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 and laboratory space within the north side of the IS4L building. The latter is an interim solution until the Houghton Building and a new insectary are in place (subject to funding).
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).
- 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)
- Two lines of of endemic Culex pipiens (Caldbeck and Brookwood)
- 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)
Training is available in Culicoides Identification and Insect Colony Maintenance.
- Culicoides Identification: Training in the use of the dissecting microscope to identify Culicoides biting midges involves the use of keys to speciate, age and sex common Culicoides species found in the UK. Please contact Dr Marion England for details.
- Insect Colony Maintenance: Please contact Ms Jo Stoner for details.
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.
For any queries relating to the facility or training, please contact The Philip Mellor Insectary Manager, Ms Jo Stoner.
For any queries relating to arthropod supplies, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or see our Arthropod Supplies page.
The Philip Mellor Insectary
The Pirbright Institute