THE TOTH LABORATORY
INTEGRATIVE INSECT SOCIOBIOLOGY
We use an integrative approach, blending ecology, evolution, behavior, physiology, and genomics,
to study insect sociality and pollinator health.
COMPARATIVE GENOMICS OF BEES AND WASPS
The evolution of eusociality from solitary life is considered one of the major transitions in evolution. We study how this transition occurred in Hymenoptera (bees and wasps) using genomic approaches, seeking to answer: 1) What types of genetic changes accompany a major transition in evolution—changes in gene number, sequence, or regulation? 2) Are these changes relatively minor or large-scale? 3) Are there shared, core sets of genes (i.e. a “genetic toolkit”) or are there many genetic avenues to eusocial life?
EVOLUTION AND MECHANISMS OF SOCIAL BEHAVIOR
Animal behavior stems from genetic and environmental influences over the lifetime of an organism. Social bees and wasps are an especially attractive model for studying the roles of genetics, epigenetics, and the social environment in shaping behavior. We study the mechanisms and evolution of several fascinating, complex behaviors such as maternal care, division of labor, aggression, and individual differences in behavior.
INTEGRATIVE POLLINATOR HEALTH
Both managed honey bees and wild native bees are beneficial insects with a critical role in agricultural pollination. There have been startling declines in bee populations in recent years, linked to habitat loss, increased pathogen pressure, and the availability of floral resources. We are investigating honey bee and wild bee health in the intensively farmed midwestern US, and exploring the potential of prairie habitat to "rescue" bee health. We are also collaborating with scientists in Argentina on conservation of the giant Patagonian bumble bee.
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