Entomology: More Than Just Bugs

Watch the video to learn about the Department of Entomology and our diverse studies. Below, we describe some of the work glimpsed in the video; however, we have more expertise than can fit in one video. To learn about the work of our entire faculty, visit our research section and directory of professors. Their research informs the expertise shared through teaching and outreach at MSU.

About the video


Anthony Cognato studies insect diversity and travels the globe in his work with insect systematics and collection stewardship. He oversees the A.J. Cook Arthropod Research Collection, which houses close to 1.5 million specimens as seen in the video. Researchers in systematics, agriculture, natural resources, urban insect management as well as the public use the collection.


Barry Pittendrigh is an MSU Foundation Professor whose research includes studying molecular mechanisms of insecticide resistance; structural and functional genomics of head and body lice; and a decade-long (five-country) collaborative program to develop pest controls strategies for cowpea pests within a West African context. His extension/outreach program is focused on virtual communities of practice with an emphasis on formatting knowledge so that it is understandable by individuals of all literacy levels and of diverse language backgrounds. He is the co-founder of SAWBO, which produces educational animations in hundreds of languages. Academic specialist Weilin Sun is shown working on the computer with Pittendrigh in the video.


Ke Dong (right), shown with post-doc Peng Xu (left), studies the mode of action of insecticides; mechanisms of insecticide resistance; and the molecular biology, neurophysiology and neuropharmacology of two families of voltage-gated ion channels. Her lab’s work has applications such as improved screening of new mosquito repellents for reducing disease transmission by insect vectors.


Deborah McCullough (right), shown with grad student Patrick Engelken (left), leads the forest entomology lab at MSU. Her research focuses on the ecology and impacts of native and invasive forest insects, leading to management strategies to protect forests and urban forests. Recent studies on emerald ash borer, including population dynamics, economic and ecological impacts, and control tactics, have contributed to federal, state and municipal policies and decisions in North America and Europe. Current studies address major invasive forest pests, including hemlock woolly adelgid, oak wilt and beech bark disease, as well as insect pests that affect commercial chestnut production.


Doug Landis (right) is a University Distinguished Professor. The video shows Landis in the field with grad student Andrew Myers working to understand habitat and landscape effects on monarch butterflies. His lab focuses on ecology, conservation and management of insects in landscapes containing natural and managed ecosystems. Research themes include understanding the influence of landscape structure on insect ecology, design of sustainable landscapes to promote ecosystem services, invasive species ecology and management, and conservation/restoration of rare species and communities.


Will Wetzel (right) leads his lab in studying insect ecology using quantitative tools to blend field data with theory. His research focuses on how biotic and abiotic variability influences insects and their interactions with plants and predators. In the video, he is working with research technician Luke Zehr in a field plot to simulate and measure heat wave impacts that could occur due to climate change.


Eric Benbow studies how complex communities (e.g., aquatic insects or microbes) change, are distributed and can be used in various applications in medicine, disease and environmental management. His lab asks three general questions: 1) Is insect fitness influenced by the community of microbes living in or on them? 2) What are the ecological interactions of insects with the microbial communities associated with their food resources? 3) How can this information be used to inform resources management, human health and forensics? In the video, Benbow appears with National Science Foundation (NSF) fellow and grad student Courtney Larson, who is studying impacts on a stream due to changes in the tree canopy, in this case, the death of ash trees from emerald ash borer.


Rufus Isaacs, shown with grad students Heather Leach and Emilie Cole, and his lab research integrated pest management strategies in Michigan berry crops. They are shown in the video working on research to manage a new invasive pest, the spotted wing Drosophila. This vinegar fly is dramatically changing the options for fruit growers looking to reduce pesticide use and produce quality fruit.


Working in another area of focus for Rufus Isaacs, grad student Logan Rowe recently completed a master’s degree with research related to native pollinators. Isaacs leads a national project to develop sustainable crop pollination practices for specialty crops. This involves four MSU programs and is a nationwide effort with 15 institutions participating.