Helicoverpa armigera (Hübner) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) is an important lepidopteran pest of cotton (Gossypium spp.) in Australia and the Old World. From 2002, F2 screens were used to examine the frequency of resistance alleles in Australian populations of H. armigera to Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) Cry1Ac and Cry2Ab, the two insecticidal proteins present in the transgenic cotton Bollgard II. At that time, Ingard (expressing Cry1Ac) cotton had been grown in Australia for seven seasons, and Bollgard II was about to be commercially released. The principal objective of our study was to determine whether sustained exposure caused an elevated frequency of alleles conferring resistance to Cry1Ac in a species with a track record of evolving resistance to conventional insecticides. No major alleles conferring resistance to Cry1Ac were found. The frequency of resistance alleles for Cry1Ac was <0.0003, with a 95% credibility interval between 0 and 0.0009. In contrast, alleles conferring resistance to Cry2Ab were found at a frequency of 0.0033 (0.0017, 0.0055). The first isolation of this allele was found before the widespread deployment of Bollgard II. For both toxins the experiment-wise detection probability was 94.4%. Our results suggest that alleles conferring resistance to Cry1Ac are rare and that a relatively high baseline frequency of alleles conferring resistance to Cry2Ab existed before the introduction of Bt cotton containing this toxin.
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