Glasshouses and Controlled Environment facility at Rothamsted, which produces over 500,000 plants per annum for a variety of research purposes. The facilities presently consist of 42 glasshouses with 152 compartments and a total area of 1,452 square metres of growing space. Pest and disease control is managed through a combination of good plant hygiene, biological control and the safe application of pesticides when necessary.


The insectary facility incorporates specialised field simulator cages (2m²) with adjustable light, wind-speed and chemical application facilities, housed in purpose built controlled environment rooms. Each simulator consists of three contiguous sections: an insecticide sprayer in its housing unit at the front; a cage holding the plants and insects in the middle; and a plenum chamber with an exhaust fan at the rear. The simulation system is extremely versatile. Treatment parameters such as droplet size, insecticide concentration and flow rate can be varied as required. Insecticides can be applied singly, alternately or in mixture, thereby allowing evaluation of various potential management strategies. In addition, the simulators can be adapted to study integrated control using chemical and biological control agents together.


The insectary facility at Rothamsted is currently exploiting advances in genome editing based on clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPRs) to make targeted changes in insect genomes and assess the effect on their phenotypes.


Species that are maintained include sucking pests (aphids, hoppers, whiteflies), Lepidoptera (moths), Diptera (flies).


The insectary facility supports world-leading BBSRC and other grant-funded research

  • the evaluation of new crop protection products (utilizing leaf dip, topically applied, coated vial and sachet feeding bioassays)
  • monitoring for the development of insecticide resistance in field pests
  • the determination of insecticide resistance modality (metabolic or target-site) using chemical synergists
  • the chemical ecology of plant/insect and insect/insect interactions for pest management including insect behaviour, development and electrophysiology.


Dr Thomas G. Emyr Davies

Dr Thomas G. Emyr Davies

Molecular Entomologist

Dr Michael Birkett

Dr Michael Birkett

Biological/Organic Chemist; Chemical Ecologist


We are always keen to explore links with academic or industrial partners on academic or commercial projects

For Insecticide resistance, crop protection, biological control and insect transgenesis projects please contact

For Chemical Ecology Projects please contact

Rothamsted Insectary
Rothamsted Research

Tel: +44 (0)1582 763 133