Field surveys of pest insect pest populations in agroecosystems reveal low but significant levels of tolerance to synthetic and biological pesticides but fail to uncover resistance alleles in test crosses. To study the potential of inducible mechanisms to generate tolerance to synthetic pesticides, we performed baseline susceptibility studies in field and laboratory populations of diamondback moth, Plutella xylostella (L.). to commercial formulations of emamectin benzoate. Pesticide exposure in the field caused elevated levels of tolerance, which decreased in field-collected populations after maintaining insects with pesticide-free diet in the laboratory. Because no significant resistance alleles were identified in back-crossed individuals, the observed increase in tolerance was probably not based on preexisting recessive resistance mechanisms in the population. Instead, the genetic analysis after five and 12 generations is compatible with a transient up-regulation of an immune and metabolic status in tolerant insects that can be transmitted to offspring by a maternal effect. Although the epigenetic effects contributed to incremental increases in tolerance in the first five generations, other resistance mechanisms that are transmitted genetically predominate after 12 generations of increased exposure to the pesticide.
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Vol. 103 • No. 4