Assessing the effects of Bt Maize on the predatory mite Neoseiulus cucumeris.

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Abstract or Summary

The investigation of Neoseiulus cucumeris in the context of the ecological risk assessment of insect resistant transgenic plants is of particular interest as this omnivorous predatory mite species is commercially available and consideredimportant for biological control. In a multitrophic feeding experiment we assessed the impact of Bt maize on the performance of N. cucumeris when offered spider mites (Tetranychus urticae) reared on Bt (Bt11, Syngenta) or non-Bt maize (near isogenic line) and Bt or non-Bt maize pollen as a food source. Various parameters including mortality, development time, oviposition rate were measured.Spider mites were used as a prey for N. cucumeris, since these herbivores are known to contain similar levels of Cry1Ab toxin, when reared on Bt maize, as those found in the transgenic leaf material. In contrast, toxin levels in pollen of this transgenic cultivar are very low. No differences in any of the parameters were found when N. cucumeris was fed with spider mites reared on Bt and non-Bt maize. Pollen was shown to be a less suitable food source for this predator as

compared to spider mites. Moreover, subtle effects on female N. cucumeris (9% longer development time and 17% reduced fecundity) were measured when fed with pollen originating from Bt maize as compared to non-Bt maize pollen. Our findings indicate that the predatory mite N. cucumeris is not sensitive to the Cry1Ab toxin as no effects could be detected when offered Bt-containing spider mites, and that the effects found when fed with Bt maize pollen can be assigned to differences in nutritional quality of Bt and non-Bt maize pollen. The significance of these findings is discussed with regard to the ecological relevance for risk assessment of transgenic plants.

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