Wright Lab – Oxford Bee Laboratory

bees on beebread
Wright Lab – Oxford Bee Laboratory

About the Group

The Oxford Bee Laboratory studies the behaviour and physiology of bees. The main aim of our research is to investigate how bees acquire and use nutrients from floral sources. To do this, we investigate the mechanisms of learning and memory, the bee’s sense of taste, and the way that bees regulate their intake of nutrients. We employ

The mutualisms of plants and bees has evolved over the course of +100 million years. Many traits of bees are specifically adapted to rapidly exploit and to make use of the nectar and pollen provided by flowering plants. Plants have also evolved sophisticated means of attracting and manipulating pollinators. Our group is interested in the chemical ecology of plant-pollinator interactions, with a special interest in secondary metabolites that can act as toxins or as drugs to influence pollinator behaviour.

A major focus of our current research is to understand how bees meet their nutritional needs feeding on pollen and nectar. We work with an international team of collaborators, Sharoni Shafir at the Hebrew University in Rehovot and Phil Stevenson at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, to investigate how bees meet their needs for protein, fats, carbohydrates and micronutrients. We have had a lasting focus on translating our research into practical applications for honeybees.

Our lab has expertise in the bee’s sense of smell and taste. At present, we have a major project investigating the way that chemical signals from the bee’s taste neurons detect and encode information about sugars and bitter compounds. Our lab has pioneered studies of the gustatory sensilla of bees, identifying that bees have mechanisms peculiar to their taste system such as the coordinated bursting of peripheral neurons when these neurons are stimulated with metabolically valuable sugars. We were also the first to identify that insect taste neurons have gap junctions which facilitate their coordinated neuronal firing.

We are also fascinated by the fact that bees encounter compounds like caffeine and nicotine in floral nectar. One of our main projects is to identify how these compounds and others affect the behaviour of bees and influence their attraction to particular flowering plant species.

Please contact Geraldine Wright if you are interested in joining our group.




PI: Professor Jeri Wright



Daniel Stabler

Jennifer Scott

Jonathan Pattrick

Rachel Parkinson

Raquel T de Sousa


Research Assistant:

Rui Goncalves


DPhil Students:

Elynor Moore

Ellen Baker

Alexandria Robinson

Recent Publications

Miriyala, A., S. Kessler, C. Rind and G.A. Wright. 2018. Burst firing in bee gustatory neurons prevents sensory adaptation. Current Biology 28: 1585-1594

Wright, G.A., S.W. Nicolson, and S. Shafir. 2018. Nutritional ecology and physiology of honeybees. Annual Review of Entomology DOI: 10.1146/annurev-ento-020117-043423

Simcock, N.K., H.E. Gray, S. Bouchetbi, and G.A. Wright. 2018. Appetitive olfactory learning and memory in the honeybee depend on sugar reward identity. Journal of Insect Physiology,  DOI: 10.1016/j.jinsphys.2017.08.009

Barlow, S.E., G. A. Wright, C. Ma, M. Barberis, I. W. Farrell, E. C. Marr, A. Brankin, B. M. Pavlik & P. C. Stevenson. 2017 Distasteful nectar deters floral robbery. Current Biology 27: 2552-2558

Vaudo, A., D. Stabler, H. Patch, J. Tooker, C. Grozinger, and G.A. Wright. 2016 Bumblebees regulate their intake of essential protein and lipid pollen macronutrients. Journal of Experimental Biology 219: 3962-3970.

Kessler, S., E.J. Tiedeken, K. Simcock, S. Derveau, J. Mitchell, S. Softley, J. Stout, G.A. Wright. 2015. Bees prefer foods containing neonicotinoid pesticides. Nature 521:74-76.

Stabler, D., P. Paoli, S.W. Nicolson, and G.A.Wright. 2015. Nutrient balancing of the adult worker bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) depends on its dietary source of essential amino acids. Journal of Experimental Biology 218:793-802

Paoli, P., D. Donley, D. Stabler, A. Nath, S.W. Nicolson, S.J. Simpson, and G.A. Wright. 2014. Nutritional balance of essential amino acids and carbohydrates of the adult worker honeybee depends on age. Amino Acids 46(6): 1449-1458

Wright, G.A., D. Baker, M Palmer, D. Stabler, J.A. Mustard, E. Power, A.M. Borland, and P. Stevenson. 2013. Caffeine in floral nectar enhances a pollinator’s memory of reward. Science 339: 1202-1204

Bateson, M., S. Desire, S. Gartside, and G.A.Wright. 2011. Agitated honeybees exhibit pessimistic cognitive biases. Current Biology 21:1070-1073

Wright, G.A., J.A. Mustard, N. K. Simcock, A. A. R. Ross-Taylor, L. D. McNicolas, A. Popescu, and F. Marion-Poll. 2010. Parallel reinforcement pathways for conditioned food aversion in the honeybee. Current Biology 20: 2234-2240

Wright, G.A., A. F. Choudhary, and M. A. Bentley. 2009. Reward quality influences the development of learned olfactory biases in honeybees. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 276:2597-2604