Insects and their pathogens and parasites are excellent model systems in which to test fundamental theory and concepts in host-parasite ecology and evolution.

Indian Meal Moth (Plodia interpunctella) and its granulosis virus

Our main laboratory model is the Indian meal moth Plodia interpunctella and its granulosis virus (PiGV). The system is easy to maintain in the laboratory allowing large scale experiments to be carried out on insects from a large outbred stock population. We can maintain populations of the host with the virus over the long time periods allowing experimental evolution to occur and the effects on population dynamics of the parasite to be determined. This has been used principally to examine the role of spatial structure to host-parasite interactions and the evolution of host defence.

We have showed that the virus had lower infectivity in more viscose populations (as predicted by theory).
Boots, M. and M. Mealor (2007). Local interactions select for lower infectivity. Science, 315, 1184-1186

The virus had a more significant effect on host population dynamics in the more viscose populations.
Boots M, D. Childs, D. C. Reuman & M. Mealor. Local Interactions Lead to Pathogen Driven Change to Host Population Dynamics. In press at Current Biology

In addition we have a published on other topics including the evolution of resistance and the mechanisms of resistance that you can find Hannah Tidbury, Emilie Boardman and Victoria Spencer continue to work on the system.

The Honey Bee and deformed wing virus

The honeybee is parasitized by the varroa mite that acts as a vector for a large number of viruses. We are using this system as a model to understand the evolution of parasite virulence in vectorborne disease. As well as the general importance of this work, there is now real concern that honeybee declines may result from infection with the viruses. Grainne Long is leading the work on this system.

The two spotted ladybird STD

Sexually transmitted diseases (STD) are predicted to have very different transmission dynamics and may be particularly important to their host dynamics. We used this system to examine the frequency and density dependence of the transmission process and Jon Ryder continues to work on the system looking at global change on the parasite dynamics.
Ryder J.J., K.M Webberley, M Boots & R.J. Knell (2005). Measuring the Transmission Dynamics of a Sexually Transmitted Disease. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. 102, 15140-15143.