The widespread use of crop plants genetically engineered to produce toxins from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) imposes selection on insect populations to evolve resistance. The pink bollworm, Pectinophora gossypiella (Saunders) (Lepidoptera: Gelechiidae), is a major pest of cotton in the southwestern United States that is currently controlled with transgenic cotton that produces Bt toxin Cry1Ac. Previously reported theoretical work suggests that, in conjunction with a high dose/refuge strategy, fitness costs of Bt resistance can slow or prevent the evolution of resistance. We report here that the entomopathogenic nematode Steinernema riobrave (Rhabditida: Steinernematidae) increased the fitness cost of resistance to Cry1Ac in P. gossypiella. Mortality of P. gossypiella from fourth instar to adult eclosion was significantly higher for a Bt-resistant strain than a susceptible strain in tests with two to 14 infective juveniles of S. riobrave per larva, but it did not differ between strains when nematodes were absent. Nematodes established in P. gossypiella larvae at all concentrations tested, and nematode reproduction in infected P. gossypiella larvae occurred at nematode concentrations of four to 14 infective juveniles per larva. Our results suggest that incorporation of entomopathogenic nematodes into an integrated resistance management strategy could help to delay pest resistance to Bt toxins.
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Vol. 99 • No. 3