Zoe Hudson (she/her)


I am a PGR based in the School of Biology at the University of Leeds, where I work with Dr Elizabeth Duncan. I am investigating the interactions between bee pheromones and pesticides, and how these interactions affect the health and productivity of social and solitary bees. Prior to this, I completed my Integrated Masters in Zoology at the University of Leeds, where I researched the effects of seminal fluid peptides on female post-mating responses in Drosophila melanogaster with Professor Elwyn Isaac. Outside of my research, I enjoy reading, playing guitar, and hiking (while looking for bugs).


2019-2023: MBiol in Zoology at the University of Leeds

Research Interests

My research focuses on how bee pheromones, such as the honeybee queen pheromone QMP, work to maintain colony structure and function, and how the action of such pheromones may be affected by environmental stressors.

In particular, I am interested in the effects of agrochemicals such as neonicotinoid pesticides on honeybee behaviour and development.

More broadly, I’m interested in insect behaviour, the interactions between different environmental stressors, and the evolution of eusociality.

Teaching interests

I am interested in teaching evolutionary biology, behavioural ecology, and animal behaviour, as well as field work skills for studying invertebrates.

Project Title

Pheromones, pathogens and pesticides: How do these interact to affect the health and productivity of social and solitary bees?


  • Dr Elizabeth Duncan
  • Professor Amanda Bretman
  • Dr Steven Sait

Project outline

Honeybees are incredibly important pollinators which we rely on globally for food security and biodiversity. The efficiency of honeybees as pollinators is due in part to their eusociality, where only one female (the queen) is responsible for reproduction while other females (the workers) perform all other key tasks, such as foraging. This is known as reproductive division of labour, and is mediated by a range of pheromones. In particular, the honeybee queen pheromone Queen Mandibular Pheromone (QMP) is central to maintaining this specialised social structure, as it inhibits worker reproduction and controls the tasks they perform. Because QMP is so integral to normal colony function, if environmental stressors were to affect its action this could severely impact colony health and productivity.

One such environmental stressor is the use of pesticides. These are applied to crops to exterminate pest species, but often harm non-target insect species in the process. Neonicotinoids are a particularly harmful class of pesticide, and have been linked to increased pollinator mortality and impaired neurological function, affecting key behaviours such as foraging and navigation. Because pesticides such as these represent one of the most prominent causes of global pollinator decline, it is important to understand how they act on a molecular level, as well as how they may affect pollinator health and productivity in the field.

To better understand the effects of these pesticides, my project focuses on the interactions between neonicotinoid pesticides and bee pheromones such as QMP. If these agrochemicals are affecting how bees respond to important pheromones, this could adversely affect colony health and productivity. Using the honeybee, Apis mellifera, and the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, I am using behavioural assays and molecular techniques to investigate the mechanisms underlying these pesticide-pheromone interactions, their effects on colony function, and how we might mitigate these effects in the future.


Email: bs19zlh@leeds.ac.uk