Monitoring beneficial insects with plant volatiles: a landscape approach

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2022: $14,984.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2024
Grant Recipient: Rutgers University
Region: Northeast
State: New Jersey
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Dr. Cesar Rodriguez-Saona
Rutgers University


  • Fruits: berries (cranberries)


  • Crop Production: agroforestry, pollination, pollinator habitat, pollinator health
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity
  • Pest Management: allelopathy, biological control, cultural control, field monitoring/scouting, integrated pest management, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems

    Proposal abstract:

    Monitoring insect abundance is essential for decision-making and thus a fundamental component of integrated pest management (IPM); however, these decisions are rarely based on the abundance of beneficial insects. To enhance IPM programs, monitoring tools for beneficial insects, such as pollinators and natural enemies of pests, need to be developed. While it is understood that beneficials are attracted to plant volatiles like methyl salicylate (MeSA), there are several considerations needed before volatiles can be used for monitoring. For instance, the composition of the landscape in which they live, such as the amount of non-crop habitats, can affect their response to plant volatiles. However, the combined effects of landscapes and local management practices on the response of beneficial insects to plant volatiles remains unknown. This research will determine how the landscape and local management of cranberry agroecosystems affect the beneficial insect community and subsequent ecosystem services in conjunction with the common and commercialized plant volatile MeSA. To achieve this, a trapping network will be established across 50 cranberry beds in the three largest cranberry farms in New Jersey. In each bed, sticky and pan traps baited with MeSA and unbaited traps will be used to monitor natural enemy and pollinator abundance throughout the season. In addition, sentinel eggs and exclusion cages will be placed to assess predation and pollination services. Results from these studies will help develop tools for monitoring beneficial insects that can be used in pest management decisions and conservation biocontrol.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Investigate the effects of landscape (habitat composition) and local management practices (crop variety, pesticide usage, and weed abundance and diversity) on response of beneficial insects to plant volatiles.
    2. Investigate the effects of landscape and local management practices on the ecosystem services provided by beneficial insects: biological control (predation) and pollination.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.