Get access

Refuges in reverse: the spread of Bacillus thuringiensis resistance to unselected greenhouse populations of cabbage loopers Trichoplusia ni


Michelle T. Franklin. Tel: +1 604 822 5979; fax: +1 604 822 2416; e-mail:


1 The dispersal of susceptible insects between refuges and Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) treated fields is the key to resistance management of Bt crops. Here we describe the opposite situation; the movement of Bt resistant Trichoplusia ni moths from over-wintered, greenhouse populations in British Columbia (BC) exposed to high Bt use to neighbouring greenhouses where Bt sprays have not been used.

2 The spread of Bt resistance to non-selected populations of T. ni, and the resulting increase in resistance, indicates a surprising level of dispersal of resistant moths among greenhouses even in the face of fitness costs.

3 Field populations of T. ni in BC are seasonal migrants from regions of California where Bt cotton is grown. In 2006, field populations surveyed along the migration path from California through Oregon were highly susceptible to Bt insecticides and, thus, showed no indication of selection for resistance among these source populations.

4 The arrival of the immigrant moths provides a potential source of susceptible individuals to dilute the levels of resistance in greenhouse populations in BC later in the summer, but this has not occurred. Thus, field populations in BC do not appear to serve as refuges to combat Bt resistance in greenhouse populations.