Offre de Post-doc : Chemical ecology on honey bees, INRAE Avignon

INRAE Presentation

A three-year position for a postdoctoral researcher is open at the “Bess and Environment” research unit (Avignon, France) affiliated to INRAE (French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment), one of the leading institute in the world for the study of relationships between agriculture, environment and food. The postdoc will work on the mechanisms of collective defenses against diseases in social animals.

Background & duties

Invasive species that reveal themselves as new parasites disrupt established host-pathogen dynamics and can cause immense economic damage. Despite their high susceptibility to invasions and disease spread, many social animals have evolved mechanisms that allow effective defence at the group level. Considering the colony as a superorganism, these defences provide the colony with the equivalent of an immune system, known as social immunity. Such defences have been described across the animal kingdom, especially within social insect species, and are known to involve chemical communication. The Bee Healthy project aims to decipher the mechanisms that underpin collective behavioural defences against unhealthy brood in honey bee colonies, in the context of the invasion by the parasite Varroa destructor.

Within this project, the postdoc will lead research to identify how unhealthy individuals are accurately diagnosed to trigger defensive hygiene. Characterisation of the cues that lead to hygiene will be performed using chemical ecology tools, involving both activities in the laboratory, as well as in the field. In particular, the research will involve an array of volatile extraction method followed by gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry (GC-MS) analyses. Activity of the candidate compounds will be assessed through behavioural assays developed both at the individual and colony levels.

Training and skills

We are looking for a highly motivated early career researcher with a strong expertise in chemical ecology, and a sound interest for honey bee biology. Applicants should have a PhD in chemical ecology or related discipline and skills in the following areas: GC-MS chemical analyses, behavioural lab or field experiments, statistical analyses (use of R), writing of scientific publication writing (in English).

The candidate is expected to work in an interdisciplinary environment, thus good communication skills and excellent team-working capacities are expected. A strong publication record (in relation to the time since dissertation) is a merit. Experience with social insects, practical skills in beekeeping and fluency in French would be an asset. A driver license, physical fitness and no known allergies to bee stings are required to work on our experimental apiaries.

Research environment and work conditions

You will join the “Bees and Environment” research unit of INRAE in Avignon (France), which develops a wide range of research programs to study honey bee and wild bee populations, in the context of sustainable farming and global change. This postdoc project is part of an ERC Starting grant (2024-2028 – Bee Healthy). You will work in close collaboration with our research assistant in chemical ecology, our beekeeping technicians, as well as with chemists from another research unit in INRAE Avignon. You will benefit from all the lab and field work facilities of the unit, including our experimental apiary and varroa resistant stock.

The contract will be for 3 years, starting in February 2024.

Salary and benefits are according to INRAE rules in France (monthly gross salary ~ 2,600 €).

INRAE’s life quality

By joining our teams, you benefit from (depending on the type of contract and its duration):

– up to 30 days of annual leave + 15 days « Reduction of Working Time » (for a full time);
– parenting support: CESU childcare, leisure services;
– skills development systems: trainingcareer advise;
– social support: advice and listening, social assistance and loans;
– holiday and leisure services: holiday vouchers, accommodation at preferential rates;
– sports and cultural activities;
– collective catering.

How to apply

The application should include a detailed CV, a motivation letter and contact details of two scientific references, combined in a single pdf file. You can find the offer online :

For more information and to apply, contact Fanny Mondet (

Application deadlineOctober 5th, 2023. Selected candidates will be interviewed mid-October.

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