Deborah McCullough

Deborah McCullough

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Professor, Forest Entomology
Department of Entomology



See a list of Deborah McCullough's publications on Google Scholar.


My program focuses the ecology, impacts and management of native and invasive forest insects. Our goals include understanding relationships among forest insect populations, their hosts and natural enemies, climate and site or stand factors, then using this knowledge to develop practical, sustainable management strategies. Recent projects on emerald ash borer have contributed to federal, state and municipal policies in the US, as well as Canada and Europe. Field studies are currently underway to address beech bark disease, hemlock woolly adelgid, native longhorned beetle communities and insect pests affecting chestnut production. Research results are regularly shared with resource managers, regulatory officials, as well as arborists and other groups, to protect and enhance the health of forests.

Current assignment: Teaching 20% | Research 30% | Extension 50%

Program Description


Most students who enroll in the ENT/PLP 407 course plan to work in forestry or natural resource management or in arboriculture/ urban forestry. This is typically the first and often the only exposure to entomology these students encounter. My goal is to ensure students can effectively identify and distinguish between major and minor insect pests affecting trees, accurately diagnosis insect-related damage and distinguish tree problems caused by non-insect factors (pathogens, abiotic problems). I try to provide students with a solid understanding of pest management and the pros and cons of commonly used tactics such as pesticides, biocontrol, silvicultural or cultural tactics, and basic IPM. A substantial amount of ecology is covered (e.g., basic population dynamics, bottom up- and top-down regulation of herbivores, invasion ecology, climate change impacts) to provide students with the background they need to make sound decisions and develop effective strategies to protect trees or manage healthy forests. I draw on real-life examples from my research and extension experiences to challenge students to consider how politics, economics and public perception can affect forest pest management. In the ENT labs, we use a collaborative, active learning process to engage students while covering a considerable amount of information in a short time frame. We do three joint entomology-pathology field trips in spring that enable students see interactions of insects, pathogens and site conditions.

Classes taught: PLP/ENT 407 - Insects and Diseases of Forest and Shade Trees; Spring semester; 4 credits


My research focuses on forest insect ecology and management. Projects range from relatively basic to applied studies that serve to enhance our understanding of forest insect biology, impacts and dynamics, while generating practical information to address important problems. Most activities involve invasive forest insects, because of the economic and ecological costs associated with several major pests. Our extensive research on emerald ash borer has included EAB detection and survey methods, population dynamics, host preference, ecological and economic impacts, options for protecting urban and landscape trees, and strategies for area-wide EAB management. Currently, we are evaluating stand conditions in post-invasion black ash forest sites to assess the long-term outlook for this unique forest type. Other projects address climate and site factors affecting hemlock woolly adelgid, long term progression of beech bark disease, and insect vectors of oak wilt. We conduct a statewide survey annually to detect specific non-native woodborers that may have been introduced into Michigan, a project that also provides important information about native longhorned beetle communities. Research also addresses integrated management tactics for economically important insect pests affecting commercial chestnut production. 


Extension activities are highly integrated with our research on forest insect ecology and management. I provide practical advice and objective information on EAB and invasive forest insect ecology to resource managers, regulatory officials, private arborists and landscapers, and property owners in North America and even internationally, given the threat EAB poses for much of Europe. Our research and extension efforts have played a major role in changing perceptions of EAB and increasing interest in integrated approaches to EAB and ash management. I continue to direct the national website, widely recognized as the primary source of objective EAB-related information. Within Michigan, I work frequently with personnel from state agencies to address issues related to invasive and native forest insects. These activities can include serving in advisory role on matters such as federal or state regulations, pest surveys and control tactics, and silvicultural options to mitigate pest damage or spread. I collaborate with extension educators to answer questions and provide training for foresters, arborists, nature centers and chestnut or Christmas tree producers. Management recommendations for an array of pests including sap-feeders, bark beetles, woodborers, and defoliators, are often developed based on results from our research.


  • Forest insect ecology and management
  • Invasive forest insects
  • Forest health
  • Emerald ash borer, Beech bark disease, Hemlock woolly adelgid

Professional Experience

  • 2006-Present: Professor, 1998-2006: Associate Professor; 1992-1998: Assistant Professor; Dept. of Entomology and Dept. of Forestry Department, Michigan State University;
  • 1991-1992: Forest health consultant, Jaako Poyry Consulting
  • 1990-1992: Entomologist on assignment, NC State and private forestry, USDA Forest Service


  • 2018: Farm Lane Society, MSU College of Agriculture & Natural Resources, Alumni Association
  • 2016: Distinguished Faculty Award, MSU College of Agriculture & Natural Resources, Alumni Association
  • 2014: Hodson Award for Outstanding Alumnus, Dept. of Entomology, University of Minnesota
  • 2014: Extension Specialist Award, Entomological Society of America, North Central Branch
  • 2011: USDA Forest Service, Certificate of Merit; Sustaining Forests & Grasslands
  • 2006: Distinguished Alumnus Award, School of Forestry, Northern Arizona University
  • 2005: Recognized by the Michigan Dept. of Agriculture for Outstanding Contributions to Michigan Natural Resources and Agriculture.
  • 2002: Outstanding Specialist; recognized by Michigan Association of Extension Agents.
  • 2000: Outstanding Extension Specialist; recognized by MSU Extension faculty.
  • 1996-1997: Presidents Award for Outstanding Service, Michigan Christmas Tree Association.  

Peer-reviewed research publications

  • Robinett, M.A., T.M. Poland and D.G. McCullough. 2021. Captures of emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) adults in post-invasion white ash sites with varying amounts of live phloem. Forests 12(3) 262:
  • Siegert, N.W., P. Engelken, and D.G. McCullough. 2021. Changes in demography and carrying capacity of green ash and black ash ten years after emerald ash borer invasion of two ash-dominant forests. Forest Ecology and Management 494: 119335.

  • Tobin, P., B. Strom, J. Francese, D. Herms, D. McCullough, T. Poland, K. Ryall, T. Scarr, P. Silk and H. Thistle. 2021. Evaluation of trapping schemes to detect emerald ash borer (Coleoptera: Buprestidae). Journal of Economic Entomology 114: 1201-1210.

  • Schrader, G., R. Baker, Y. Baranchikov, L. Dumouchel, K.S. Knight, D.G. McCullough, M.J. Orlova-BIenkowskaja, S. Pasquali and G. Gilioli. 2021. How does the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) affect ecosystem service and biodiversity components in invaded areas?  EPPO Bulletin, National Plant Protection Organizations, European Union. DOI: 10.1111/epp.12734. 13 p.

  • Engelken, P. and D.G. McCullough. 2020. Riparian forest conditions along three northern Michigan rivers following emerald ash borer invasion. Can. J. For. Res. 50: 800–810.

  • Engelken, P. and D.G. McCullough. 2020. Species diversity and assemblages of Cerambycidae in the aftermath of the emerald ash borer invasion in riparian forests in southern Michigan. Environ. Entomol. 49: 391-404.

  • Engelken, P., M.E. Benbow and D.G. McCullough. 2020. Legacy effects of emerald ash borer on riparian forest vegetation and structure. Forest Ecol. Manage. 457; 117684. IF 3.126

  • Lany, N., P. Zarnetske, A. Finley, and D.G. McCullough. 2020. Complimentary strengths of spatially-explicit versus multi-species distribution models. Ecography 43: 456–466.

  • McCullough, D.G. 2020. Beyond eradication: challenges, tactics and integrated management of emerald ash borer. Forestry: an International Journal of Forest Research. 15 p. doi:10.1093/forestry/cpz049.

  • McCullough, D.G., T.M Poland, A.R. Tluczek, A. Anulewicz, J. Wieferich, and N.W. Siegert. 2019. Emerald ash borer densities over a six-year period on untreated trees and trees treated with systemic insecticides at one-, two- and three-year intervals. Journal of Economic Entomology 112: 201–212.
  • Robinett, M. and D.G. McCullough. 2019. White ash (Fraxinus americana) survival in the core of the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) invasion. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 49: 510-520.

  • Robinett, M. and D.G. McCullough. 2019. White ash (Fraxinus americana) survival in the core of the emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) invasion. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 49: 510-520.

  • Robertson, W.M., M. Robinett and D.G. McCullough. 2018. Soil moisture response to white ash mortality following emerald ash borer invasion. Environmental Earth Sciences 77: 356.

  • Redilla, K.M. and D.G. McCullough. 2017. Buprestid beetle community composition in four hardwood cover types in Michigan. Canadian Journal of Forest Research 47: 1131–1139

  • Siegert, N.W., D.G. McCullough, T.M. Poland and R. Heyd. 2017. Optimizing use of girdled ash trees for management of low-density emerald ash borer populations. Journal of Economic Entomology 110: 1096-1106.

  • McCullough, D.G. and T.M. Poland. 2017. Building double-decker traps for early detection of emerald ash borer. Journal of Visualized Experiments 128, e55252,  doi:10.3791/55252.

  • Tanis, S.R., and D.G. McCullough. 2016.  Evaluation of xylem discoloration in ash trees associated with macro-injections of a systemic insecticide. Arboriculture and Urban Forestry 42: 389-398.

  • Liebhold, A.M. L. Berec, E.G. Brockeroff, R. S. Epanchin-Niell, A. Hastings, D.A. Herms, J.M. Kean, D.G. McCullough, D. M. Suckling, P. C. Tobin, T. Yamanaka. 2016. Eradication of invading insect populations: from concepts to applications. Annual Review of Entomology 61:335–352 

  • Lovett, G.M., M. Weiss, A. Liebhold, T.P. Holmes, B. Leung, K. Fallon Lambert, D.A. Orwig, F.T. Campbell, J. Rosenthal, D.G. McCullough, R. Wildova, M.A. Ayres, C.D. Canham, D.R. Foster, S.L. LaDeau, T. Weldy. 2016. Non-native forest insects and pathogens in the U.S.: impacts and policy options. Ecological Applications 26: 1437-1455. 

  • McCullough, D.G., T.M. Poland and P. Lewis. 2016. Lethal trap trees: a potential option for emerald ash borer management. Pest Management Science 72:1023-1030. 

  • Mercader, R.J., D.G. McCullough, A.J. Storer, J.M. Bedford, R. Heyd, N.W. Siegert, S. Katovich and T.M. Poland. 2016. Estimating local spread of recently established emerald ash borer, Agrilus planipennis, infestations and the potential to influence it with a systemic insecticide and girdled ash trees. Forest Ecology and Management 366: 87-97.  

Major extension publications - recent

  • McCullough, D.G. and R. Usborne. 2003-Current. Direct and oversee the national emerald ash borer website:; includes photos, information related to EAB and ash tree identification, research updates, control options for homeowners and landscapers, regulations, bulletins and many other pages. 
  • McCullough, D.G., R. Usborne and A. Ziegler. 2010-Current. Multi-agency website provides information, interactive map viewers, trap and detection tree data, outreach materials and other features related to the SLAM (SL.ow M.ortality) Pilot Project in the Upper Peninsula.
  • McCullough, D.G. 2013. Will we kiss our ash goodbye? Featured article; American Forests 118: 16-23.
  • Hahn, J., D.A. Herms and D.G. McCullough. 2011. Frequently asked questions regarding potential side effects of systemic insecticides used to control emerald ash borer. Multi-state extension bulletin. 4 pages. Available at
  • Herms, D.A., D.G. McCullough, D.R. Smitley, C.S. Sadof, R.C. Williamson and P.L. Nixon. 2009. Insecticide options for protecting ash trees from emerald ash borer. National IPM Center, Illinois. 12 p. Available for download on the national website (
  • McCullough, D.G. and T.M. Poland. 2009. Using double-decker traps to detect emerald ash borer. Developed and distributed as a pdf on the national website 10 p.
  • McCullough, D.G. and N.W. Siegert. 2008. Using girdled trees effectively for emerald ash borer detection, delimitation and survey. Developed and distributed as a pdf on the national EAB website at: 6 p.
  • Cappaert, D. and D.G. McCullough. 2008. The case to date for biological control of emerald ash borer by a native parasitoid, Atanycolus sp. Developed and distributed as a pdf on the national EAB website at: 4 p.
  • McCullough, D.G., S. Evans, R. Usborne. 2007-2008. Debarking ash trees for emerald ash borer detection. DVD of multi-state workshops held for survey crews from state and federal agencies, tribal government and universities involved with emerald ash borer detection and survey. 1 hour. 

Recent book chapters

  • Herms, D.A. and D.G. McCullough. 2012. Emerald ash borer ecology and management. In: The Encyclopedia of Pest Management. University of California Press. Berkeley, CA. In press
  • Herms, D.A. and D.G. McCullough. 2011. Pesticides and insect eradication. p. 528-535, In: The Encyclopedia of Invasive Introduced Species. D. Simberloff and M. Rejmanek, eds. University of California Press. Berkeley, CA.
  • Liebhold, A.M. and D.G. McCullough. 2011. Forest insects. p.238-241. In: The Encyclopedia of Invasive Introduced Species. D. Simberloff and M. Rejmanek, eds. University of California Press. Berkeley, CA.
  • Katovich, S. and D.G. McCullough. 2010. SLAM: SLowing Ash Mortality. Overview of strategies and options.

Pruning tree

Pruning up the tree at the Broad Museum, December 2012.