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Proc Biol Sci. 2005 May 22;272(1567):1031-8.

The cost of resistance to Bacillus thuringiensis varies with the host plant of Trichoplusia ni.

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Department of Biological Sciences, 8888 University Drive, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, V5A 1S6, Canada.


Selection for resistance to insecticides, diseases and parasitoids is assumed to be costly and often requires tradeoffs with reproductive fitness. The costs of resistance, however, are often difficult to measure. Cabbage looper, Trichoplusia ni, a generalist Lepidopteran herbivore, has become highly resistant following the extensive use of the microbial insecticide, Bacillus thuringiensis kurstaki (Bt) in vegetable greenhouses. We compared the growth rate, pupal size and survival of resistant, susceptible and hybrid T. ni larvae fed on tomato, bell pepper and cucumber. Performance was best on cucumber and worst on pepper, and the magnitude of fitness costs associated with Bt resistance increased with declining host plant suitability. This supports the hypothesis that in this system, resistance costs are condition dependent and are greatest in the most stressful environment. Management strategies that rely on the presence of fitness costs to reduce the frequency of resistance genes must consider this variation and should be more successful on crops that are less suitable food plants. In general, condition dependence should be considered in studies designed to measure the costs of resistance.

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