Professor Max Suckling

BSc Honours (Massey University); Dip Biotech (Massey University); PhD (Lincoln/Canterbury)



1979                   BSc. (Hons.) 1st Class, Zoology, Massey University

1981                   Dip. Technology, Biotechnology, Distinction, Massey University

1984                   PhD, Entomology, University of Canterbury, Lincoln College

2001                   New Zealand Institute of Directors, Certificate in Company Direction

Employment History

1983–present       Scientist – Principal Scientist, (DSIR, HortResearch, Plant & Food Research)

2004–present       Science Group Leader, Biosecurity, Plant & Food Research

2003–04              Commercial Leader, Sustainable Production & Biosecurity, HortResearch

1998–2002           Portfolio Manager, Pipfruit Sustainable Production/Biosecurity, HortResearch

1991–2012           Programme Leader, Sustainable IPM for NZ Horticulture

2003-2011            Member, Environmental Risk Management Authority of New Zealand

2008–11               Deputy Chair, Environmental Risk Management Authority of New Zealand


2003                    Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand

2017                    New Zealand plant Protection Medal

Research | Current

Biosecurity and Conservation - Listening to the Conversations of Nature

I study the biology and behavior of a wide range of pest and beneficial organisms, with a strong Chemical Ecology and Biosecurity focus.  By listening to the conversations of nature, we can sometimes gain control of insects in novel ways with minimal non-target impacts. We can also gain new knowledge of the world around us. My interests include chemical ecology in diverse ecosystems, invasive species including social insects like wasps and ants, pheromone identification and development for pest suppression, and pollination and honeybee learning, chemically-mediated mechanisms underpinning biological control, and combinations of tactics with the sterile insect technique. My research group based at the science park at Lincoln near Christchurch has a wide range of funding sources and projects running internationally and nationally with many visitors. The vibrancy of the Biosecurity Group in the rural setting of Lincoln offers students a chance to gain a full range of academic and non-academic skills, spanning basic to applied and mission-orientated questions, in a highly social and supportive science working but park-like environment with picnic tables. The groups equipment includes a 2m laminar wind tunnel with tracking system for flying insects (90 fps), electrophysiology suites for insect and portunid crab olfactory receptor neuron and brain recording, honey bee proboscis extension reflex and many other behavioural assays with web cams and machine vision, camera traps, motion sensors for insects, pheromone and semiochemical formulation, a full discovery chemistry laboratory with GCMS and coupled GC-electrophysiology apparatus (2), glasshouses, field laboratories and temperature control units, wasps nests and honeybees >10 hives, diverse field sites, containment facilities and field use of semiochemicals. Discussions with my group - scientists including Dr Ashraf El-Sayed (, Dr Kye Chung Park (electrophysiology) and Dr Flore Mas (pollination) can add valuably to shape student projects.

Teaching | Current

BIOSCI 730 Seminars and assignments

BIOSCI 320 Biosecurity lectures

Postgraduate supervision

Current doctoral students

  • Lloyd Stringer (Scientist, Biosecurity Group, PFR, Lincoln) (co-S with A/Prof J Beggs and Dr J Kean, AgResearch) (submitted)
  • 2018-2021 Andrew Twidle (Research Associate, Biosecurity Group, PFR, Lincoln) with School of Chemical Sciences (A/Prof D Barker and B Frederizzi) guava moth (Carposinidae) semiochemicals

Current masterate students

  • 2018 - Stephanie Morton - Enhancing pollination (submission November 2018)
  • 2017/18 - Kiran Horrocks (Biotic resistance to exotic insect pests)(CoS Dr Darren Ward, LCR) Awarded
  • 2017/18 - Georgia Paterson (coS with Prof George Perry (SES) and Dr Jim Walker, PFR) Imported sterile codling moths from Canada can help New Zealand's innovative apple industry in Hawke’s Bay get even greener, in a high tech knowledge intensive approach at landscape scale. Can codling moth be eradicated from peri-urban Hawkes Bay ? Submitted
  • 2019 - Open for discussion

Previous PhD supervision and MSc supervision

  • Robert Brown (UoA, with J Beggs and AM El-Sayed, awarded PhD)
  • Fabian Westermann (Victoria University, with Phil Lester, awarded PhD)
  • Davide Santoro ((Victoria University, with Phil Lester and Stephen Hartley, awarded PhD)
  • Chris Russell (UoA, with Dr Flore Mas (PFR, Lincoln), awarded MSc 2017)
  • Andrew Twidle (Research Associate, Biosecurity Group, PFR, Lincoln) 2015-2017 with MSc School of Chemical Sciences (A/Prof D Barker and B Frederizzi) Kiwifruit floral volatiles

Proposed projects

  • National Science Challenge project on wasps (co-S with Ashraf El-Sayed and A/Prof J Beggs) under the National Science Challenge on New Zealand’s Biological Heritage, this project will aim to continue to make and exploit discoveries on wasp chemical ecology for their selective suppression in native beech forests. The MSc project is based at Lincoln, near Christchurch and links to several other National Science Challenge wasp projects. Pre-requisite is PGDip Sci papers in entomology/biosecurity and acceptance at UoA (stipend and fees then paid)







New Zealand 1990 Commemorative Medal for Excellence in Science (Sesquicentenary Medal honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi).

Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand (2003)

Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society (UK) (2018)

  • TEDx Talks Christchurch 2015 “Food Security and Biointegrity without Pesticides”
  • Recipient of a MoRST Future Directors Award
  • Member, International Atomic Energy Agency working group (2006--2020)
  • MBIE assessor and lead assessor (2014-)


New Zealand Plant Protection Medal 2017; Chairman’s Award for Excellence 2013; OECD Fellowship (2011-12); Rod Bieleski Address (2008, NZIAHS); OECD Fellowship (2006); HortResearch Chairman’s Award for Excellence (2003); ISAT Award (2002); MORST Institute of Directors Award (2000); Trimble Award (1999); Int. Plant Protection Congress Travel Award (1999); British Crop Protection Council Senior Travel Bursary (1998); C. Alma Baker Fellowship (with Judy Pell, Rothamsted, 1998); Lincoln University Foundation Award (1996); Italian Fruitgrowers Award (1995); Swedish Travel Award (1994); C. Alma Baker Trust Award 1990; International Resistance Action Committee Travel Award (1987); Turners and Growers Award (1985, 1986, 1987); University Grants Committee Post‑Graduate Scholarship 1980; Mauri Bros. & Thomson Award for Higher Studies in Technology 1979; Mauri Bros. & Thomson Scholar 1979; People's National Bank of New Jersey Award 1974.


Science Group Leader and Principal Scientist, The New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research Ltd.

Professor, University of Auckland

Project Leader, FAO Joint Division/International Atomic Energy Agency (Vienna)

Project Leader, Queensland Fruit Fly SITplus (Sydney) 

Eradication and Response for Better Border Biosecurity (

Areas of expertise

Biosecurity and Pest Management using Chemical Ecology

I am interested in the biology and behavior of a very wide range of pest and beneficial insects, with a strong Chemical Ecology and Biosecurity focus.

My main interests are chemical ecology of insects and plants in diverse productive and natural ecosystems, invasive species including social insects like wasps and ants, pheromone identification and development for pest eradication and management to replace insecticides, and honeybee learning for improved pollination and biosecurity. My group is based at Lincoln and often has PhD or MSc students from international universities visiting, to get specialist experience in insect electrophysiology, pheromone identification or other topics. Several years ago we took the opportunity of a successful Marsden grant to move into pollination of carnivorous and other unusual plants by native insects, and we have expanded this into work with honeybees to improve pollination of horticultural and valuable arable seed cropsWe have had one PhD student complete the degree through UoA based at Lincoln, and we look forward to hosting more. 

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Special Member, Environmental Protection Authority considerations to import Tamarixia tryoni and Macrolophus pygmaeus for release (2014 and 2016), with nine years regulatory experience on hazardous substances and new organisms including biological control agents for weeds and arthropod pests.

Joint Division Fao/International Atomic Energy Agency Working Group on the Sterile Insect Technique in Lepidotera (consultant, international reviewer, Working Group leader); Lecturer in regional course (2017)

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • El-Sayed, A. M., Jósvai JK, Brown, R. L., Twidle, A., & Suckling, D. M. (2018). Associative Learning of Food Odor by Social Wasps in a Natural Ecosystem. Journal of chemical ecology, 44 (10), 915-921. 10.1007/s10886-018-0984-7
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Andrew Twidle
  • Mas, F., Harper, A., Horner, R., Welsh, T., Jaksons, P., & Suckling, D. M. (2018). The importance of key floral bioactive compounds to honey bees for the detection and attraction of hybrid vegetable crops and increased seed yield. Journal of the science of food and agriculture, 98 (12), 4445-4453. 10.1002/jsfa.8967
  • Horner, R. M., Sullivan, T. E. S., Sporle, A. M., Stringer, L. D., Manning, L. A., El-Sayed, A. M., & Suckling, D. M. (2018). Minor components modulate sensitivity to the pheromone antagonist Z11-14:Ac in male lightbrown apple moth, Epiphyas postvittana (Lepidoptera: Tortricidae) in the field. New Zealand Plant Protection, 71, 293-298. 10.30843/nzpp.2018.71.184
  • El‐Sayed AM, A. L. Knight, D. M. Suckling, & E. Basoalto (2018). Caterpillar‐induced plant volatiles attract conspecific herbivores and a generalist predator. Journal of applied entomology, 142 (5), 495-503. 10.1111/jen.12495
  • Park, K. C., David M. Suckling, & Jung‐Ah Lee (2018). Antennal olfactory sensory neurones responsive to host and nonhost plant volatiles in gorse pod moth Cydia succedana. Physiological entomology, 43 (2), 86-99. 10.1111/phen.12234
  • Suckling, D. M., Stringer, L. D., Jiménez-Pérez A, Walter, G. H., Sullivan, N., & El-Sayed, A. M. (2018). With or without pheromone habituation: Possible differences between insect orders?. Pest Management Science, 74 (6), 1259-1264. 10.1002/ps.4828
  • El-Sayed, A. M., Sporle, A., Colhoun, K., Furlong, J., White, R., & Suckling, D. M. (2018). Scents in orchards: floral volatiles of four stone fruit crops and their attractiveness to pollinators. Chemoecology, 28 (2), 39-49. 10.1007/s00049-018-0254-8
  • Twidle, A. M., Barker, D., Seal, A. G., Fedrizzi, B., & Suckling, D. M. (2018). Identification of Floral Volatiles and Pollinator Responses in Kiwifruit Cultivars, Actinidia chinensis var. chinensis. Journal of chemical ecology, 44 (4), 406-415. 10.1007/s10886-018-0936-2
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: David Barker, Andrew Twidle, Bruno Fedrizzi


Contact details

Alternative contact


Office hours

My office is at Lincoln but I visit Tamaki periodically.. Skype is an option.

Primary office location

TAMAKI BUILDING 733 - Bldg 733
New Zealand

Social links

Web links