The effects of microbial biopesticides used for mosquito control on autotrophic microorganisms such as nanophytoplankton are equivocal. We examined impacts of mosquito biopesticides and mosquito larvae on primary producers in two independent experiments. In the first experiment, we examined the effects of a commonly used microbial biopesticide formulation (VectoMax® CG) on a unicellular microalga, Selenastrum capricornatum Printz, under axenic laboratory conditions. The biopesticide treatments included two concentrations (0.008 and 0.016 g liter-1) of VectoMax® CG and two controls (one untreated and another with autoclaved 0.016 g VectoMax® CG liter-1) in replicated axenic experimental microcosms. Spectrophotometric analysis of chlorophyll a (proxy for algal biomass) and direct enumeration of algal cells following the treatments revealed no significant effects of the microbial biopesticide on algal population growth during the four-week study. In the second experiment, we tested the effects of different densities of Culex larvae on the population of S. capricornatum. Effects of mosquito larvae feeding on S. capricornatum were significant with a curvilinear relationship between larval density and algal abundance in the water column. Together, these studies demonstrated a lack of direct cytological/toxicological effects of Bacillus-based microbial pesticides on freshwater primary production and support the hypothesis that the reduction in algal primary production previously reported when Bti products were applied to aquatic environments was likely independent of the Bacillus-based larvicidal toxins. Instead, it was likely mediated by microbial interactions in the water column and the trophic cascade effects that resulted from the removal of larval mosquitoes. These studies suggest that mosquito larvae independent of pesticide application can influence primary production. Our method of evaluating biopesticides against small photoautotrophs can be very useful for studying the unintended effects on autotrophic microorganisms of other pesticides, including herbicides and pesticides applied to aquatic environments.
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Vol. 42 • No. 1