Professor Max Suckling

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

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Honorary Academic



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

2019-2024           Co-Leader, "Managing Risks in a Connected World", OECD Cooperative Research Programme


2003                    Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand

2018                    Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society (London)

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), Dr Lloyd Stringer (modelling) can add valuably to shape student projects.

Teaching | Current

BIOSCI 730 Seminars and assignments

BIOSCI 320 Biosecurity lectures

Postgraduate supervision

Current doctoral students

  • 2019-2022 Kiran Horrocks Kamikaze wasps (co-S with A/Prof G Hollwell and Dr G Avila, PFR  
  • 2018-2021 Andrew Twidle (Biosecurity Group, PFR, Lincoln) with School of Chemical Sciences (A/Prof D Barker and B Frederizzi) guava moth (Carposinidae) semiochemicals

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 Awarded A+
  • 2017/18 - Georgia Paterson (coS with Prof George Perry (SES) and Dr Jim Walker, PFR). Can codling moth be eradicated from peri-urban Hawkes Bay ? 
  • 2018 - Stephanie Morton - Enhancing pollination (Awarded A )(CoS Dr Flore Mas) 2018






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) Te Aparangi

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)


Trimble Awards 2018, 1999; New Zealand Plant Protection Medal 2017; OECD Keynote 2017 ;Chairman’s Award for Excellence 2013; OECD Fellowships 2006, 2012; Rod Bieleski Address (2008, NZIAHS);  HortResearch Chairman’s Award for Excellence (2003); ISAT Award (2002); MORST Institute of Directors Award (2000); 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 students from other 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 crops. 

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 Antigua City, Guatemala (2017)

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Suckling, D. M., Stanbury, M. E., Lennon, O., Colhoun, K. M., Chinellato, F., & El-Sayed, A. M. (2020). Kairomone and Camera Trapping New Zealand Flower Thrips, Thrips obscuratus. Insects, 11 (9).10.3390/insects11090622
  • Twidle, A. M., Suckling, D. M., Chhagan, A., Pilkington, L. I., Park, K. C., & Barker, D. (2020). Synthesis and Biological Testing of Ester Pheromone Analogues for Two Fruitworm Moths (Carposinidae). Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 68 (35), 9557-9567. 10.1021/acs.jafc.0c04131
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: David Barker, Andrew Twidle, Lisa Pilkington
  • Twidle, A. M., Barker, D., & Suckling, D. M. (2020). (7Z)-Tricosene Improves Pheromone Trap Catch of Raspberry Bud Moth, Heterocrossa rubophaga. Journal of chemical ecology, 46 (9), 830-834. 10.1007/s10886-020-01205-2
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Andrew Twidle, David Barker
  • Horrocks, K. J., Welsh, T., Carpenter, J. E., & Suckling, D. M. (2020). Egg Sterilisation of Irradiated Nezara viridula (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae). Insects, 11 (9).10.3390/insects11090564
  • Mas, F., Horner, R., Brierley, S., Harper, A., & Suckling, D. M. (2020). The Scent of Individual Foraging Bees. Journal of chemical ecology, 46 (5-6), 524-533. 10.1007/s10886-020-01181-7
  • Avosani, S., Sullivan, T. E., Ciolli, M., Mazzoni, V., & Suckling, D. M. (2020). Can Vibrational Playbacks Disrupt Mating or Influence Other Relevant Behaviours in Bactericera cockerelli (Triozidae: Hemiptera)?. Insects, 11 (5).10.3390/insects11050299
  • Stringer, L. D., Sullivan, N. J., White, R., Jiménez-Pérez A, Furlong, J., Kean, J. M., ... Suckling, D. M. (2020). Mazes to Study the Effects of Spatial Complexity, Predation and Population Density on Mate Finding. Insects, 11 (4).10.3390/insects11040256
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Jacqueline Beggs
  • Horner, R., Paterson, G., Walker, J. T. S., Perry, G. L. W., Jaksons, R., & Suckling, D. M. (2020). Will Peri-Urban Cydia pomonella (Lepidoptera: Tortricidae) Challenge Local Eradication?. Insects, 11 (4).10.3390/insects11040207
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: George Perry