We assessed the effect of one physical factor, plant stem diameter, on the ability of plants to support full development of the European corn borer (ECB), Ostrinia nubilalis Hübner (Lepidoptera: Crambidae), the target pest of transgenic Bt-corn. In the field, European corn borer larvae were significantly more likely to tunnel and survive in plants with larger stem diameters. Larvae were 40x more likely to survive on corn, the largest plant tested, compared to many of the smaller plants. In the laboratory, larvae were more likely to survive in and less likely to abandon the largest diet-filled artificial stems varied only in stem diameter. In conditions simulating those that an ECB larvae would encounter upon abandoning a host, larvae survived up to 3 weeks and were able to locate corn as a new host with a significantly higher frequency than would be expected if they were foraging randomly. These results indicate that the probability of ECB larval survival to maturity on a plant other than corn is relatively low and thus these smaller stemmed non-corn plants may not make a substantial contribution to the pool of susceptible adults. Conversely, since more mature larvae are not as susceptible as neonates, any larvae that partially develop on non-corn plants and subsequently colonize Bt-corn may not be exposed to a lethal dose of the toxin. Since some proportion of the individuals that survive could be partially resistant heterozygotes the presence of non-corn host plants could facilitate the development of resistant ECB populations.
Species 1: Lepidoptera Crambidae Ostrinia nubilalis (European corn borer)
Keywords: resistance management, transgenic
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