Mold contamination is an important issue in insect mass rearing. Frequently used antifungal agents such as sorbic acid and methylparaben have negative impact on many lepidopteran larvae, which might be one of the reasons for the difficulty in rearing rice leaffolder, Cnaphalocrocis medinalis (Güenée). In this study, 19 antifungal agents, including 7 food preservatives, 6 antifungal drugs, and 6 agricultural fungicides, were screened for their inhibitory activities on Aspergillus niger in diets. The results demonstrated that most of the tested chemicals are unsuitable as mold inhibitors in the diets of the rice leaffolder, and the rice leaffolder neonate is sensitive to sorbic acid and methylparaben. These two mold inhibitors at commonly used concentrations were shown to impact the survival of rice leaffolder larvae fed on artificial diets. Among the tested mold inhibitors, natamycin was the safest for the rice leaffolder larvae. Much higher larva survival was observed for the larvae fed on diets containing natamycin as an antifungal agent (59 and 72% at 200 and 400 ppm, respectively). Two agricultural fungicides, tebuconazole and azoxystrobin, are also potent as mold inhibitors when used in insect diets. The mixed use of natamycin and sorbic acid, or methylparaben, and the mixed use of sorbic acid and azoxystrobin resulted in significantly higher larva survival than sorbic acid methylparaben. Natamycin azoxystrobin and sorbic acid tebuconazole resulted in larva survival similar to that of sorbic acid methylparaben. The ternary combination of natamycin, sorbic acid, and methylparaben was the best combination for the rearing of rice leaffolder.
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