Fitness costs can delay pest resistance to crops that produce insecticidal toxins derived from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), and past research has found that entomopathogens impose fitness costs of Bt resistance. In addition, entomopathogens can be used for integrated pest management by providing biological control of pests. The western corn rootworm, Diabrotica virgifera virgifera LeConte (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae), is a major pest of maize and is currently managed by planting of Bt maize. We tested whether entomopathogenic nematodes and fungi increased mortality of western corn rootworm and whether these entomopathogens increased fitness costs of resistance to Cry3Bb1 maize. We exposed western corn rootworm larvae to two species of nematodes, Heterorhabditis bacteriophora Poinar (Rhabditida: Heterorhabditidae) and Steinernema feltiae Filipjev (Rhabditida: Steinernematidae), and to two species of fungi, Beauveria bassiana (Balsamo) Vuillemin (Hypocreales: Cordycipitaceae) (strain GHA) and Metarhizium brunneum (Metschnikoff) Sorokin (Hypocreales: Clavicipitaceae) (strain F52) in two assay types, namely, seedling mat and small cup. Larval mortality increased with the concentration of H. bacteriophora and S. feltiae in the small cup assay, and with the exception of S. feltiae and B. bassiana in the seedling mat assay, mortality from entomopathogens was significantly greater than zero for the remaining entomopathogens in both assays. However, no fitness costs were observed in either assay type for any entomopathogen. Increased mortality of western corn rootworm larvae caused by these entomopathogens supports their potential use in biological control; however, the lack of fitness costs suggests that entomopathogens will not delay the evolution of Bt resistance in western corn rootworm.
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