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The Philip Mellor Insectary

PMI InfographicAbout

Our work on viruses spread by insect vectors requires expertise in insect production and supply.  At Pirbright, we have a number of facilities, both in high and low containment, for insect infection and production and, within which, unique colony lines of arthropods are housed.

Outside of containment

The Philip Mellor Insectary (PMI) is outside of containment and is used for the production and maintenance of unique insect colony lines of disease vectors of veterinary, medical and agricultural importance.  It was bought in 2006 under Pirbright’s BBSRC National Capability grant with the colony insect lines as a unique resource for UK bioscience.  Its role is to house exotic and endemic insect production at Pirbright.  Species include biting midges Culicoides and mosquitoes such as Aedes and Culex, including genetically modified lines.  These insects can be studied in and out of high containment to improve our understanding of the relationship between virus, vector and host, however viruses are not handled within the PMI unit itself.  Insect lines are also supplied externally to research organisations. 


Six biosecure laboratories are used to rear and maintain a wide variety of colony lines of arthropods including mosquitoes, biting midges, stable flies and moths.  These are used for a range of external and internally funded projects and their maintenance under controlled conditions enables large scale production.  

Several million arthropods have been supplied to internal and external users in the UK and Europe using almost 50 material transfer agreements (MTAs) since 2008. These Arthropods have been used to investigate insecticidal formulations, vector competence for pathogens, the process of host seeking and hypersensitivity responses, among other areas of research.  

Closely linked to work done at the PMI are facilities dedicated to the study of arboviruses, including the Arthropod Infection Suite (AIS) – a high-containment laboratory based in the Plowright Building – as well as three environmentally controlled rooms, three environmental chambers, and a CL2 laboratory space within the IS4L building. The latter is an interim solution until a new insectary is in place (subject to funding).

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Main corridor of the Philip Mellor Insectary
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Six biosecure colony rooms are housed within the building
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View into one of the colony rooms showing midge larval trays
Inside the Philip Mellor Insectary
The PMI laboratories facilitate storage, colony preparation, microscopic identification, and molecular work


Professor Philip S. Mellor, OBE
Awarded an Order of the British Empire: Officer (OBE) in 2008 for services in Science, Professor Philip S. Mellor was previously the Head of the Department of Arbovirology at the Institute for Animal Health (now The Pirbright Institute) and is renowned for his work on bluetongue virus (BTV). 

Specialist equipment

  • Two colonies of Culicoides biting midges:  Culicoides nubeculosus (native) and Culicoides sonorensis (tropical).  We are the only institution in the UK to maintain these species
  • Six insect colony rooms with adaptable environmental conditions, with one room able to reach a rH of 80% (the tropical room)
  • A range of insect traps including CDC’s (black light and incandescent), mosquito magnets, light traps, OVI’s, Brandenburg black-light down-draught traps, NZ traps, Malaise traps, horse fly trap, Truck traps and Drop down traps
  • Immunomarking back packs 
  • Insect Pooters
  • One injection microscope
  • Fluorescent microscope suite
  • Molecular suite suitable for carrying out a range of procedures from ELISA to PCR (including q-PCR)
  • A range of weather stations


Booking the facility (tours or training)

Tours of the insectary can be organised by emailing The PMI Laboratory Manager, Callum Thomas at and providing full details of your request.

Training is available in Culicoides Identification and Insect Colony Maintenance.

Midge identification
Colony maintenance

Services offered

We can produce insects to be shipped around the world in all life stages, either live or dead.

Please see our Arthropod Supplies page for more details.

C. nubeculosus
Culicoides nubeculosus
Culicoides sonorensis
Close up of Stomoxys calcitrans mosquito on green leaf
Stomoxys calcitrans

The team

Mr Callum Thomas, The Philip Mellor Insectary Laboratory Manager
Mr Eric Denison, Scientist
Dr Marion England, Scientist
Ms Melanie Nicholls, Research Technician
Ms Zoe Langlands, PhD Student


For any queries relating to the facility or training, please contact The Philip Mellor Insectary Manager, Mr Callum Thomas by emailing
For any queries relating to arthropod supplies, please email or see our Arthropod Supplies page.

The Philip Mellor Insectary
The Pirbright Institute
Ash Road
GU24 0NF

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® The Pirbright Institute 2023 | A company limited by guarantee, registered in England no. 559784. The Institute is also a registered charity.