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May R Berenbaum

Head and Professor, Entomology; Swanlund Endowed Chair; Director, Center for Advanced Study

Research Interests

Interactions between insects and plants, including herbivores and pollinators, and their implications in the organization of natural communities and agroecosystems

Research Description

May Berenbaum, Ph.D. has been on the faculty of the Department of Entomology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign since 1980, serving as head since 1992 and as Swanlund Chair of Entomology since 1996. Her work is focused on characterizing biochemical , genetic, and molecular mechanisms underlying interactions between insects and the plants they consume, including detoxification of natural and synthetic chemicals, and for applying ecological principles in developing sustainable management practices for natural and agricultural communities. Her research, supported primarily by NSF and USDA, has produced over 300 refereed scientific publications and 40 book chapters. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, she has chaired two National Research Council committees, the Committee on the Future of Pesticides in U.S. Agriculture (2000) and the Committee on the Status of Pollinators in North America (2007). Devoted to teaching and fostering scientific literacy through formal and informal education, she has authored numerous magazine articles and six books about insects for the general public; on the UIUC campus, she founded outreach efforts including the Insect Fear Film Festival, the citizen-science web portal Beespotter, and the UIUC Pollinatarium. She graduated summa cum laude, with a B.S. degree and honors in biology, from Yale University in 1975 and received a Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from Cornell University in 1980.


PhD, 1980, Cornell University

Additional Campus Affiliations

Head, Entomology
Maybelle Leland Swanlund Endowed Chair, Entomology
Professor, Entomology
Director, Center for Advanced Study
CAS Professor, Center for Advanced Study
Campus Honors Faculty, Office of the Provost
Professor, Plant Biology
Professor, Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences
Professor, Prairie Research Institute
Professor, Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology

Recent Publications

Berenbaum, M. R. (2024). Sticking to the Story. American Entomologist, 70(1), 12-15.

Bush, D. S., Calla, B., & Berenbaum, M. R. (2024). An Aspergillus flavus strain from bee bread of the Western honey bee (Apis mellifera) displays adaptations to distinctive features of the hive environment. Ecology and Evolution, 14(2), Article e10918.

Fisher II, A., Tadei, R., Berenbaum, M., Nieh, J., Siviter, H., Crall, J., Glass, J. R., Muth, F., Liao, L.-H., Traynor, K., DesJardins, N., Nocelli, R., Simon-Delso, N., & Harrison, J. F. (2024). A call for clarity: Embracing the debate on pesticide regulation to protect pollinators. BioScience, Article biae009. Advance online publication.

Liao, L. H., Wu, W. Y., & Berenbaum, M. R. (Accepted/In press). Variation in Pesticide Toxicity in the Western Honey Bee (Apis mellifera) Associated with Consuming Phytochemically Different Monofloral Honeys. Journal of Chemical Ecology.

Njoroge, T. M., Berenbaum, M. R., Stone, C. M., Kim, C.-H., Dunlap, C., & Muturi, E. J. (2024). Culex pipiens and Culex restuans larval interactions shape the bacterial communities in container aquatic habitats. FEMS Microbes, 5, Article xtae002.

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