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 Thomas O'Shea-Wheller

Thomas O'Shea-Wheller

Research Fellow

 Environment and Sustainability Institute 


Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE, UK


I am interested in the complex interactions that govern collective behaviour, ecology, and self-organisation within social insects. My research centres upon the intersection between fundamental investigations of colony functioning, and applied work in ecology and epidemiology. I utilise ants, honey bees, bumble bees, and termites as models to assess network dynamics, with a focus on the role of interindividual heterogeneity.

Currently, I am involved in projects pertaining to honey bee epidemiology and genetics, the dynamics of parasite-pathogen interactions within insect colonies, the effect of mosquito control compounds upon bumble bees, and the detection and behavioural classification of invasive hornets using artificial intelligence.

The central aim of my research is to leverage an understanding of the rules underpinning complex systems; both to solve real-world challenges, and enhance mechanistic knowledge at a variety of scales. I value social insect models, as they provide tractable and fascinating tools with which to investigate applied and fundamental questions in biology.

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2017 PhD (University of Bristol) Biology

2013 BSc (University of Exeter) Biosciences


2021-Present Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Exeter

2018-2021 Postdoctoral Researcher-Project Manager, Louisiana State University


Research group links

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Research interests

  1. Pollinator health and epidemiology
  2. Collective behaviour in social insects
  3. Vespa velutina as an invasive species
  4. Behavioural heterogeneity
  5. AI-assisted tracking and detection

Current research

Research projects

2022-2023 IDSAI: AI Usage in Invasive Species Detection and Impact Assessment

2022-2023 BDI: The Role of Treatment Adherence in Honey Bee Health

2021-2022 AMCARF: Evaluating the Impacts of Mosquito Control on Bumble Bees

2018-2022 USDA NIFA: A Longitudinal Study of the Principle Factors Leading to Colony Losses in Migratory Beekeeping

2018-2019 LSU AgCenter: Quorum-Sensing by Encounter Rate in Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) Swarms

Research grants

  • 2022 Bee Diseases Insurance
    The role of treatment adherence in honey bee health.
  • 2022 Institute for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence (IDSAI)
    This project aims to develop and evaluate an AI-assisted automated detection system for the invasive hornet Vespa velutina.
  • 2021 American Mosquito Control Association
    Evaluating the Impacts of Mosquito Control on Bumble Bees
  • 2018 Louisiana State University
    Quorum-Sensing by Encounter Rate in Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) Swarms

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Journal articles

O’Shea-Wheller TA, Corbett A, Osborne JL, Recker M, Kennedy PJ (2024). VespAI: a deep learning-based system for the detection of invasive hornets. Communications Biology, 7(1). Abstract.
Rojas-Nossa SV, O'Shea-Wheller TA, Poidatz J, Mato S, Osborne J, Garrido J (2023). Predator and pollinator? an invasive hornet alters the pollination dynamics of a native plant. Basic and Applied Ecology, 71, 119-128.
O'Shea-Wheller TA, Curtis RJ, Kennedy PJ, Groom EKJ, Poidatz J, Raffle DS, Rojas-Nossa SV, Bartolomé C, Dasilva-Martins D, Maside X, et al (2023). Quantifying the impact of an invasive Hornet on Bombus terrestris Colonies. Commun Biol, 6(1). Abstract.  Author URL.
O'Shea-Wheller TA, Rinkevich FD, Danka RG, Simone-Finstrom M, Tokarz PG, Healy KB (2022). A derived honey bee stock confers resistance to Varroa destructor and associated viral transmission. Sci Rep, 12(1). Abstract.  Author URL.
McNamara TD, O’Shea-Wheller TA, DeLisi N, Dugas E, Caillouet KA, Vaeth R, Wallette D, Healy K (2020). An Efficient Alternative to the CDC Gravid Trap for Southern House Mosquito (Diptera: Culicidae) Surveillance. Journal of Medical Entomology, 58(3), 1322-1330. Abstract.
O’Shea-Wheller TA, Hunt ER, Sasaki T (2020). Functional Heterogeneity in Superorganisms: Emerging Trends and Concepts. Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 114(5), 562-574. Abstract.
O'Shea-Wheller TA (2019). Honeybees show a context-dependent rightward bias. Biology Letters, 15(2), 20180877-20180877. Abstract.
Kennedy P, Baron G, Qiu B, Freitak D, Helanterä H, Hunt ER, Manfredini F, O'Shea-Wheller T, Patalano S, Pull CD, et al (2017). Deconstructing Superorganisms and Societies to Address Big Questions in Biology. Trends Ecol Evol, 32(11), 861-872. Abstract.  Author URL.
O'Shea-Wheller TA, Masuda N, Sendova-Franks AB, Franks NR (2017). Variability in individual assessment behaviour and its implications for collective decision-making. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 284(1848), 20162237-20162237. Abstract.
O'Shea-Wheller TA, Wilson-Aggarwal DK, Edgley DE, Sendova-Franks AB, Franks NR (2016). A social mechanism facilitates ant colony emigrations over different distances. Journal of Experimental Biology Abstract.
O’Shea-Wheller TA, Sendova-Franks AB, Franks NR (2016). Migration control: a distance compensation strategy in ants. The Science of Nature, 103(7-8).
Masuda N, O'shea-Wheller TA, Doran C, Franks NR (2015). Computational model of collective nest selection by ants with heterogeneous acceptance thresholds. R Soc Open Sci, 2(6). Abstract.  Author URL.
O'Shea-Wheller TA, Sendova-Franks AB, Franks NR (2015). Differentiated Anti-Predation Responses in a Superorganism. PLoS One, 10(11). Abstract.  Author URL.
Hunt ER, O'Shea-Wheller T, Albery GF, Bridger TH, Gumn M, Franks NR (2014). Ants show a leftward turning bias when exploring unknown nest sites. Biol Lett, 10(12). Abstract.  Author URL.
Laycock I, Cotterell KC, O'Shea-Wheller TA, Cresswell JE (2014). Effects of the neonicotinoid pesticide thiamethoxam at field-realistic levels on microcolonies of Bombus terrestris worker bumble bees. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety, 100(1), 153-158. Abstract.
Laycock I, Cotterell KC, O'Shea-Wheller TA, Cresswell JE (2014). Effects of the neonicotinoid pesticide thiamethoxam at field-realistic levels on microcolonies of Bombus terrestris worker bumble bees. Ecotoxicol Environ Saf, 100, 153-158. Abstract.  Author URL.

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I teach courses relating to collective behaviour, ecology and evolution, and pollinator biology. Additionally, I mentor students in project selection and orchestration.

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