Control of the horn fly, Hematobia irritans (L.), is generally dependent on chemical insecticides. However, the biology and behavior of the horn fly favors rapid development of insecticide resistance. To prolong the effectiveness of the insecticide option, information is required regarding the mechanisms of insecticide resistance. Metabolic hydrolysis of insecticides by esterases is a detoxification mechanism in many insect species. Measurement of general esterase activity within populations of horn flies may provide a diagnostic tool for resistance management. In this study we evaluated the amount of variation in general esterase activity within female and male horn fly samples from a population that had not been exposed to insecticides for 8 yr. We found considerable variation in general esterase activity within samples of each sex, with females demonstrating the greater variation. The observed variation is thought to be the result of age-structure dynamics within the population. The amount of inherent variation makes it difficult to detect small mean differences between populations, thus limiting the utility of general esterase assays. Thus, effective diagnosis of esterase-mediated resistance mechanisms can only be achieved by the identification of specific detoxification esterases and the design of assays, either biochemical or molecular, for their detection and measurement.
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Vol. 94 • No. 3