Larval mortality and development for rotation-resistant and rotation-susceptible populations of western corn rootworm on Bt corn



The western corn rootworm, Diabrotica virgifera virgifera LeConte, is one of the most economically important insect pests threatening the production of corn, Zea mays (L.), in the United States. Throughout its history, this insect has displayed considerable adaptability by overcoming a variety of pest management tactics, including the cultural practice of annual crop rotation. Since first reported in Illinois in the late 1980s, populations of the rotation-resistant western corn rootworm have spread over a wide area of the eastern Corn Belt. Currently, little information is available concerning the interaction of rotation resistance with the use of genetically modified corn expressing insecticidal toxins from Bacillus thuringiensis Berliner (Bt), a popular tactic for preventing larval injury and its associated yield loss. The goal of this greenhouse experiment was to determine whether rotation-resistant and rotation-susceptible western corn rootworm larvae differ with respect to survival or development when exposed to single- or dual-toxin (pyramided) Bt corn. Individual corn plants were infested with 225 near-hatch eggs at the V5 (five leaf collar) growth stage. Larvae developed undisturbed on the root systems for 17 days, after which they were recovered using Berlese–Tullgren funnels. Surviving larvae were counted to estimate mortality, and head capsule widths were measured to assess development. Rotation-resistant and rotation-susceptible larvae had statistically similar mean levels of mortality and head capsule widths when exposed to both single-toxin (Cry3Bb1 or Cry34/35Ab1) and pyramided (Cry3Bb1+ Cry34/35Ab1) Bt corn, suggesting that these two populations do not differ with respect to survival or development when exposed to Bt corn. Additionally, the statistically similar mean levels of mortality for larvae exposed to single-toxin and pyramided Bt corn suggest that pyramided Bt hybrids containing the Cry3Bb1 and Cry34/35Ab1 toxins do not result in additive mortality for western corn rootworm larvae. Implications for management of this economically important pest are discussed.