Insecticide resistance was an important factor responsible for outbreaks of Helicoverpa armigera (Hübner) in China in the early 1990s. Bt cotton has been adopted in China since 1997, and has resulted in a reduction of insecticide use for H. armigera control. After 15 yr of Bt cotton planting, in 2011 we surveyed resistance to fenvalerate, phoxim, and emamectin benzoate in 16 field populations of H. armigera collected from major cotton production areas of China. Fourteen populations from northern China showed very strong resistance to fenvalerate (from 43- to 830-fold) and low levels of resistance to phoxim (3.0- to 8.9-fold) when compared with the susceptible SCD strain of H. armigera, whereas two populations from northwestern China showed low levels of resistance to fenvalerate (3.0-and 10-fold) and no resistance to phoxim (0.7- and 0.9-fold). Synergist bioassays demonstrated that oxidase-based detoxification was involved in fenvalerate resistance and esterase-based detoxification in phoxim resistance in the resistant field populations. In comparison with the resistance in field populations before Bt cotton adoption, we observed a maintenance of high levels of fenvalerate resistance, but a reversion of phoxim resistance from high levels to low levels in the field populations of H. armigera from northern China. All 16 field populations from both northern China and northwestern China were susceptible to emamectin benzoate (with about two-fold variations in LD50s among populations), but the SCD strain has an inherent tolerance of 11-fold compared with the most susceptible field population (Xiajin-1). Emamectin benzoate is not cross resistant to fenvalerate and may provide an alternative option for H. armigera control in China, if the efficacy of Bt cotton is compromised by Bt resistance in the field.
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