The indirect effect of Cry 1Ab protein expressed in Bt maize, on the biology of Chrysoperla pudica (Neuroptera: Chrysopidae)
Warren, Jo-Ann Francis
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Genetically modified (GM) maize was developed mainly to control lepidopteran pests such as the maize stem borer (Busseola fusca) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). Since the first commercialization of GM crops with insecticidal properties, possible non-target effects such as the effect at the third trophic level on important predators for example lacewing species (Chrysoperla spp.) have been of concern. Contradicting results were reported in previous studies with regard to the effect of Cry 1Ab protein produced by Bt maize on the performance of lacewings. Some studies found that Bt proteins had no effect while others reported that C. carnea performed poorly if they consumed prey that consumed Cry 1Ab protein. In South Africa one of the most common chrysopid species in maize ecosystems is Chrysoperla pudica (Navás) (Neuroptera: Chrysopidae). Evolution of Bt resistant pests, such as B. fusca in South Africa facilitates a new pathway for exposure of predators to healthy prey that consumes Cry 1Ab proteins. The aims of this study was to determine the effect of the Cry 1Ab protein expressed in Bt maize on a non-target organism's (C. pudica) biology via indirect exposure, and to determine the concentration of Cry 1Ab protein in the plant, prey and predator. Chrysoperla pudica larvae were indirectly exposed to the Bt-toxin through healthy Bt-maize feeding prey (B. fusca larvae) in two feeding experiments and lacewing survival and life history parameters recorded. Bt had a limited effect on some parameters that were evaluated. The larval and pupal periods of C. pudica larvae that were exposed to the Bt-toxin had a significant difference from that of the control treatment. The Bt-toxin had a significant effect on fecundity, fertility and malformation after emergence of C. pudica adults of which larvae fed only on Bt resistant B. fusca larvae, but not on the mortality rate. Cry 1Ab concentration was the highest in the plant, followed by the prey and lacewing larvae. This study showed that the Cry 1Ab protein had a slight adverse effect only on certain life parameters of C. pudica, and that Cry 1Ab protein was hardly detectable in C. pudica larvae. However, since this study represented a worst-case scenario where diverse prey was not available, insignificant effects is expected under field conditions where prey is diverse.