Lars Chittka

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Lars Chittka
Lars Chittka (cropped).jpg
BornApril 1963 (age 60)
Alma materFree University of Berlin University of Göttingen
Scientific career
FieldsNeuroethology, behavioural ecology, sensory systems, comparative cognition
InstitutionsQueen Mary University of London

University of Würzburg

Stony Brook University

Free University of Berlin
Doctoral advisorRandolf Menzel
Other academic advisorsBert Hölldobler

Lars Chittka, FLS, FRES, FSB (born April 1963) is a German zoologist, ethologist and ecologist distinguished for his work on the evolution of sensory systems and cognition, using insect-flower interactions as a model.

Life and career[edit]

Born in Germany, Chittka studied Biology at the Georg-August-Universität Göttingen and the Free University of Berlin.[1][2] He obtained his PhD degree under the supervision of Randolf Menzel at the Free University of Berlin. Chittka is a recipient of the Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award[3] and an Advanced Fellowship from the European Research Council (ERC).[4] He is also member of the German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, an elected Fellow of the Linnean Society (FLS), the Royal Entomological Society (FRES) as well as the Royal Society of Biology (FSB).[5] He received the Lesley Goodman Award of the Royal Entomological Society in 2006.[6] Lars Chittka has been an Editor of Biology’s foremost open access journal PLoS Biology since 2004,[7] and has also been on the Editorial Board of Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B (2010-2012) and the Quarterly Review of Biology (2004-2010);[5] he is a member of the Faculty of 1000,[8] and was a Panel Chairman for the European Research Council (2010-2013).[9] He is also the founder of the Research Centre for Psychology at Queen Mary University of London,[1] where he is a Professor of Sensory and Behavioural Ecology.[5]

Research achievements[edit]

Chittka has carried out extensive work on the behaviour, cognition and ecology of bumblebees and honeybees, and their interactions with flowers.[1][2][5] He developed perceptual models of animal colour vision, allowing the derivation of optimal receiver systems as well as a quantification of the evolutionary pressures shaping flower signals. Chittka also made fundamental contributions to the understanding of animal cognition and its fitness benefits in the economy of nature. He explored phenomena such as numerosity, speed-accuracy trade-offs, false memories and social learning in bees.[5] His discoveries have made a substantial impact on the understanding of animal intelligence and its neural-computational underpinnings. He has published over 250 peer-reviewed articles,[5][10] many of them highly cited.[10]

Science, music and art[edit]

Chittka has been involved in a number of collaborative works linking the science of bees with music and art. With musicians Katie Green and Rob Alexander, he formed the band Killer Bee Queens.[11] In 2019, they released the post-punk inspired concept album Strange Flowers on Bandcamp.[12] Two music videos were published; “I stung Gwyneth Paltrow” [13] referred to the pseudoscientific method of bee stings as a treatment for minor skin conditions, as advocated by the actress.[14] The video for “The Beekeeper’s Dream” used footage from David Blair's 1991 surrealist film "Wax or the Discovery of Television Among the Bees".[15]

Chittka also worked with installation artist Julian Walker on a project in which live bees’ responses to famous paintings were evaluated (“Do Bees Like Van Gogh’s Sunflowers?”).[16][17][18][19] Chittka and Walker explained that they used “this unconventional approach in the hope to raise awareness for between-species differences in visual perception, and to provoke thinking about the implications of biology in human aesthetics and the relationship between object representation and its biological connotations.”[16]

Data collected by Chittka's team on the life-long radar-tracking of individual bumblebees' flights[20] formed the basis for artwork by Lucy Pullen which was on display at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics from 2018-2020. Some of the images are now in a collection of the Royal Bank of Canada, Toronto.[21]

Chittka also contributed to a science-music project with artist Aladin Borioli, called “Shared Sensibilities”[22] in which sections of an interview about Chittka’s research were combined with the music of Laurent Güdel[23] and the sounds of honeybees, aired on BBC Radio 6 in 2020.[24]


Journal articles: most highly cited[edit]

  • Briscoe, Adriana D.; Chittka, Lars (January 2001). "The evolution of color vision in insects". Annual Review of Entomology. 46 (1): 471–510. doi:10.1146/annurev.ento.46.1.471. PMID 11112177.
  • Chittka, Lars; Thomson, James D.; Waser, Nickolas M. (3 August 1999). "Flower Constancy, Insect Psychology, and Plant Evolution". Naturwissenschaften. 86 (8): 361–377. Bibcode:1999NW.....86..361C. doi:10.1007/s001140050636. S2CID 27377784.
  • Chittka, Lars (June 1992). "The colour hexagon: a chromaticity diagram based on photoreceptor excitations as a generalized representation of colour opponency". Journal of Comparative Physiology A. 170 (5). doi:10.1007/BF00199331. S2CID 2016607.
  • Chittka, L.; Schürkens, S. (June 2001). "Successful invasion of a floral market". Nature. 411 (6838): 653. Bibcode:2001Natur.411..653C. doi:10.1038/35079676. PMID 11395755. S2CID 5107467.
  • Chittka, Lars; Shmida, Avi; Troje, Nikolaus; Menzel, Randolf (June 1994). "Ultraviolet as a component of flower reflections, and the colour perception of hymenoptera". Vision Research. 34 (11): 1489–1508. doi:10.1016/0042-6989(94)90151-1. PMID 8023461. S2CID 15865257.

Journal articles: recent[edit]


  • Chittka, Lars; Thomson, James D., eds. (2001). Cognitive Ecology of Pollination: Animal Behaviour and Floral Evolution. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-139-43004-3.
  • Chittka, Lars (2022). The Mind of a Bee. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-18047-2.


  1. ^ a b c Chittka, Lars (December 2010). "Lars Chittka". Current Biology. 20 (23): R1006–R1008. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2010.09.062. S2CID 1275714.
  2. ^ a b "Uncovering the intelligence of insects, an interview with Lars Chittka". 2010-06-29. Retrieved 2016-11-17.
  3. ^ "Royal Society announces new round of esteemed Wolfson Research Merit Awards". Retrieved 2016-11-17.
  4. ^ "Space use by bees– radar tracking of spatial movement patterns of key pollinators | ERC: European Research Council". Retrieved 2016-11-17.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Chittka, Lars. "Chittka Lab - Lars Chittka". Retrieved 2016-11-17.
  6. ^ Society, Royal Entomological (2010-12-06). "RES Goodman Award | Royal Entomological Society". Retrieved 2016-11-17.
  7. ^ "PLOS Biology: A Peer-Reviewed Open-Access Journal". Retrieved 2016-11-17.
  8. ^ "F1000 members".
  9. ^ "ERC 2011 panel members" (PDF).
  10. ^ a b Lars Chittka publications indexed by Google Scholar
  11. ^ "Sex, death, rock 'n' roll: The life of a bee".
  12. ^ "Strange Flowers, by Killer Bee Queens".
  13. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: Killer Bee Queens 'I Stung Gwyneth Paltrow' (Official Video). YouTube.
  14. ^ "Inside Gwyneth Paltrow's Latest Wellness Adventure: Bee Sting Therapy". 6 April 2016.
  15. ^ "Killer Bee Queens - the Beekeeper's Dream (Subtitles)".
  16. ^ a b Chittka, Lars; Walker, Julian (June 2006). "Do bees like Van Gogh's Sunflowers?". Optics & Laser Technology. 38 (4–6): 323–328. Bibcode:2006OptLT..38..323C. doi:10.1016/j.optlastec.2005.06.020.
  17. ^ Science, American Association for the Advancement of (26 August 2005). "Bees for Van Gogh". Science. 309 (5739): 1322. doi:10.1126/science.309.5739.1322a. S2CID 172363973.
  18. ^ "Art-loving bees prefer Sunflowers". 14 August 2005.
  19. ^ "Insects as art lovers: Bees for van Gogh".
  20. ^ Woodgate, Joseph L.; Makinson, James C.; Lim, Ka S.; Reynolds, Andrew M.; Chittka, Lars (4 August 2016). "Life-Long Radar Tracking of Bumblebees". PLOS ONE. 11 (8): e0160333. Bibcode:2016PLoSO..1160333W. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0160333. PMC 4973990. PMID 27490662.
  21. ^ "Bees".
  22. ^ "Home – Apian – A machine for exploring the age-old interspecies relationship between bees and humans".
  23. ^ "Biography".
  24. ^ "BBC Radio 6 Music - BBC Introducing Arts with Gemma Cairney, 07/12/2020".