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MSU Entomology



Website: Keith Mason
copyright 2014


We study the biology and management of insects in berry crops. Members of our lab are currently working on pest phenology, pheromone mating disruption, pollination, biological control, and selective insecticide evaluations, all with insects found in berry crops. Our extension program provides growers with practical information to make decisions about insect management, to improve their productivity, profit, and environmental safety.

Pollination is critical for production of most berry crops, and we are investigating the ecology and management of pollinators and their economic value. We are also exploring the interactions between landscape structure and beneficial insects, both natural enemies and pollinators, in Michigan farmland. This research is underway in fruit, field crops, and biofuel cropping systems. For more on our work on native plants and pollinators, visit the MSU Native Plants website.

The goals of our applied research program are to:



Great Lakes Pollinator Health Project Michigan has the second most diverse crop industry in the US, with many specialty crops having heavy reliance on pollination services provided by bees and other pollinators. But in the past few decades, there have been documented declines in pollinators around the world. Therefore, because of recent concerns around pollinator health, this project aims to document the current state of pollinators in Michigan. To that aim, we are sampling pollinators across diverse landscapes, comparing the current pollinator community to that of the past, and identifying sources of pollinator decline such as land cover type and pesticide exposure. This will be the most complete picture of pollinator diversity, abundance and health in Michigan, to date, and results will inform recommendations for improving pollinator health. 


Integrated Crop Pollination Dr. Isaacs is the project director for the collaborative Integrated Crop Pollination project. The project's long-term goal is to develop and deliver context-specific Integrated Crop Pollination (ICP) recommendations on how to most effectively harness the potential of native bees for crop pollination. We define ICP as the combined use of different pollinator species, habitat augmentation, and crop management practices to provide reliable and economical pollination of crops. We aim to provide decision-support tools to reduce risk and improve returns through the use of multiple tactics tailored to specific crops and situations. By developing context-specific ICP programs, this project will improve sustainability of U.S. specialty crops and help ensure the continued ability of growers to reap profitable returns from their investments in land, plants, and other production inputs.



Spotted wing Drosophila We have been conducting research on the spotted wing Drosophila, Drosophila suzukii, ever since our lab discovered the presence of this vinegar fly in Michigan in the Fall of 2010. Since that time the fly has become a major pest of the blueberry and raspberry crops in Michigan. Our initial work has been focused on elucidating some of the basic information on this fly such as when adults are present in the field, when and where fruit become infested, and which insecticides are most effective at protecting the fruit from infestation. Our ongoing research includes further optimization of baits for attracting the adult flies and further improvement of larval sampling methods to help detect infestation in the fruit. We also are continuing to investigate the effectiveness of insecticides, including the effect of aging on insecticide residues, the effect of rain on insecticide efficacy, and the effectiveness of different types of sprayers. We also are monitoring insecticide susceptibility in this fly.

Beneficial insect conservation with flowering plants: In collaboration with the Landis Lab, we have tested native Michigan wildflowers for their ability to support natural enemies and pollinators. Lab alum Brett Blaauw evaluated these mixes on blueberry farms to determine whether wildflower plantings can increase abundance of bees and natural enemies in adjacent fields, and whether this translates into reduced pest abundance and/or improved pollination. This work is being continued as part of the ICP project (see above). A successful outreach program for farmers and gardeners has been developed, with materials available at nativeplants.msu.edu

Grape Berry Moth Management Research
Grape berry moth (GBM), Paralobesia viteana is a native tortricid that is a key pest of cultivated grapes in eastern North America. This insect is the target of the majority of insecticide applications for grape production in this region. Our research program has been developing and testing new methods to provide effective and effective control of GBM that incorporate spatially and temporally specific applications of reduced-risk insecticides. By incorporating a phenological model to predict periods of high infestation risk and by limiting applications of reduced-risk insecticides to high pressure areas of the vineyard, we have shown that growers can greatly improve GBM control over a conventional broad-spectrum insecticide program, and at lower cost. We are currently working with an agricultural engineer at Application Insight, LLC to develop and test an automated system for precise delivery of insecticide only in areas of the vineyard with high GBM pressure. Additional current research in our lab is focused on developing economic and action thresholds for grape berry moth that growers and scouts can use to better inform management decisions.

Pest phenology and prediction: There is limited information on the phenology of insect pests in berry crops, so we are working to develop and validate phenology models and then implement them as part of IPM programs. Ongoing studies by Steve Van Timmeren and Keith Mason are developing the information to enable more accurate pest prediction and timing of insecticide applications. This research has demonstrated improved control of insect pests of vineyards (grape berry moth, left) and blueberries (cranberry fruitworm, blueberry gall wasp, tussock moth) using phenology-driven spray timings. Results are being integrated into the www.enviroweather.msu.edu web-based weather system.

Modeling blueberry pollination Most crop production is heavily dependent on the European honey bee (Apis mellifera), but alternative managed pollinators such as bumble bees can also provide effective and efficient pollination of crops. Lab alum Annie Kirk developed a mathematical model of highbush blueberry pollination, BLUEPOLL, to determine the most effective and economical combination of managed honey bees and bumble bees for sustainable crop pollination. This information will be valuable for growers that are using bumble bees and honey bees in combination, and will be essential if the cost of honey bee rental increases.





Biofuels & beneficial insects We are investigating the implications of biofuel policies for pollinators, as part of the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center. This project is comparing different biofuel crop types for their effect on native bees, as well as exploring landscape-level effects on these responses. The first report from this research is available here.

Marked Bumble bee
Alternative managed pollinators: Commercially-reared bumble bees can provide an additional source of pollination, but the economic value of this alternative pollinator is not well understood. Lab alum Julianna Tuell explored the utility of bumble bee colonies as alternatives to honeybees. Using direct marking of bumble bees (right), she was able to determine the distance flown to blueberry fields by individual bees and the active range of colonies.


Research data are increasingly being published online to provide open access and allow more free exchange of research results. While we construct a location on this site for archiving data, we are listing some data from recent studies here on this page. Click on the filename to open the Excel file.

BENNETT ET AL. 2014 Modeling pollinator community response to contrasting bioenergy scenarios. PLoSONE.

Bee Metrics Land Cover Data File

Community Composition NMDS Data File