|Alma mater||Yale University |
|Awards||National Medal of Science (2014) |
Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement (2011) Public Engagement with Science (2009) from AAAS
|Institutions||University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign|
|Doctoral advisor||Paul Feeny|
May Roberta Berenbaum (born July 22, 1953) is an American entomologist whose research focuses on the chemical interactions between herbivorous insects and their host plants, and the implications of these interactions on the organization of natural communities and the evolution of species. She is particularly interested in nectar, plant phytochemicals, honey and bees, and her research has important implications for beekeeping.
She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and was named editor-in-chief of its journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2019; she is also a member of the American Philosophical Society (1996), and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1996). She has held a Maybelle Leland Swanlund Endowed Chair in entomology since 2012, which is the highest title a professor can hold at the University of Illinois. In 2014, she was awarded the National Medal of Science.
Early life and education
Berenbaum graduated summa cum laude, with a B.S. degree and honors in biology, from Yale University in 1975. Berenbaum discovered an interest in entomology after taking a course on terrestrial arthropods only because it fit her schedule, and found a second passion by taking an elective course in plant biochemistry. After attending a research seminar on chemical ecology by Paul Feeny, she decided to integrate her interests in entomology and botany, and began a PhD supervised by Feeny at Cornell University. Berenbaum received her Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology in 1980.
Berenbaum is known for her research into the chemistry of honey and its importance as a functional food for bees and wasps in the superfamily Apoidea. As of 2021, approximately 20,000 bee species are known, but there are also signs of declines in bee populations in many countries. Berenbaum's research has shown that honey contains phytochemicals that help bees to tolerate cold, resist pesticides, fight off infections, heal wounds, and live longer. Important phytochemicals include p-coumaric acid, quercetin, abscisic acid, anabasine, caffeine, gallic acid, kaempferol, and thymol. Furthermore, sick honeybees will choose among different types of honey and eat the one that contains the phytochemicals that can improve their health.
Berenbaum's work has important implications, suggesting changes to practices in the beekeeping industry which may help bees to survive. One conclusion is that floral diversity matters: bees that have the opportunity to make honey from a diverse range of flowers will be healthier bees. As well, beekeepers should leave their bees a variety of different honeys, gathered at different times from different plants, so that they have a "honey pharmacy" to choose from when ill.
In 1996, she was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and she was elected a member of the American Philosophical Society in the same year. She served as the editor of Annual Review of Entomology from 1997 until 2018, and was named editor-in-chief of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA in 2019.
She has written numerous magazine articles, as well as books about insects for the general public:
- Ninety-nine gnats, nits, and nibblers (1989)
- Ninety-nine more maggots, mites, and munchers (1993)
- Bugs in the system : insects and their impact on human affairs (1995)
- Buzzwords : a scientist muses on sex, bugs, and rock'n roll (2000)
- Earwig's tail : a modern bestiary of multi-legged legends (2009)
- Honey, I'm homemade : sweet treats from the beehive across the centuries and around the world (2010)
Awards and honors
- A character in The X-Files was named after her: Dr. Bambi Berenbaum, a famous entomologist and love-interest of Agent Mulder.
- She is the recipient of the 1996 Entomological Society of America North Central Branch Distinguished Teaching Award
- Awarded the prestigious Ecological Society of America Robert MacArthur Award in 2004 for outstanding contributions to ecology
- Berenbaum received the 2009 Public Understanding of Science and Technology Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
- She is an Honorary Member of the British Ecological Society.
- In March 2011, she was awarded the University of Southern California's Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement.
- In 2012, she was named a Swanlund Chair at the University of Illinois
- In 2012, she received the Edward O. Wilson Biodiversity Technology Award
- In November 2014, she had her first new species named after her, a cockroach, Xestoblatta berenbaumae (Evangelista, Kaplan, & Ware 2015).
- On October 3, 2014, President Barack Obama awarded the National Medal of Science to Berenbaum. She received the medal in a White House ceremony on November 20, 2014.
- Berenbaum, M., Miller, J. R., & Miller, T. A. (1988). Insect-Plant Interactions. New York: Springer.
- Berenbaum, M. (1989). Ninety-nine Gnats, Nits, and Nibblers. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
- Rosenthal, G. A., & Berenbaum, M. R. (1992). Herbivores: Their Interactions with Secondary Plant Metabolites. (Herbivores.) San Diego: Academic Press.
- Berenbaum, M. (1993). Ninety-nine More Maggots, Mites, and Munchers. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
- Berenbaum, M. (1996). Bugs in the System: Insects and their Impact on Human Affairs. Reading, Mass: Addison-Wesley.
- Berenbaum, M. R. (2001). Buzzwords: A Scientist Muses on Sex, Bugs, and Rock'n Roll. Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press.
- Jeffords, M. R., Post, S. L., Warwick, C., & Berenbaum, M. (2008). Biologists in the Field: Stories, Tales, and Anecdotes from 150 Years of Field Biology. Champaign, Ill: Illinois Natural History Survey.
- Berenbaum, M. R. (2009). Earwig's Tail - a Modern Bestiary of Multi-legged Legends. Harvard University Press
- Berenbaum, M. R. (2010). Honey, I'm Homemade: Sweet Treats from the Beehive Across the Centuries and Around the World. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
- Sadava, D. E., Hillis, D. M., Heller, H. C., & Berenbaum, M. (2014). Life: The Science of Biology. 10th ed.
- Berenbaum, May R.; Calla, Bernarda (2021-01-07). "Honey as a Functional Food for Apis mellifera". Annual Review of Entomology. Annual Reviews. 66 (1): 185–208. doi:10.1146/annurev-ento-040320-074933. ISSN 0066-4170. PMID 32806934. S2CID 221165130.
- McCoy, Berly (20 October 2021). "Bee gold: Honey as a superfood". Knowable Magazine. doi:10.1146/knowable-102021-1. Retrieved 10 December 2021.
- "Editorial Board | PNAS". www.pnas.org. Retrieved 2019-04-08.
- News-Gazette, The (5 December 2012). "Five professors named Swanlund Chairs". The News-Gazette. Retrieved 2020-03-07.
- "May Berenbaum – the Ecological Society of America's History and Records". esa.org. Retrieved 2020-03-07.
- Herkamp, Anna (February 17, 2010). "Berenbaum to be honored for efforts in public understanding of science". University of Illinois. Retrieved May 18, 2010.
- Berenbaum, May R.; Calla, Bernarda (7 January 2021). "Honey as a Functional Food for Apis mellifera". Annual Review of Entomology. 66 (1): 185–208. doi:10.1146/annurev-ento-040320-074933. ISSN 0066-4170. PMID 32806934. S2CID 221165130. Retrieved 10 December 2021.
- "May R. Berenbaum". Department of Entomology, University of Illinois. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
- "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. p. 41. Retrieved June 15, 2011.
- "APS Member History". search.amphilsoc.org. Archived from the original on 2020-09-18. Retrieved 2019-04-07.
- Angela E. Douglas (2019). "Preface". Annual Review of Entomology. 64: v–vii. doi:10.1146/annurev-en-64-103018-100001. PMID 30629891.
- "Entomologist Tells Insect Inside Story With ‘Sex, Bugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll’". latimes.com. Retrieved 9 January 2023.
- "A Conversation with May Berenbaum". tylerprize.org. Retrieved 9 January 2023.
- "Science Talk Podcast: To Bee or Not to Bee". Scientific American. August 21, 2009. Retrieved May 18, 2010.
- "Robert H. MacArthur Award – the Ecological Society of America's History and Records". esa.org. Retrieved 2020-03-07.
- "Our Honorary members". Archived from the original on 2019-06-12. Retrieved 2018-07-14.
- "Leading Entomologist and Bee Expert Awarded Prestigious 2011 Tyler Environmental Prize". University of Southern California. Archived from the original on November 26, 2011. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
- "May Berenbaum Receives Tyler Prize | Entomological Society of America". www.entsoc.org. Retrieved 2020-03-07.
- Staff, Chronicle (4 October 2012). "Computer pioneers to receive awards at MSU's E.O. Wilson talk". Bozeman Daily Chronicle. Retrieved 2020-03-07.
- "May Berenbaum Receives New Species of Cockroach Named After Her". Entomology Today. Entomological Society of America. November 21, 2014.
- "President Obama Honors Nation's Top Scientists and Innovators". whitehouse.gov. October 3, 2014. Retrieved October 4, 2014 – via National Archives.
- "President Obama Presents the National Medals of Science & National Medals of Technology and Innovation". whitehouse.gov. November 20, 2014. Retrieved November 20, 2014 – via National Archives.
- May Berenbaum at National Academy of Sciences