The production of a multiple nucleopolyhedrovirus (SeMNPV) of the beet armyworm, Spodoptera exigua (Hübner) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), has been markedly increased by using juvenile hormone analog (JHA) technology to generate a supernumerary sixth instar in the species. In the current study we compared the incidence of cannibalism in S. exigua fifth and sixth instars reared at low (two larvae per dish) and a high density (10 larvae per dish). The incidence of cannibalism was significantly higher in fifth instars compared with sixth instars and increased with rearing density on both instars. Infected larvae were more prone to become victims of cannibalism than healthy individuals in mixed groups comprising 50% healthy 50% infected larvae in both instars reared at high density. Instar had a marked effect on occlusion body (OB) production because JHA-treated insects produced between 4.8- and 5.6-fold increase in OB production per dish compared with fifth instars at high and low densities, respectively. The insecticidal characteristics of OBs produced in JHA-treated insects, as indicated by LD50 values, were similar to those produced in untreated fourth or fifth instars. Because JHA technology did not increase the prevalence of cannibalism and had no adverse effect on the insecticidal properties of SeMNPV OBs, we conclude that the use of JHAs to generate a supernumerary instar is likely to be compatible with mass production systems that involve gregarious rearing of infected insects.
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