Rachel Loos-Bennett

Rachel Loos-Bennett


In 2019 I graduated from the University of Oxford with a BA in Biological Sciences, specialising in zoology. My final year research project was titled “An analysis of the consequences of nutrition dependent nuptial gift allocation in the two spot ladybird (Adalia bipunctata)” and aimed to determine how nutritional deprivation influences a male’s ability to manipulate females via substances provided to them during copulation. Whilst nutritionally deprived males did not appear to be less able to manipulate females, my project did find a novel benefit to females consumption of the substances provided in the form of a higher percentage of eggs hatching.

Since graduating I have been working as a research assistant in the University of Oxfords zoology department, as part of the fruit fly lab, on projects studying how male and female aggressive and mating behaviour in Drosophila melanogaster is shaped by a number of factors including population sex ratio, diet composition and barometric pressure. This job, and my undergraduate project, has enabled me to develop my skills in manipulating an insect’s environment, alongside statistically analysing its associated data, which I hope to refine during this PhD.

My research interests lie in how insect biology and behaviour is shaped by their biotic and abiotic environment and, what consequences this has for inter-species interactions, eco-system services and conservation.

Rachel Loos-Bennett

Ecology and Biodiversity

University of East Anglia, School of Biological Sciences

PhD title: Native and invasive ladybirds in a changing UK climate

Since its arrival in the UK, the invasive Harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis) has been found to be responsible for the decline of a number of the native British ladybird species. This is most notably the case with the two-spot ladybird (Adalia bipunctata) with which it shares a significant degree of overlap in its ecological niche. Several aspects of the Harlequin’s biology have been implicated to explain why this species has been so successful at the expense of native species. This includes, but is not limited to, its expanded immune system and its competitive advantage in intra-guild predation. However, these factors have rarely, if ever, been examined under changing temperatures.

Given the prediction that the UK climate is expected to warm considerably over the next 50-60 years my project aims to examine how the life histories, behaviour and physiology of these two species will be influenced by temperature. This is with an emphasis on if an increasingly warming climate exacerbates, or reduces, the impact of the interactions and biological differences that have been suggested to have aided the Harlequin ladybird’s success relative to native species. Ladybirds are an important component of British agricultural ecosystems in their control of pest aphid species and, given the concerns of a reduction in ladybird diversity reducing the efficiency of this function, it is vital to contribute to the understanding of how the suppression of certain native species will be influenced by climate change.