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Rufus Isaacs - Michigan State University. East Lansing, MI, US

Rufus Isaacs Rufus Isaacs

Professor of Entomology | Michigan State University


Expert in bees, pollination and bees impact on crops



Rufus Isaacs Publication




Controlling Grape Phylloxera with Rufus Isaacs Rufus Isaacs Explains Bees and Blueberries Rufus Isaacs' Project GREEEN-funded insect experiment



Over the past decade, our research has supported pest management in Michigan berry crops with greater adoption of monitoring and use of selective insecticides. This progress has been undermined to some extent by the recent arrival of spotted wing Drosophila, but the Early Detection Rapid Response that we put in place has helped develop an effective approach to SWD management in the affected crops, with a ~$20 million reduction in the economic impact of this pest during 2014 compared to the years before. In the crop pollination arena, development of the Integrated Crop Pollination concept, and its development into a national project is changing the dialogue about honey bees vs. native bees and helping to foster a more holistic view of farm management for pollination.

Industry Expertise (4)

Education/Learning Research Renewables and Environmental Biotechnology

Areas of Expertise (6)

Pest management Pollination Grape Berry Corps Pollinator Conservation Crop Pollination

Accomplishments (1)

Grant to Develop Sustainable Pollination Strategies (professional)


U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture

Education (2)

University of London, Imperial College at Silwood Park: Ph.D. 1994

University of London: B.S. 1990

News (3)

Save the Bees? There's an App for That

University Communications: University of Vermont  


“Government action is key, but saving bees requires more than that,” says Rufus Isaacs of Michigan State University, director of the Integrated Crop Pollination (ICP) Project. “Leadership from the private sector, especially farmers and agricultural businesses, is crucial. Their choices will have a huge impact on whether pollinators fail or flourish.”

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Pollination Progress: MSU Researchers Work to Protect Bees

MSU Today  


It’s been four years since Michigan State University AgBioResearch entomologist Rufus Isaacs and his team set out to find methods that could help growers ensure their crops were pollinated in the face of rising threats to traditional honey bee colonies. They've since made discoveries to help preserve, protect and educate people on the issue...

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Rufus Isaacs: Research Creates Buzz

MSU Today  


Rufus Isaacs is a professor of entomology who is leading the Integrated Crop Pollination project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The project involves 15 institutions throughout the country and is looking at alternative pollination strategies...

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Journal Articles (5)

A global quantitative synthesis of local and landscape effects on wild bee pollinators in agroecosystems Ecology Letters


Bees provide essential pollination services that are potentially affected both by local farm management and the surrounding landscape. To better understand these different factors, we modelled the relative effects of landscape composition (nesting and floral resources within foraging distances), landscape configuration (patch shape, interpatch connectivity and habitat aggregation) and farm management (organic vs. conventional and local-scale field diversity), and their interactions, on wild bee abundance and richness for 39 crop systems globally. Bee abundance and richness were higher in diversified and organic fields and in landscapes comprising more high-quality habitats; bee richness on conventional fields with low diversity benefited most from high-quality surrounding land cover. Landscape configuration effects were weak. Bee responses varied slightly by biome. Our synthesis reveals that pollinator persistence will depend on both the maintenance of high-quality habitats around farms and on local management practices that may offset impacts of intensive monoculture agriculture.

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Wild pollinators enhance fruit set of crops regardless of honey bee abundance Science


The majority of food crops require pollination to set fruit with the honeybee providing a pollination workhorse, with both feral and managed populations an integral component of crop management (see the Perspective by Tylianakis, published online 28 February). Garibaldi et al. (p. 1608, published online 28 February) now show that wild pollinators are also a vital part of our crop systems. In more than 40 important crops grown worldwide, wild pollinators improved pollination efficiency, increasing fruit set by twice that facilitated by honeybees. Burkle et al. (p. 1611, published online 28 February) took advantage of one of the most thorough and oldest data sets available on plant-pollinator interaction networks and recollected data on plant-pollinator interactions after more than 120 years of climate change and landscape alteration. The historical data set consists of observations collected by Charles Robertson near Carlinville, Illinois (USA), in the late 1800s on the phenology of plants and their pollinating insects, as well as information about which plants and pollinators interacted with one another. Many sites were revisited in the early 1970s and in 2009 and 2010 to collect similar plant-pollinator data. Pollinator function has declined through time, with bees showing lower visitation rates and lower fidelity to individual plant species.

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Stability of pollination services decreases with isolation from natural areas despite honey bee visits Ecology Letters


Sustainable agricultural landscapes by definition provide high magnitude and stability of ecosystem services, biodiversity and crop productivity. However, few studies have considered landscape effects on the stability of ecosystem services. We tested whether isolation from florally diverse natural and semi-natural areas reduces the spatial and temporal stability of flower-visitor richness and pollination services in crop fields. We synthesised data from 29 studies with contrasting biomes, crop species and pollinator communities. Stability of flower-visitor richness, visitation rate (all insects except honey bees) and fruit set all decreased with distance from natural areas. At 1 km from adjacent natural areas, spatial stability decreased by 25, 16 and 9% for richness, visitation and fruit set, respectively, while temporal stability decreased by 39% for richness and 13% for visitation. Mean richness, visitation and fruit set also decreased with isolation, by 34, 27 and 16% at 1 km respectively. In contrast, honey bee visitation did not change with isolation and represented > 25% of crop visits in 21 studies. Therefore, wild pollinators are relevant for crop productivity and stability even when honey bees are abundant. Policies to preserve and restore natural areas in agricultural landscapes should enhance levels and reliability of pollination services.

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Maximizing arthropod‐mediated ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes: The role of native plants Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment


Beneficial arthropods, including native bees, predators, and parasitoids, provide valuable ecosystem services worth $8 billion to US agriculture each year. These arthropod-mediated ecosystem services (AMES) include crop pollination and pest control, which help to maintain agricultural productivity and reduce the need for pesticide inputs. Maximizing survival and reproduction of beneficial arthropods requires provision of pollen and nectar resources that are often scarce in modern agricultural landscapes. Increasingly, native plants are being evaluated for this purpose. Native plants can outperform recommended non-natives and also provide local adaptation, habitat permanency, and support of native biodiversity. We predict that the success of insect conservation programs using flowering plants to increase AMES on farmland will depend on landscape context, with the greatest success in landscapes of moderate complexity. Reintegration of native plants into agricultural landscapes has the potential to support multiple conservation goals, and will require the collaboration of researchers, conservation educators, and native plant experts.

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An inexpensive, accurate method for measuring leaf area and defoliation through digital image analysis Journal of Economic Entomology


We report a protocol using a common desk-top scanner and public domain software for measuring existing leaf area and leaf area removed as a result of herbivory. We compared the accuracy and precision of this method to that of a standard leaf area meter. Both methods were used to measure metal disks of a known area, the area of soybean (Glycine max L.) leaves, and the area removed by simulating leaf feeding with a hole-punch. We varied the amount of injury across a low, medium, and high degree of simulated feeding. The mean area of 10 cm2 and 50 cm2 metal disks was more accurately estimated with the leaf area meter than the desk-top scanner. Leaf area estimates from both methods were highly correlated. The desk-top scanner accurately estimated the leaf area removed from the low, medium, or high degree of simulated leaf feeding. However, the leaf area meter overestimated low levels of simulated feeding injury. Though measuring a leaf’s surface area with a desk-top scanner requires two steps (creating a digital image file and calculating the area represented by that image), the overall time required to measure leaf injury is shorter than with a leaf area meter. This relatively simple and inexpensive method of estimating leaf area and feeding damage has advantages in certain experimental situations where a prefeeding measurement of the leaf is impossible or undesirable, or when small amounts of feeding occur.

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