Pairs of Helicoverpa zea (Boddie) larvae reared on diet-incorporated MON810 transgenic leaf tissue of field corn (Zea mays L.) were observed in the laboratory to characterize effects of sublethal levels of Bacillus thuringiensis variety kurstaki (Bt) Cry1Ab endotoxins on cannibalistic behavior and mortality. Feeding on sublethal levels of Bt corn reduced the frequency of cannibalistic behaviors exhibited by H. zea when uneven instars were paired together. Exposure to the Bt endotoxin had no significant effect on when cannibalistic mortality occurred or the level of mortality as a result of cannibalism. Assuming that H. zea larvae reared on nonBt corn tissue behaved in a similar way that resistant larvae would if feeding on Bt tissue, sublethal effects of Cry1Ab intoxication may reduce the chances of successful cannibalism by susceptible larvae and thus play a disproportionate role in the survival of multiple ear infestations. Furthermore, cannibalistic encounters could result in partially resistant larvae feeding on nontoxic food, thus temporarily providing an escape from exposure to the Bt endotoxin. These behavior alterations could increase the selective differential between susceptible individuals and those carrying resistance genes.
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Vol. 96 • No. 3