Laboratory studies were conducted to investigate tritrophic transfer of insecticidal Cry proteins from transgenic cotton to an herbivore and its predator, and to examine effects of these proteins on the predator's development, survival, and reproduction. Cry1Ac and Cry2Ab proteins from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) produced in Bollgard-II (BG-II, Event 15985) cotton plants were acquired by Thrips tabaci Lindeman (Thysanoptera: Thripidae), an important sucking pest of cotton, and its generalist predator, Orius insidiosus (Say) (Hemiptera: Anthocoridae). The average protein titers in BG-II cotton leaves were 1,256 and 43,637 ng Cry1Ac and Cry2Ab per gram fresh leaf tissue, respectively. At the second trophic level, larvae of T. tabaci reared on BG-II cotton for 48–96 h had 22.1 and 2.1% of the Cry1Ac and Cry2Ab levels expressed in leaves, respectively. At the third trophic level, O. insidiosus that fed on T. tabaci larvae had 4.4 and 0.3% of the Cry1Ac and Cry2Ab protein levels, respectively, expressed in BG-II plants. O. insidiosus survivorship, time of nymphal development, adult weight, preoviposition and postoviposition periods, fecundity, and adult longevity were not adversely affected owing to consumption of T. tabaci larvae that had fed on BG-II cotton compared with non-Bt cotton. Our results indicate that O. insidiosus, a common predator of T. tabaci, is not harmed by BG-II cotton when exposed to Bt proteins through its prey. Thus, O. insidiosus can continue to provide important biological control services in the cotton ecosystem when BG-II cotton is used to control primary lepidopteran pests.
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Vol. 107 • No. 3