Starting my PhD!

Hello! 🙂 It’s been a while since I last posted on my blog but I’m hoping to start using it much more over the course of the next few years. And it isn’t going to be just aphids now, I’ll also be talking about some of the botanical and wider entomological things I get up to as well! But most importantly, I’ll be talking about what I’m getting up to during my PhD – which is on flies!

Specifically, these flies.



Left: Pegomya hyoscyami. Right: Pegomya betae.

Photographs I took of specimens from the World Museum in Liverpool before Christmas.

 A special thank you to Tony Hunter for all of your help during my visit!

I started my PhD ‘Population genetics and ecology of the sugar beet leaf miners’ at the University of East Anglia in October as a student of the BBSRC funded NRP DTP partnership with Norwich Research Park. This programme is full of collaborations between the University of East Anglia, John Innes Centre, Quadram Institute, The Sainsbury Laboratory and the Earlham Institute. I’m also lucky as my PhD is a part of the iCASE programme with my iCASE partners being the British Beet Research Organisation (BBRO)! I have an outstanding supervisory team. Three of my supervisors are based at UEA, including my primary supervisor Dr Lewis Spurgin and Prof Tracey Chapman and Prof Matt Gage (aka the dream team, in the words of another PhD student here at UEA). From my BBRO partners I have the wonderful Dr Mark Stevens (now Head of Science) and I’m also really lucky as Dr Ian Bedford from the John Innes Centre is also on my supervisory team! So, my PhD involves a collaboration between UEA, JIC and the BBRO! And you’ll hear more about the BBRO and what they do in future blog posts 🙂

About the Mangold fly

These guys (P. hyoscyami & P. betae) are known as the Mangold fly, or the sugar beet leaf miners, and are anthomyiid leaf mining pests of sugar beet (Beta vulgaris spp. vulgaris). Although it isn’t a major pest of sugar beet like some aphid species are, it can cause reduction in crop canopy, which results in storage loss within the crop and therefore sugar loss. It has been a particular problem in the last few years, as growers have seen an increase in its distribution across the UK. The second and third generations have been the main cause for concern in past seasons as neonicotinoid seed coatings provide protection against larvae of the first generation that occur around April time. But with the uncertainty on the future use of neonicotinoid seed coating in sugar beet, the first generation may possibly be a future problem for growers if there are no other alternatives for the control of the fly. However! That’s where my PhD may help.


Mangold fly specimen from my visit to the Natural History Museum in November

Thank you to Nigel Wyatt for arranging my visit and to the awesome Erica McAlister – for signing my book!

The aim of this PhD is to develop a greater understanding of the sugar beet leaf miners’ biology and ecology with the prospect of using that knowledge in future alternative controls of the species. To do this we will be using an integrated taxonomy approach, utilising traditional taxonomic methods as well as molecular methods to identify the species at a genetic level and determining how many species of sugar beet leaf miners there are. We will also be looking into the species life history traits, their distribution, alternative host plants and their parasitoids.

So that was very brief overview of my PhD! I plan to write more on my blog about the things that I’ll be getting up to with the BBRO and the JIC, as well as other entomological/botanical activities I’m getting up to during my time in Norwich. There will be another short blog specifically on the what is known about the species soon! I’d like to especially thank my supervisors for all the help they’ve given me so far, and I’m really looking forward to the rest of my PhD! If anyone has any suggestions or knows something about this species then please get in touch!

See you again soon… 🙂




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