The management of agroecosystems affects intricately linked assemblages of organisms, and nontarget species are not necessarily unimpacted. We examined the effect of Bt-cotton and of lepidopteran prey (Spodoptera exigua Hübner) that had ingested it on the adult survivorship of four important heteropteran predators of cotton pests. Longevity significantly decreased for Orius tristicolor White and Geocoris punctipes Say (by 28 and 27% of the control value, respectively), whereas no effect was found for Nabis sp. and Zelus renardii Kolenati. This finding contrasts with the results of previous studies in which Orius spp. and G. punctipes were either fed only plant material or nonlepidopteran prey. S. exigua is a lepidopteran with low susceptibility to the Bt toxin expressed in cotton and therefore exemplifies the possible effect on predators of lepidopteran pests that would become resistant to Bt. The importance of Bt toxin type, the difference between plants and prey and between different prey species as routes of ingestion of Bt toxins, and the need for studies assessing the population and ecosystem-level effects of Bt cotton are discussed.
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